A look at psychotherapy from an interesting perspective. It’s a book written by a therapist who also became a patient. Lori Gotlieb gives us a glimpse into a year of her life, through the stories of her patients and the tale of her own experience on the other side of the table. Written in an honest and non-pretentious way it is also a book that makes you think. It will not solve your problems, but it may convince you to start taking action.
I heard about this book on the radio one day. And since several of the people close to me have gone to therapy I was curious to understand a bit more about their experience, without studying too much academic literature. And that’s what Gottlieb’s book does, gives you a glimpse of what’s behind those closed doors.
Before becoming a therapist Lori Gottlieb is a writer and a therapist. Her early career revolved around visual storytelling and she has been a film and television executive, before deciding to change the path, going back to school and becoming a therapist. Gottlieb combines her areas of interest in this book, she leverages her excellent storytelling to tell us a bit more about what therapy is about.
The book starts at a point when Gottlieb is abandoned by a man who she thought would actually be marrying her anytime now. She is deeply shaken but tries to power through. In the end as a therapist, she cannot possibly need therapy herself! Right? … Well, wrong. And thankfully she finally gets to that point and seeks help.
What was interesting for me was how difficult it is for her to move from one side to the other, from being the one who knows to the one who needs help. The therapist she ends up with gently manages this adjustment, but Gottlieb also writes honestly about how vulnerable and defensive she feels. It’s this situation when you know all the tricks, so how can they possibly help you? But they can, because they are not tricks, and also because it is not the therapist solving the problem for you, but rather gently nudging you towards finding your own path.
But Gottlieb is not so self-obsessed to serve us only the tale of her recovery, she also shares with us stories of several of her patients. Protecting their privacy of course and even merging several patients into one. Because it is not really about specific cases, but more about the relationship and mechanics of therapy. So we meet a narcissistic film producer, a newlywed woman who has terminal cancer, a retiree who sees no sense in life and wants to end it on her birthday and a few other personalities.
The best part of those stories is that Gottlieb does not hide that she is human. Yes, she is a professional therapist, but also as a human being she also has to process her emotions regarding her patients, and some of them are really annoying. Does she judge them, yes, but never in the session she keeps her judgment to herself, because this is not what her patients are there for. She gets angry and bored, attached and challenged, and it is all part of the process.
It is very much a book about emotions. It will have you laugh at some of Gottlieb’s snap observations, but will also touch you where it resonates with your own experience. It is also a book about how difficult it is to change the way we operate, perceive and react to the world. But by no means is it a self-help book, even if there are some solutions, that is not the point. The point here is understanding. And also a bit of fun, because Gottlieb really flexes her storytelling muscle to keep us entertained and hooked all the way to the end.