Maybe You Should Talk to Someone
Lori Gottlieb, a writer and psychotherapist, felt crushed when the long-term relationship with her boyfriend ended abruptly. She was certain she’d been wronged and wanted to find a way out of her pain. So she found her own therapist (Wendell) and, while he was helping her, she was helping her patients with many of the same issues, all of which come from being human.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is the story of four of Gottlieb’s patients and of her own journey to better self-understanding. She explains the similarity and why she wrote the book: “Our training has taught us theories and tools and techniques, but whirring beneath our hard-earned expertise is the fact that we know just how hard it is to be a person.”
Gottlieb introduces us to her patients: John, a highly successful television writer who thinks everyone is an idiot; Charlotte, a twenty-five-year-old with anxiety and relationship issues; Julie, a thirty-something newlywed with a cancer diagnosis; and Rita, nearly seventy and considering suicide.
In chapters that connect Gottlieb’s progress with her patients’, we get to know them all. The author describes how it feels to be both patient and doctor. “Does my therapist like me?” she hopes. “Are my problems boring?” she worries. She talks about the relationships with her patients and how invested she becomes in their progress and happiness. And how they see her. What would they think if they knew that she, too, was in therapy?
As we learn more about them, we begin to see that the problems John, Charlotte, Julie, Rita and Lori have are variations of our own and based on a search for meaning in life.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is both anecdotally funny and informative about theories and methods. Gottlieb gives us insight into her own therapy by laughing at her initial awkwardness with Wendell. She shares her insecurities and obsessions over the “Boyfriend” who broke it off. And as a therapist, she describes the many professional decisions she must make, such as how to honor the confidentiality contract with patients when your paths cross, in person and through referrals. As she discusses their sessions, she shows what methods she uses to see what’s really underneath John’s anger, to show Charlotte how to break her self-destructive habits, to help Julie with a grim diagnosis and to teach Rita how to find a reason to live.
She encourages her patients to acknowledge their pain because “feeling your sadness or anxiety can also give you essential information about yourself and your world.” She emphasizes recognizing sadness and breaking free from “stepping in the same puddle,” pointing out that “most big transformations come about from the hundreds of tiny, almost imperceptible, steps we take along the way.” I like that.
I found this book highly readable and informative. By sharing her problems and relating them to her patients’, Gottlieb erases the stigma of going to therapy. Her message? We all need someone to talk to.
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