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Therapeutic Improvisation: How to Stop Winging It and Own It as a Therapist
Michael Alcée
Norton Professional Books / Softcover / 2022-05-01 / 132401959X
price: $33.95
240 pages
In Stock (Ships within one business day)

Putting together all you’ve learned in grad school into a coherent voice that is both personalized and professional.

As a new therapist, it’s so hard to make transformational moments out of all that’s being thrown at you in sessions. You’re just winging it, but deep down you know there’s a way to make your sessions more dynamic and intentionally responsive. This book shows how to develop a keen ear and sharp eye for the many changes coming your way.

Examples from music, movies, and literature will illustrate how the scientific principles of interpersonal neurobiology can help you claim your artistry as a therapist. This inspiring and informative book will help you find your voice and navigate the complexities and joys of the mysterious relationship that is therapy itself. Supervisors and new clinicians alike will be refreshed by the innovative vision of mental health practice as having a flexible and creative capacity.


Many people believe creativity can't be taught, but in Therapeutic Improvisation, Alcee deftly pulls it off, illuminating the artistry that inspires the work we do as therapists. —Lori Gottlieb, New York Times bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk To Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed

This smart, accessible book will help therapists everywhere do better by their clients. And it might even help them transform their own lives along the way.—Daniel H. Pink, #1 New York Times bestselling author of When, Drive, and A Whole New Mind

A refreshingly original take on how to be happier, more creative, and more ourselves together.—Tal Ben Shahar, PhD, author of Happier, Being Happy, and Happier No Matter What

In this story-driven work, Alcee shows that therapists are most effective when they stir our creativity and encourage us to search for meaning, rather than pushing us to ceaselessly pursue happiness and perfection.—Emily Esfahani Smith, author of The Power of Meaning

Michael’s clever and intuitive insights are infused with humor and compassion. From pop culture references to sages from all ages, Michael is a wizard with words. He includes nuggets of wisdom drawing from his own work and offers tangible solutions to those seeking a deeper understanding of the mental health profession.—Sue Varma, MD, NYU Langone affiliated psychiatrist and frequent TV contributor for CBS, ABC, and 20/20

This is the book I wish I had had as a young therapist. While grounded in science, it is the art of psychotherapy that Michael Alcee captures in vivid and often moving ways. With copious analogies to music, film, drama, literature, and the visual arts, he softens the new practitioner’s bumpy ride from cerebral conceptualization to emotionally alive clinical engagement. The book is replete with vignettes showing the therapist as artist, highlighting the role of metaphor, humor, and intuition in helping both clients and clinicians to find their own authentic voice. Having this book in one’s library is like having a big brother, private tutor, coach, and cheerleader in one place and always available.—Nancy McWilliams, Ph.D., Rutgers Graduate School of Applied & Professional Psychology

Therapist responsiveness in the moment-to-moment flow of therapeutic conversations is key to both alliance building and to good outcomes and… very hard to learn and to enact. This unique book is a lyrical, passionate, beautifully written guide that marries the art of being in real relationship with fellow human beings with the science of effective psychotherapy. Highly engaging, highly inspiring, highly recommended for aspiring and experienced therapists of all therapeutic orientations.—Laurie Heatherington, Ph.D., Edward Dorr Griffin Professor of Psychology, Williams College

Dr. Alcee’s book reads like a therapeutic muse that can help any clinician ignite or restore the creative spark in our work of healing, as he deftly weaves together the art and science of psychotherapy. Whether you are a fresh intern or seasoned clinician, you’ll be sure to find gems of personal and professional inspiration shining through these precious pages.—Christopher Willard, Psy.D. author of Growing Up Mindful, Child’s Mind, and Raising Resilience

About the Author:

Michael Alcée, PhD, is a clinical psychologist in Tarrytown, New York, and mental health educator at Manhattan School of Music. He won the American Psychological Association’s 2019 Schillinger Memorial Prize for his essay on the link between jazz and psychoanalysis.

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