If you’ve ever wondered, in the middle of a conversation with your therapist, what’s going on in her mind and what she’s really thinking—about you, the problem you’re discussing, your personality in general, whether she’s judging you or silently applauding your courage and conviction—this book is for you.
Also know that there’s a possibility your therapist is not thinking about you at all but about the fight she had with her husband last night or her parents’ health and whether she should get a covid-19 shot immediately. That doesn’t mean she’s not doing her job—as Lori Gottlieb’s marvellous book on therapy makes clear, therapists are trained to listen and respond appropriately, even when they are not fully, 100% engaged.
Most of the time they are, but after all, they are human too, with their own personalities and emotional baggage, along with all the challenges that life throws everyone’s way—a breakup, ill-health, a parent or child being sick. They may have the tools to cope with these and maybe they do cope better than most of us, but that doesn’t mean they don’t often lose it too, like the rest of us do.
“Of all my credentials as a therapist, the most significant is that I am a card-carrying member of the human race,” writes Gottlieb in her 2019 book Maybe You Should Talk To Someone (published in India by Amaryllis), which humanises therapists and other mental health professionals in a smart, funny way through Gottlieb’s own experience of being in therapy while being a professional therapist herself.
This warmly written memoir, which talks about how she became a therapist in the first place despite starting out as a film and television producer, goes back and forth in time while staying rooted in the present, when the author is dealing with the aftermath of a sudden and devastating breakup with a man she was planning to spend the rest of her life with.
In the US, though therapists go through intense analysis during their training, it is not mandatory for them to seek therapy once they are qualified, and yet Gottlieb finds herself sobbing on a therapist’s couch. Talking with a gentle frankness about her own challenges during this episode, Gottlieb takes us through the process of therapy—its tools, methods, conventions, and evolution—and how these are used uniquely by each individual therapist. A Freudian therapist would behave very differently from a more empathetic modern therapist, and through this book we learn a bit about the how approaches to therapy have changed over the decades, and how it still continues to be moulded by the therapist’s own personality—Gottlieb’s therapist, for instance, is a quirky individual with a somewhat unconventional approach that provides both entertainment and insight to the reader. She also talks about some of her own patients (without revealing their identities, of course) and invites us to empathise with these characters as well as with her, the therapist.
If you’ve ever been in therapy or are considering starting it, read this book to get over those fears; it demystifies the process of therapy and makes it seem like what it essentially represents—a safe space.