Review Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

I love reading, and because I love reading, I subscribe to numerous emails with lists of books I might like, or that are particularly popular at the moment.  I recently read a book that was on several of those lists, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb. A memoir that reads like fiction, this book is by a therapist, who shares stories of some of her patients, parallel with the story of her own time in therapy with “Wendell”.   (Her patient stories are approximations of their true lives and selves to protect confidentiality)

Seeing inside the walls of a therapists mind while she is with a patient was truly fascinating.  Although all therapists techniques, thoughts, and histories are unique, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone provides a good general view of what it is like on the other end of the couch.  

At times humorous and at times profound, Lori shares many great insights throughout the book.  One of my favorites occurred relatively early on,

“During my training, a supervisor once told me, ‘There’s something likable in everyone,’ and to my great surprise, I found that she was right.  It’s impossible to get to know people deeply and not come to like them. We should take the world’s enemies, get them in a room to share their histories and formative experiences, their fears and struggles, and global adversaries would suddenly get along.  I’ve found something likable in literally everyone I’ve seen as a therapist, including the guy who attempted murder. (Beneath his rage, he turned out to be a real sweetheart.)”

I have tried to take this insight and make it a part of my thinking for the last few weeks and for the most part I have been able to do so.  I don’t have to see what it is that is likable about a person, but I am trying to remember that there is something there. So far there have only been a few exceptions to my ability to accept that there is something likeable about a person, and they have all been public figures that I have not met one-on-one.  At some point, a person’s evils must erase any of the good qualities.

Something unique about this book was that while it is the story of a mental health professional and her patients, the focus was not on patients with diagnosable mental illness, but more on people with challenges of varying degrees which they were seeking therapy to help overcome.  Admittedly, some of the descriptions depicted someone who might have, say, major depression, but the illness was not the focus.

Something else I loved about this book was how Lori normalized some of the things that we all do and then often feel badly about.  Such as Googling our therapist. Although she herself is a therapist, Lori found herself falling down the internet rabbit hole trying to learn more about Wendell.  She did, however, do something I think many of us do not do, weeks or months later she admitted to Wendell that she had read all she could about him online. This admission led to a good discussion and less tension in the room.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Maybe You Should Talk to Someone and recommend this book to people who are in therapy, not in therapy, and who are thinking about starting therapy.  While I think anyone would enjoy this book, I think those thinking about therapy might benefit the most from this read. It helps to normalize the experience as well as gives a look into the room with various patient personalities, attitudes, and goals.  Taking the unknown out of a scary situation takes the “scary” out of that situation as well. Usually I write about an author as Mr. or Ms. Last Name but Lori has the reader feeling so at home with her that by the end of writing this I realized I wrote the entire thing on a first name basis.  

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