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Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed
by Lori Gottlieb

Published: 2019-04-02
Hardcover : 432 pages
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87 clubs reading this now
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INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER!Now being developed as a television series with Eva Longoria and ABC!*An O, The Oprah Magazine's Best Nonfiction Book of 2019*  *A People Magazine Book of the Week*
*An Apple Best Books Pick for April*
*An April IndieNext Pick*
*A Book of the Month Club ...
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Introduction

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER!

Now being developed as a television series with Eva Longoria and ABC!
*An O, The Oprah Magazine's Best Nonfiction Book of 2019*  
*A People Magazine Book of the Week*
*An Apple Best Books Pick for April*
*An April IndieNext Pick*
*A Book of the Month Club Selection*
*A Publishers Marketplace Buzz Book*
*A Newsday, Apple iBooks, Thrive GlobalRefinery29
and Book Riot Most Anticipated Book of 2019*


"An irresistibly addictive tour of the human condition."--Kirkus, starred review

"Rarely have I read a book that challenged me to see myself in an entirely new light, and was at the same time laugh-out-loud funny and utterly absorbing."--Katie Couric

"This is a daring, delightful, and transformative book."--Arianna Huffington, Founder, Huffington Post and Founder & CEO, Thrive Global

"Wise, warm, smart, and funny. You must read this book."--Susan Cain, New York Times bestselling author of Quiet

From a New York Times best-selling author, psychotherapist, and national advice columnist, a hilarious, thought-provoking, and surprising new book that takes us behind the scenes of a therapist's world--where her patients are looking for answers (and so is she).

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.

With startling wisdom and humor, Gottlieb invites us into her world as both clinician and patient, examining the truths and fictions we tell ourselves and others as we teeter on the tightrope between love and desire, meaning and mortality, guilt and redemption, terror and courage, hope and change.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is rev­olutionary in its candor, offering a deeply per­sonal yet universal tour of our hearts and minds and providing the rarest of gifts: a boldly reveal­ing portrait of what it means to be human, and a disarmingly funny and illuminating account of our own mysterious lives and our power to transform them.

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of April 2019: I didn’t quite know how to take it when a publishing friend excitedly thrust a copy of celebrated psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb’s Maybe You Should Talk to Someone into my hands and exclaimed: “Erin, this is a book for you!” (Did I mention a couple colleagues were present and did not receive the same recommendation? The same colleagues who were just then nodding?). But I’m so glad he did. Giving the reader a behind-the-scenes peek from both sides of the couch, it’s a witty, relatable, moving homage to therapy—and just being human. While therapists are required to see a counselor themselves as part of their training, Gottlieb enlists an experienced ear when an unexpected breakup lays her flat. Working through her issues with the enigmatic “Wendell” helps Gottlieb process her pain, but it also hones her professional skills; after all, a good therapist possesses the ability to empathize with their patients (four of whom she chronicles in funny, frustrating, heartbreaking and profoundly inspiring detail). Like Gottlieb, you will see yourselves in them--in all their self-sabotaging, misunderstood, unlucky, and evolutionary glory. So, for those of you thinking: self-help books are just not my jam…They aren’t mine either (trust me, my woo-woo detector is very sensitive). But Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is so much more expansive than that. Everybody, this is a book for you. --Erin Kodicek, Amazon Book Review

Excerpt

1

Chart note, John:

Patient reports feeling “stressed out” and states that he is having difficulty sleeping and getting along with his wife. Expresses annoyance with others and seeks help “managing the idiots.”

Have compassion.

Deep breath.

Have compassion, have compassion, have compassion . . .

I’m repeating this phrase in my head like a mantra as the forty-year old man sitting across from me is telling me about all of the people in his life who are “idiots.” Why, he wants to know, is the world filled with so many idiots? Are they born this way? Do they become this way? Maybe, he muses, it has something to do with all the artificial chemicals that are added to the food we eat nowadays.

“That’s why I try to eat organic,” he says. “So I don’t become an idiot like everyone else.”

I’m losing track of which idiot he’s talking about: the dental hygienist who asks too many questions (“None of them rhetorical”), the coworker who only asks questions (“He never makes statements, because that would imply that he had something to say”), the driver in front of him who stopped at a yellow light (“No sense of urgency! ”), the Apple technician at the Genius Bar who couldn’t fix his laptop (“Some genius!”).

“John,” I begin, but he’s starting to tell a rambling story about his wife. I can’t get a word in edgewise, even though he has come to me for help.

I, by the way, am his new therapist. (His previous therapist, who lasted just three sessions, was “nice, but an idiot.”)

“And then Margo gets angry — can you believe it?” he’s saying. “But she doesn’t tell me she’s angry. She just acts angry, and I’m supposed to ask her what’s wrong. But I know if I ask, she’ll say, ‘Nothing,’ the first three times, and then maybe the fourth or fifth time she’ll say, ‘You know what’s wrong,’ and I’ll say, ‘No, I don’t, or I wouldn’t be asking! ’”

He smiles. It’s a huge smile. I try to work with the smile — anything to change his monologue into a dialogue and make contact with him.

“I’m curious about your smile just now,” I say. “Because you’re talking about being frustrated by many people, including Margo, and yet you’re smiling.”

His smile gets bigger. He has the whitest teeth I’ve ever seen. They’re gleaming like diamonds. “I’m smiling, Sherlock, because I know exactly what’s bothering my wife!”

“Ah!” I reply. “So —”

“Wait, wait. I’m getting to the best part,” he interrupts. “So, like I said, I really do know what’s wrong, but I’m not that interested in hearing another complaint. So this time, instead of asking, I decide I’m going to —

“He stops and peers at the clock on the bookshelf behind me.

I want to use this opportunity to help John slow down. I could comment on the glance at the clock (does he feel rushed in here?) or the fact that he just called me Sherlock (was he irritated with me?). Or I could stay more on the surface in what we call “the content” — the narrative he’s telling — and try to understand more about why he equates Margo’s feelings with a complaint. But if I stay in the content, we won’t connect at all this session, and John, I’m learning, is somebody who has trouble making contact with the people in his life.

“John,” I try again. “I wonder if we can go back to what just happened —”

“Oh, good,” he says, cutting me off. “I still have twenty minutes left.” And then he’s back to his story.

I sense a yawn coming on, a strong one, and it takes what feels like superhuman strength to keep my jaw clenched tight. I can feel my muscles resisting, twisting my face into odd expressions, but thankfully the yawn stays inside. Unfortunately, what comes out instead is a burp. A loud one. As though I’m drunk. (I’m not. I’m a lot of unpleasant things in this moment, but drunk isn’t one of them.)

Because of the burp, my mouth starts to pop open again. I squeeze my lips together so hard that my eyes begin to tear.

Of course, John doesn’t seem to notice. He’s still going on about Margo. Margo did this. Margo did that. I said this. She said that. So then I said—

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 their 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 didn’t even mind the week before, at our first session, when John explained that he’d come to me because I was a “nobody” here in Los Angeles, which meant that he wouldn’t run into any of his television-industry colleagues when coming for treatment. (His colleagues, he suspected, went to “well-known, experienced therapists.”) I simply tagged that for future use, when he’d be more open to engaging with me. Nor did I flinch at the end of that session when he handed me a wad of cash and explained that he preferred to pay this way because he didn’t want his wife to know he was seeing a therapist.

“You’ll be like my mistress,” he’d suggested. “Or, actually, more like my hooker. No offense, but you’re not the kind of woman I’d choose as a mistress. . . if you know what I mean.”

I didn’t know what he meant (someone blonder? Younger? With whiter, more sparkly teeth?), but I figured that this comment was just one of John’s defenses against getting close to anybody or acknowledging his need for another human being.

“Ha-ha, my hooker!” he said, pausing at the door. “I’ll just come here each week, release all my pent-up frustration, and nobody has to know! Isn’t that funny?”

Oh, yeah, I wanted to say, super-funny. view abbreviated excerpt only...

Discussion Questions

1. In her author’s note, Gottlieb explains why she uses the term “patients” rather than “clients” in the book, though neither quite satisfies her. What does each term suggest about the person described and the therapeutic relationship?

2. Revisit the four epigraphs that introduce each part of the book, and consider how they resonate with the stories of the patients we follow: John, Julie, Charlotte, Rita, and Lori herself. Which patient’s arc resonates most for you?

3. What does Gottlieb learn from each of her patients? In what ways does she identify with them? In what ways do you?

4. If you have a therapist, what do you think you want from him/her? Have you ever shared Lori’s experience, and that of her patients, of wanting to specific advice, or wondering what the therapist is thinking about you?
5. Is it reassuring or uncomfortable to see inside a therapist’s head? What was it like peering inside Gottlieb’s consultation group, when she and her colleagues are discussing a patient that the group suggests she “break up with”?

6. When Lori asks Wendell whether he likes her, he says that he does but not for the reasons she’s asking to be liked: he likes her neshama (Hebrew for “spirit” or “soul”). When do you see glimpses of someone’s soul? Given how much all of us share deep down in our psyches, how much do you think our souls differ? Could it be Lori’s very humanity—the parts of her that he himself relates to—that Wendell feels affection for?

7. In a funny moment in the book, Lori explains that while she’s surrounded by therapists—in her office, in her consultation group, in her friendships—she can’t find a therapist for herself because she needs the space of the therapy room to be “separate and distinct.” How does Wendell’s reaction to Lori’s crisis differ from that of her close friends, including Jen, who’s also a therapist? How might our friends’ love for us make their way of soothing us less helpful in the long run?

8. Gottlieb writes: “It’s Wendell’s job to help me edit my story” (115). How was her story about herself holding her back and how does she revise it by the end of the book? How do her patients revise their stories about themselves? Have you ever had to rewrite your own self-narrative in order to move forward?

9. Compare Lori’s and Wendell’s styles as therapists. Would you prefer one to the other? What does Lori learn from Wendell? How does her interaction with him change her own practice?

10. The ultimate concerns the psychiatrist Irvin Yalom identifies—death, isolation, freedom, and meaninglessness—are theological and philosophical concerns as well. Would you turn to therapy, religion, or another wisdom source to explore them? How might the guidance you receive from each source differ?

11. Gottlieb notes that contemporary culture is rendering the ingredients for emotional health more elusive, such as real connection with others, time and patience for processing our experiences, and enough silence to hear ourselves. Have you noticed a change in your own emotional health (or that of your loved ones) as our lives become increasingly digitalized? What do you do to offset the damaging effects of an online age?

12. Lori Google-stalks Boyfriend and also Wendell—what problems does this cause in each case? Think about the Google-stalking you’ve done. How do you feel after you’ve learned something about someone in this way? Has it helped or hurt your relationships? What does this use of the internet reveal about us?

13. In Chapter 39, “How Humans Change,” Gottlieb outlines one model of behavioral change and applies its stages to Charlotte’s case. Think about changes you’ve made in your own life. What helped you to make them? Do you recognize these stages?

14. After reading about Julie’s preparations for death, did you look up from the book and see the world any differently? Do you have a bucket list? Have you ever tried writing your own obituary? What have you learned from these exercises?

15. By the end of the book, do you feel you’ve internalized Gottlieb’s voice? Pick one of your current dilemmas and imagine what she might say about it. Are you conscious of carrying inside you the voices of people you’ve been close to? Has your conversation with those voices evolved over time?

16. What do you learn from this book that you can apply to your relationship with yourself? With others? Gottlieb introduces several psychological terms, such as projective identification (204) and displacement (367)—do you find it useful to have names and definitions for behaviors you recognize in yourself or others? If you were to put something you learned from this book into practice, what would that look like?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

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