Therapy for the Therapist
‘Maybe You Should Talk To Someone’, by Lori Gottlieb
“The past is ‘a vast encyclopedia of calamities you could still fix.’”
In Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, a therapy patient shares this quote from a podcast about time travel, but it begs a comparison to therapy itself. Can a professional counselor take the disparate shards of one’s history and help form a narrative that not only gives meaning, but also, possibly, influences behavior?
According to psychotherapist, nationally renowned journalist and bestselling author Lori Gottlieb, the answer is an unequivocal “Yes. Well, sometimes…”
This touching and frequently hilarious sort-of memoir is subtitled “A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed.” Gottlieb manages to live up to the expectations of such an expansive literary promise by weaving the stories of four of her patients together with her own bout in therapy. We meet Julie, diagnosed with terminal breast cancer upon return from her honeymoon; Charlotte, a single woman addicted to alcohol, sex with trainwreck men, and therapy itself; Rita, a woman planning to commit suicide on her 70th birthday if her life doesn’t improve; John, the lone male of the group, who may be hiding a genuinely heartbreaking secret behind his utterly douchebag personality; and Gottlieb, decimated by an unexpected breakup and health issues, and seemingly unable to apply “Physician, heal thyself”.
The book reads like an intriguing mystery novel, parsing out just enough plot to keep those pages turning and the questions coming: Why did Charlotte step out of a productive therapy session and proceed to pick up a guy in the waiting room? Why is Rita still so miserable even when her life actually starts improving? And is John going to have a denouement that will justify my having to spend precious reading time with this tool? No spoilers here, but each life story plays out in truly unexpected and often thrilling ways.
The ultimate delight of this book, however, is Gottlieb herself; the sessions with her own therapist, “Wendell”, are the spine of the story, the place where her humility and humanity (and wicked sense of humor) shine through. She allows herself to learn from Wendell, but also from what she tells her own patients, “You are not the best person to talk to you about you right now.” In another writer’s hands, this might sound like meta-navel-gazing, but in Gottlieb’s world, it feels like clear-sightedness.
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2, 2019)