Maybe You Should Talk to Someone (Gottlieb)

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone:  A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed
Lori Gottlieb, 2019
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
432  pp.
ISBN-13:
9781328662057


Summary
From a New York Times best-selling author, psychotherapist, and national advice columnist, a hilarious, thought-provoking, and surprising new book that takes us behind the scenes of a therapist’s world—where her patients are looking for answers (and so is she).

One day, Lori Gottlieb is a therapist who helps patients in her Los Angeles practice. The next, a crisis causes her world to come crashing down.

Enter Wendell, the quirky but seasoned therapist in whose office she suddenly lands.

With his balding head, cardigan, and khakis, he seems to have come straight from Therapist Central Casting. Yet he will turn out to be anything but.
 
As Gottlieb explores the inner chambers of her patients’ lives—a self-absorbed Hollywood producer, a young newlywed diagnosed with a terminal illness, a senior citizen threatening to end her life on her birthday if nothing gets better, and a twenty-something who can’t stop hooking up with the wrong guys—she finds that the questions they are struggling with are the very ones she is now bringing to Wendell.
 
With startling wisdom and humor, Gottlieb invites us into her world as both clinician and patient, examining the truths and fictions we tell ourselves and others as we teeter on the tightrope between love and desire, meaning and mortality, guilt and redemption, terror and courage, hope and change.
 
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is revolutionary in its candor, offering a deeply personal yet universal tour of our hearts and minds and providing the rarest of gifts: a boldly revealing portrait of what it means to be human, and a disarmingly funny and illuminating account of our own mysterious lives and our power to transform them. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—December 20, 1966
Where—Los Angeles, California, USA
Education—Yale; Stanford University; Pepperdine University
Currently—lives in Los Angeles, California


Lori Gottlieb is an American writer and psychotherapist, who is best known for her weekly "Dear Therapist" advice column in The Atlantic. She was born in Los Angeles, California, and studied language and culture at both Yale and Stanford University.
 
While in her 20s, Gottlieb worked as a film and TV executive until she decided to return to Stanford to study medicine. It was during medical school that she published her first book, an experience that inspired her to pursue a career in writing. Since then, Gottlieb has published New York Times bestsellers, which have been translated into 20 languages.

Gottlieb went on to become a commentator for National Public Radio and a contributing editor for The Atlantic. She has written for many publications, including The New York Times, Time, Slate, People, Elle, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and O, The Oprah Magazine. She frequently appears as an expert on mental health topics on television and radio such as The Today Show, Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, CNN, the BBC, and NPR.

After her child was born, Gottlieb went back to school again, this time to Pepperdine University, where she earned a graduate degree in clinical psychology. As she writes in her website:

As both therapist and writer, I’m interested in going inside ourselves in order to get outside of ourselves—to experience the ways in which connection reveals our humanity and, ultimately, transforms us.

Books
2000 - Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
2010 - Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough
2019 - Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed
(Author bio adapted from publisher and author website.)



Book Reviews
Gottlieb’s book is perhaps the first I’ve read that explains the therapeutic process in no-nonsense terms while simultaneously giving hope to therapy skeptics like me who think real change through talk is elusive.
Judith Newman - New York Times


Who could resist watching a therapist grapple with the same questions her patients have been asking her for years? Gottlieb, who writes the Atlantic’s "Dear Therapist" column, brings searing honesty to her search for answers.
Washington Post


An addictive book that's part Oliver Sacks and part Nora Ephron. Prepare to be riveted.
People


The Atlantic's "Dear Therapist" columnist offers a startlingly revealing tour of the therapist’s life, examining her relationships with her patients, her own therapist, and various figures in her personal life.
Entertainment Weekly


A psychotherapist and advice columnist at The Atlantic shows us what it’s like to be on both sides of the couch with doses of heartwarming humor and invaluable, tell-it-like-it-is wisdom.
Oprah Magazine


A no-holds-barred look at how therapy works.
Parade


[S]parkling.… Gottlieb portrays her patients… with compassion, humor, and grace. For someone considering but hesitant to enter therapy, Gottlieb’s thoughtful and compassionate work will calm anxieties about the process.
Publishers Weekly


Written with grace, humor, wisdom, and compassion, this [is a] heartwarming journey of self-discovery.
Library Journal


The coup de grace is Gottlieb’s vulnerability with her own therapist. Some readers will know Gottlieb from her many TV appearances or her "Dear Therapist" column, but even for the uninitiated-to-Gottlieb, it won’t take long to settle in with this compelling read.
Booklist


(Starred review) [V]ivacious.… Throughout, the author puts a very human face on the delicate yet intensive process of psychotherapy while baring her own demons. Saturated with self-awareness and compassion, this is an irresistibly addictive tour of the human condition.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. In her author’s note, Gottlieb explains why she uses the term "patients" rather than "clients" in the book, though neither quite satisfies her. What does each term suggest about the person described and the therapeutic relationship?

2. Revisit the four epigraphs that introduce each part of the book, and consider how they resonate with the stories of the patients we follow: John, Julie, Charlotte, Rita, and Lori herself. Which patient’s arc resonates most for you?

3. What does Gottlieb learn from each of her patients? In what ways does she identify with them? In what ways do you?

4. If you have a therapist, what do you think you want from him/her? Have you ever shared Lori’s experience, and that of her patients, of wanting to specific advice, or wondering what the therapist is thinking about you?

5. Is it reassuring or uncomfortable to see inside a therapist’s head? What was it like peering inside Gottlieb’s consultation group, when she and her colleagues are discussing a patient that the group suggests she "break up with"?

6. When Lori asks Wendell whether he likes her, he says that he does but not for the reasons she’s asking to be liked: he likes her neshama (Hebrew for "spirit" or "soul"). When do you see glimpses of someone’s soul? Given how much all of us share deep down in our psyches, how much do you think our souls differ? Could it be Lori’s very humanity—the parts of her that he himself relates to—that Wendell feels affection for?

7. In a funny moment in the book, Lori explains that while she’s surrounded by therapists—in her office, in her consultation group, in her friendships—she can’t find a therapist for herself because she needs the space of the therapy room to be "separate and distinct." How does Wendell’s reaction to Lori’s crisis differ from that of her close friends, including Jen, who’s also a therapist? How might our friends’ love for us make their way of soothing us less helpful in the long run?

8. Gottlieb writes: "It’s Wendell’s job to help me edit my story"(115). How was her story about herself holding her back and how does she revise it by the end of the book? How do her patients revise their stories about themselves? Have you ever had to rewrite your own self-narrative in order to move forward?

9. Compare Lori’s and Wendell’s styles as therapists. Would you prefer one to the other? What does Lori learn from Wendell? How does her interaction with him change her own practice?

10. The ultimate concerns the psychiatrist Irvin Yalom identifies—death, isolation, freedom, and meaninglessness—are theological and philosophical concerns as well. Would you turn to therapy, religion, or another wisdom source to explore them? How might the guidance you receive from each source differ?

11. Gottlieb notes that contemporary culture is rendering the ingredients for emotional health more elusive, such as real connection with others, time and patience for processing our experiences, and enough silence to hear ourselves. Have you noticed a change in your own emotional health (or that of your loved ones) as our lives become increasingly digitalized? What do you do to offset the damaging effects of an online age?

12. Lori Google-stalks Boyfriend and also Wendell—what problems does this cause in each case? Think about the Google-stalking you’ve done. How do you feel after you’ve learned something about someone in this way? Has it helped or hurt your relationships? What does this use of the internet reveal about us?

13. In Chapter 39, "How Humans Change," Gottlieb outlines one model of behavioral change and applies its stages to Charlotte’s case. Think about changes you’ve made in your own life. What helped you to make them? Do you recognize these stages?

14. After reading about Julie’s preparations for death, did you look up from the book and see the world any differently? Do you have a bucket list? Have you ever tried writing your own obituary? What have you learned from these exercises?

15. By the end of the book, do you feel you’ve internalized Gottlieb’s voice? Pick one of your current dilemmas and imagine what she might say about it. Are you conscious of carrying inside you the voices of people you’ve been close to? Has your conversation with those voices evolved over time?

16. What do you learn from this book that you can apply to your relationship with yourself? With others? Gottlieb introduces several psychological terms, such as projective identification (204) and displacement (367)—do you find it useful to have names and definitions for behaviors you recognize in yourself or others? If you were to put something you learned from this book into practice, what would that look like?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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