Wednesday, April 17, 2024

What Does Your Therapist Really Think of You? What Happens in Other People’s Sessions? This Tell-All Non-Fiction Book Has All the Answers…

Welcome to Capsule’s book club! We’re SO excited to bring you a new book each month to devour and savour. Whether you indulge in a few hours of luxurious alone time each Sunday, or finish your day with a chapter or two, we invite you to relax and enjoy, and if you’re so inclined, connect with fellow Capsule readers and your own family and friends to have a yarn about the book you’ve just read. We’ll be mixing up the titles we feature every month, so you’re in for an eclectic monthly journey.

This month, we’re diving into a memoir, that reads more like non-fiction (that adage that fact is stranger than fiction certainly rings true here!). Maybe You Should Talk to Someone came out in 2019, so you might have already heard of it, but if you haven’t picked it up before, we’re highly recommending it…

Ever wondered what it’s actually like to see a therapist? Or do you already see one and are curious about what happens in other people’s sessions? Maybe you’ve wondered what your therapist really thinks of you?? Or what they’re like outside of therapy? Who do they go for their problems? Do they even HAVE problems?? What are they???

For the most part, the world of therapy happens in a total cone of silence (unless you’re like us, and often say to each other, ‘ooh, that reminds me of what my therapist said last week…’), but a couple of years ago, psychotherapist and author Lori Gottlieb busted open her private world, writing a very revealing book about what went on inside her Los Angeles practice (and her own personal life).

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone instantly became a New York Times best seller and TIME Must-Read Book of the Year 2019 and once you’ve picked the book up, it’s easy to see why. It’s a warm, brutally honest, revealing and funny memoir, but will also break your heart at points.

JANUARY’S BOOK PICK: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, by Lori Gottlieb (2019, Scribe Publications)

Lori starts her story by bringing us along on an extremely happy time in her life, where she decided – against a ticking clock – that she would find a sperm donor and bring up a baby on her own (her search for that donor is quite the ride!). Later, we find Lori blissfully happy, both professionally and personally, working at her private practice, coming home to her primary school aged son and very much in love with a man who wants to marry her.

Except, it’s about then that he – completely out of the blue – breaks up with her, saying that he doesn’t want to live under the same roof as a child for the next decade (very specifically, he – like a true jerk – says he doesn’t want to have to pay attention to the Lego creations her son makes. Seriously.).

So, she takes her own professional advice, and books in to see a psychotherapist, Wendell, who she doesn’t know, but comes recommended. Therapists like to refer to this part as the ‘presenting problem’ – the thing that gets you in the door of therapy. But, if you’ve ever been yourself, you’ll likely have discovered that the ‘one thing’ that you go in to discuss or work through, most often just opens up a whole new can (or cans) of worms that leads you down different paths of discovery. Oh, so you thought you were just trying to work through a difficult break-up? Before long you’ll be joining the dots and seeing that how you acted in that relationship is linked to a pattern of behaviours, influenced by your childhood, traumas you know about and traumas you’d long forgotten about… Which is exactly what happens to Lori.

Lori is SO relatable at times in her therapy and her urges to know more about her therapist (she googles him at one stage and then finds herself in an awkward position, stuck for what to tell him when she finds out a little too much).

Meanwhile, she’s still running her practice, where she tells us the stories of four of her clients. There’s Julie, the young newly-wed who, after discovering a lump on her honeymoon, is now facing a terminal cancer diagnosis, seeing Lori as she tries to come to terms with how little time she has left and how to prepare herself – and her husband – for her death. Conversely, Rita is in great physical health in her 70s but severely depressed and ready to give up – particularly as she now no longer speaks to her children due to demons from her past. Charlotte is in her twenties, drinks too much and keeps hooking up with the wrong guys – including someone in the waiting room.

Then there’s John, the brash TV producer and writer, who pays her in cash (he calls her his call-girl, because he doesn’t want his wife to know he’s seeing her) and is looking for a place he can complain about all the idiots he’s surrounded by – at home and at work. Slowly we hear more of his story and the devastating accident from his past that continues to haunt him, and causes him to put up such a tough exterior.

Lori’s story is non-fiction, but she’s tweaked and merged details of her patients to keep anonymity, and John’s story is the one I really tried to Google the heck out of once I finished the book.

John was a big-shot TV exec who won multiple Emmy’s for his hit series – his identity has never been revealed but it seems everyone out there on the web is as curious as me and it’s been floated by internet sleuths that it could be the guy behind Dexter, How I Met Your Mother, Mad Men or The Sopranos. I’m watching The Sopranos for the first time right now (I know, where have I been?) and some of the similarities are truly uncanny, but I can’t help but think Lori has just tried to throw us off the scent with that one – the timelines don’t seem quite right.

But what is also fascinating about her book, is reading about just how close those bonds come between therapist and patient and what it’s like to be on the other side of it, as the therapist. Lori had conversations with her four patients about the book, getting their permission and input and she says all four of them had the very same reaction when they read the book.

She says they all commented, “‘I knew how much you cared about me when we were working together, but I didn’t know the depth of it.’”

“The genuine affection that I had for every single person surprised them. It’s one thing to know and trust that your therapist really likes you, it’s another thing when you realise, ‘Oh, my therapist thinks about me between sessions, my therapist is worried about me when I don’t show up.’ I think my patients were very moved that I was so invested in them. This isn’t unique to me. I think most therapists are very invested in the people they see.”

Seeing how affected Lori is by what goes on in her patient’s lives – how she worries about them if they’re late, or in between difficult sessions – is something we rarely see or hear about with medical professionals and it’s a true joy to read about.

In fact, the whole thing is a true joy to read (even if it does require having a pack of tissues handy in parts). I didn’t want it to end – and thankfully, there’s more of Lori out there – she writes a weekly ‘Dear Therapist’ advice column in The Atlantic and is a co-host on the podcast of the same name. She also has the most watched Ted Talk of 2019 that is worth a Google. Aaaand, production has been seriously delayed thanks to Covid, but ABC is still expected to go ahead with a TV show adaptation of her book, with Eva Longoria signed on to her play her. I have my fingers firmly crossed we get to see it soon – or a new book by Lori!

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