Title: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone
Author: Lori Gottlieb
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Memoir, Mental Health
First Publication: 2019
Book Summary: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
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.
Book Review: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb is a fascinating look into the world of a therapist and how therapy works. Sprinkled throughout the book are snippets of psychology, including explanations of defence mechanisms, stages of change, tasks of mourning, and brief glimpses of the contributions of Freud, Erikson, Rogers, Franklin, and others to the field of psychology. It’s almost like getting a psychology education.
In Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, Gottlieb recounts her long, aberrant journey to becoming a therapist. As someone who was always interested in people’s stories, Gottlieb began her career as a writer. She worked on the set of a medical drama, which inspired her to attend medical school. However, after a few years, Gottlieb realized that medicine was not for her. She disliked the modern model of medicine – heavy caseloads and limited patient contact. So she ended up leaving medical school to become a therapist.
“We can’t have change without loss, which is why so often people say they want change but nonetheless stay exactly the same.”
Lori Gottlieb is raw and honest in Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. She is not afraid of letting her guard down. We assume therapists are blank slates and objective observers; however, they too are only human. Of course, therapists have to separate their personal lives from their professional lives. When you are engaging with a client, the focus is on them, not you. But outside of that, therapists also have their own challenges, insecurities, histories, and fears.
In Gottlieb’s case, she ends up seeing a therapist after a difficult breakup. I loved the passages where Gottlieb unpacks her emotions surrounding the breakup. She is experiencing grief, sadness, and betrayal. As a woman in her 40s, she wonders if this is the last intimate relationship she will be in? If you have ever gone through the grief that follows a breakup, then I think you will enjoy reading these passages.
“We tend to think that the future happens later, but we’re creating it in our minds every day. When the present falls apart, so does the future we had associated with it. And having the future taken away is the mother of all plot twists.”
She also features her patients’ stories in Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. The one that touched me the most was Julie’s. She had everything going for her. She just got married to a man she loved. And also graduated from her PhD program and became a tenured professor. However, during her honeymoon, she found out she had breast cancer despite having no family history of it. Sometimes illness is uncontrollable. We can do everything right and still get sick. Julie wanted Gottlieb to come to terms with her death. I just lost it whenever Gottlieb described Julie. I think it was because I saw a lot of myself in her.
“There’s no hierarchy of pain. Suffering shouldn’t be ranked, because pain is not a contest.”
In Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, there was this profound analogy that compared getting sick with experiencing a detoured plane ride. Imagine you are planning on traveling to France so you spend your time learning about French language and culture. However, as you board the plane, you are told the plane is not going to France. It is going to Holland. So what do you do? You can either close yourself off in a hotel room or admire how beautiful, unique, and special Holland is despite it not being France.
And finally, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone touches on other important topics such as attending a client’s funeral, therapy for older adults, spousal jealousy, high-functioning vs. low-functioning patients, self-disclosure, and therapy termination.
Just like everything else, therapy is changing. There are apps that can connect you with a therapist in minutes. And although these changes are positive, Gottlieb argues they take away from the fundamentals of therapy. You cannot rush emotional healing because most things worth doing are often difficult.