About the same time, I found Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb on NPR’s Best Books of 2019 List. This book gave me more insight into therapy and therapists. Finally, I have a relatively high-stress job, and they provide therapy for us at no cost–frequently encouraging their use. After a recent incident involving work as well as issues with my boyfriend, I felt the signs were all pointing in one direction.
So I sucked it up and finally contacted a therapist, and it’s been good. I always thought that I could handle my own issues, but it’s a relief to talk to someone who has insight into what’s going on in my head and can put it in perspective. I’ve learned that I’m probably avoidant when it comes to attachment and relationships, which explains a lot about my feelings and worries when it comes to my boyfriend.
I had two main fears when it came to therapy. First, I did not want to admit that I needed help, but paradoxically I was also afraid that the therapist would find my issues inconsequential. I’m a functional, generally happy person, and I’m very aware of the many people who have it much worse than me. I was afraid that I’d come across as whining. But I go to the doctor even though there are people sicker than me. Just because some people have deeper mental health struggles than me isn’t a good excuse for avoiding therapy.
But to get back on track, this is a review of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. Gottlieb writes a memoir about her life and job as a clinical psychologist and therapist. It focuses on how she went from working in Hollywood, to going to medical school, to finally settling into the field of psychology. Gottlieb also discusses how and when she had her son as well as her relationship with her fiancé. When her fiancé unexpectedly leaves her, Gottlieb is angry and heartbroken. She finds a therapist of her own to help her through the grieving process of her lost relationship.
One aspect of this book that I found quite interesting was Gottlieb’s take on her own therapy. Even as a therapist, she was very cautious when it came to finding a therapist for herself. She was afraid of the stigma that comes with “needing therapy” and kept it quiet from her co-workers, lying to them when seeking recommendations. It was also interesting to see that, even with her education and insight, she needed the perspective from someone on the outside to show her how she was viewing her past relationship in an unhealthy light.
The other focus of the book is Gottlieb’s own practice. She tells the stories (with permission and fake names) of four of her clients: Julie is a young, successful, newly-married woman who is dying of cancer; John comes across as an uncaring asshole with marriage problems; Charlotte is a 25-year-old alcoholic with daddy issues, dating emotionally detached men; and Rita is an older woman with bitter, angry children damaged by abuse and neglect. Rita is planning on killing herself on her 70th birthday.
These characters are all interesting people, and I liked seeing how Gottlieb worked with them. I did feel, especially with Julie and John, that she picked especially tragic figures that were very painful to read about. I sometimes felt I was being emotionally manipulated simply by the sadness of their stories.
Although there were a lot of things I liked about this book, by the time I got near the end, I was happy to finish it. As I was reading, I began to feel that I was seeing the same thing over and over again. There were a lot of generalities about therapy that began to feel redundant and didn’t feel particularly helpful. Although I appreciate Gottlieb’s candor in talking about her own life, and I found her clients interesting, I think this book could have been shorter and more to the point.
You can find all of my reviews on my blog.