Lori Gottlieb is a woman of many talents. She has been, at various points in her life, a journalist, a single mother, a TV executive (she was there when Jennifer Aniston auditioned for Friends), a graduate of Stanford Medical School and a psychotherapist. But in her book Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, she chooses to introduce herself mid-session with her most annoying patient, John, “an asshole with spectacular teeth”. Stifling yawns, sighs, tears and frustrated interjections (“Have compassion,” she reminds herself) as he complains, Gottlieb struggles to keep it together. Not least because she’s just been dumped, only allowing herself to cry in the short breaks between sessions.
Unlike many books about therapy, this is an accessible, informal and very personal story – a chatty memoir that also contains the theoretical insights that underpin much of psychotherapy. “While the image of me with mascara running down my tear-streaked face between sessions may be uncomfortable to contemplate,” she writes, “that’s where this story about the handful of struggling humans you are about to meet begins – with my own humanity.”
Undermining the image of therapists as emotionless “objective observers”, Gottlieb lets us in on what she really thinks of her patients, how they affect her outside the room, and her own emotional challenges – including her experience in therapy as a patient. (Her expertise can’t help her when she’s the one on the couch.) In a publishing landscape crowded with life hacks and deliberately sarcastic titles such as The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck, Gottlieb has written a wise, funny and sometimes blisteringly sad book that is warmer than any self-help guide: one that feels like a friend.
This article appears in the 26 Jun 2019 issue of the New Statesman, Restraining order