Totally unexpectedly, Lori Gottlieb’s long term boyfriend, the man she thought she’d marry, made a succinct and ultimately devastating statement, saying he didn’t “want to live with a kid in the house for the next ten years” and then he was gone.
Suddenly, Gottlieb, a psychotherapist who writes the weekly “Dear Therapist” advice column for The Atlantic, had to deal with her own issues as well as those of her clients, a process she chronicles in her very engaging Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2019; $28).
The clients include John, a married man with two children and a very successful career as a television producer who pays Gottlieb in cash because he doesn’t want his wife to know he’s in therapy.
“You’ll be like my mistress,” he tells her at the end of their first therapy session. “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.”
Another patient, newly married, had achieved tenure at her university and after years of hard work, was eager to become a parent.
“She was accomplished, generous, and adored by colleagues, friends, and family. She was the kind of person who enjoyed running marathons and climbing mountains and baking silly cakes for her nephew,” writes Gottlieb.
The client, Julie, overcomes cancer once and then six years later receives the news it has reoccurred, and she has a year or so to live.
“One of the themes of the book is that our stories form the core of our lives and give them deeper meaning,” says Gottlieb, whose book was recently optioned for television by Eva Longoria for 20th TV. “Sharing these stories is essentially about one person saying to another: This is who I am? Can you understand me?”
But even for therapists, it’s scary to reveal ourselves to others and that’s what Gottlieb, who speaks about relationships, parenting, and hot-button mental health topics on such shows as The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Dr. Phil, CNN, and NPR, discovered when she found a professional to talk to about her fractured relationship. Despite her understanding that’s it’s important to be truthful, she, like all of us, edit the truth.
“Clients make a choice about what to leave in, what to leave out as well as how to frame the situation in the way they want me to hear it,” says Gottlieb who found herself doing just the same. “One of the things with my therapist that I did that my clients do to me, is I wanted him to like me, I want him to like me better than others in the waiting room. That’s why we don’t always tell our therapists our secrets. We don’t realize the ways we get in out way in the therapy room is the way we get in the way in our own lives.”
Gottlieb describes people as emotionally hiding out.
“People carry out their pain, they think they can compartmentalize,” she says. “I see so much loneliness in the people who come to see me, people are really stressed out.”
Texting and social media sometimes stop us from being together and communicating. That’s why therapy can help people change largely because as they grow in connection with others in a way often lost in our fast-paced, technology-driven culture.
But change is scary, both for Gottlieb in her personal therapy sessions that she chronicles and for her clients who we follow as they come to grips with their issues in her office.
“I thought it was important to put myself out there with this book,” says Gottlieb, noting that the book was very difficult to write. “Therapists are real people and we have our own struggles. We’re all members of the human race.”
What: Author Lori Gottlieb and Amy Dickinson, who writes the syndicated advice column, Ask Amy, discuss Maybe You Should Talk to Someone
When: Monday, April 8 from 6-7:15pm
Where: Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St., Chicago IL
FYI: (312) 747-4300; chipublib.bibliocommons.com
Gottlieb will also be interviewed by Dr. Alexandra Solomon of Northwestern University and author of Loving Bravely on Tuesday, April 9 at 7pm at New Trier High School, Cornog, 7 Happ Road, Winnetka, IL. Cost: Free. Sponsored by The Book Stall. 847-446-8880; thebookstall.com