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Life Arts    H4'ed 7/26/19

"Maybe You Should Talk To Someone" Explores Therapy from Both Ends of the Couch

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Exclusive Interview with Author and Psychotherapist, Lori Gottlieb

Book jacket for 'Maybe You Should Talk to Someone'
Book jacket for 'Maybe You Should Talk to Someone'
(Image by Lori Gottlieb)
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My guest today is psychotherapist and writer, Lori Gottlieb, author of the new book, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed , Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019.

Joan Brunwasser: Welcome to OpEdNews, Lori. Your career trajectory has included journalism, writing, television and, later, therapy. Do those disparate fields share any common threads and how have your various professional interests ultimately made you a better therapist?

Lori Gottlieb: It may look like these careers were completely separate, but in retrospect, I've realized that they all have to do with story and the human condition. I went from shaping fictional stories for film and television, to immersing myself in real stories in medical school, to telling people's stories as a journalist, and finally, to helping people change their stories as a therapist. My writing background is helpful to my work as a therapist, because I often feel like an editor when I'm seeing patients. People come in with faulty narratives, ingrained stories that need an update--who are the heroes and villains? Is the protagonist going in circles or moving forward? Is there a theme running through the narrative that's preventing the main character from getting what she wants? I work with people to revise their stories so that the next chapter goes differently. I try to show what this looks like by following the four main patients in Maybe You Should Talk To Someone--and I bring people into my own therapy so they can see how my personal story got a major rewrite as well!

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Lori Gottlieb: book jacket photo
Lori Gottlieb: book jacket photo
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JB: I'm a big proponent of therapy - it can be life-changing and also, upon occasion, a life-saver. A major ingredient of therapy, perhaps the most important one, is the relationship between therapist and patient. The therapist often presents as pretty much a blank slate, for numerous, legitimate reasons. And yet you purposefully chose to proceed in an unorthodox fashion - by breaking that barrier and revealing many private aspects of yourself as well as your own therapy. Were you ever concerned about perhaps revealing too much about yourself, that this could potentially damage your reputation as a therapist, going forward? Did your gamble pay off? If yes, how can you tell?

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LG: I think that there's a difference between revealing yourself in a book and revealing yourself in a room with your patients. I use my personal experiences every day as a therapist--I say in the book that my greatest credential is that I'm a card-carrying member of the human race--but that doesn't mean I'm sharing any personal information to my patients. It simply means I'm using my humanity to connect with and help someone else in the room. In the book, I'm sharing my story alongside the others because I felt it would be disingenuous to portray myself as the expert up on high when, in fact, we're all more the same than we are different from one another. And I think knowing that makes us feel less alone and more connected. Did I wonder if people would choose not to call me for therapy if they read the book? Of course. I was surprised to find, though, that the opposite happened. People connected with my humanity, and I think that we all want a therapist who's a real human being. Nobody wants to talk to a robot.

Lori
Lori
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JB: Agreed. Was it challenging to use case histories while being careful to protect patient privacy and confidentiality? I'm sure that you gave a lot of thought to choosing what to highlight and how to do so. Can you share more about the process, please? What were you trying to share with your specific choices?

LG: I wanted to choose four very different patient stories. Of course, there are many stories in the book, but the four main stories involve people who seem very different on the surface in terms of age, gender, personality, background, reason they came to therapy, etc. And they also seem different from me--I'm the fifth patient in the book as readers see me go through my own therapy while my patients go through theirs. I wanted people to see how universal our struggles are, how similar we are underneath it all. And I that comes across so much more strongly when we're surprised by how different each person is at the end from how they seemed at the beginning. So I was very deliberate in which patients I chose. And, yes, I had to be very careful to change anything that would make anyone identifiable, especially in this age of Google. I wasn't just careful with my patients, but with everyone in the book. There's even this moment in the book in which I quote someone's review on Yelp, and to protect that person's privacy (someone I don't know and who's not a patient of mine), I change a very specific noun in her review to a more generic one. But in each instance where I change something, the spirit of the story hasn't changed. I was also aware of preserving the truth of the story, even if the details were changed to protect people's privacy.

Lori
Lori
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JB: You've been on a book tour promoting Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. After all these talks and book-signings, have you noticed any commonalities in the questions that people ask? You've written numerous books over the years. How does the response to this, perhaps your most personal book, differ and if it does, has that surprised you?

LG: It's interesting, because most people find that the book has made them think a lot about themselves and see themselves in a new light. So when we open it up for Q&A at book tour events, so many people either want to ask something about their own lives, or they want to share how something in the book was particularly meaningful for them. Sometimes people want an update on my life, or on the lives of the people they've become invested in and attached to in the book. But mostly, honestly, it's about them. Which is exactly why I wrote the book. It's so gratifying, because I always hoped that reading the book would almost be like the equivalent of free therapy, and if I'm helping people in some small way, I feel like, mission accomplished!

JB: Nice! Writing a book is a big deal. And the more personal it is, I imagine, it takes more out of the author. Are you any different after having written this book? If so, how?

LG: Writing about these experiences helped me see connections between the various patients' stories and mine in a way that I hadn't initially seen, and also made me think more deeply about how going through therapy with Wendell, my therapist, helped me to grow as a therapist myself. The writing solidified the gains and held up a mirror to my experience in the same way that I hope I hold up a mirror to my patients, to help them see themselves more clearly. Writing often provides that extra layer of clarity.

traditional accessory of therapy
traditional accessory of therapy
(Image by Lori Gottlieb)
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JB: Your book has definitely struck a chord with many readers, Lori. Everyone's talking about Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed. I highly recommend it. In fact, it's circulating within my own family and my daughter is reading my copy right now! Thanks so much for talking with me. It was a pleasure.

***

Lori's bio:

Lori Gottlieb is a psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, which is being adapted as a television series with Eva Longoria. In addition to her clinical practice, she writes The Atlantic's weekly "Dear Therapist" advice column and contributes regularly to The New York Times. She is on the Advisory Council for Bring Change to Mind and has appeared in media such as The Today Show, Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, CNN, and NPR's "Fresh Air."

Lori's links:Website+ Facebook+Twitter+ Instagram

Family Action Network series where I heard Lori speak in April.


 

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)
 

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nelswight

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Thanks, JB and LG.

Submitted on Friday, Jul 26, 2019 at 11:17:52 AM

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Joan Brunwasser

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Reply to nelswight:   New Content

Thank you!

Submitted on Friday, Jul 26, 2019 at 7:47:33 PM

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Linda Andersson

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This in one of Joan Brunwasser's usual great articles. However I'm wondering something else: why are there so many ads against Dems and Democratic principles? One of them -- a "poll" -- says that 11% like AOC and 87% hate her! They cut down Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, acting like they're taking a poll, then they spew their garbage and show "results" that indicate how hated they are!! Then another "ad" offers a book on how wonderful and forward-thinking Trump is!!!

What the heck is going on? How did these "poll" ads get onto the OEN site? I've heard that with the upcoming election, Republican-supporting tactics will FLOOD all media. How did these get into OEN articles?? Will my email address be compromised if I continue to read OEN?

Submitted on Friday, Jul 26, 2019 at 4:55:34 PM

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Meryl Ann Butler

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Reply to Linda Andersson:   New Content

Good question, Linda! We don't have control over the ads, I've asked Rob to weigh in. Thanks for your question.

Submitted on Friday, Jul 26, 2019 at 5:21:55 PM

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Reply to Linda Andersson:   New Content

Here's the FAQ that answers the question. It was written many years ago.


Why Am I Seeing "This" Advertisement ?


There's this advertisement on this website that doesn't belong there... or that I find offensive. What's it doing there?

We gets ads from a number of sources. One, google, provides "context sensitive" ads that it places based on the text on the page the ad is running on. Advertisers select keywords to match and their ads are matched to our content. Sometimes, you'll see ads from websites or organizations that are diametrically opposed to the message, vision and mission of this website.

We can block some sites, but there are multiple reasons to block sites. We can't block them all, and frankly, we don't want to.

For example ocassionally you'll see an ad for Ann Coulter's free newsletter. I detest Ann Coulter, but there's an ironic sense of justice that her ad is paying to help deliver our progressive message. That gives a certain pleasure in seeing her ad, and I smile, knowing that if she realized that she was helping us deliver OUR message, it would drive her crazy. So I allow those ads to stay. The same goes for most right wing ads that show up on our site.

If you still find an ad particularly offensive, after digesting this "ironic" perspective, drop me a line. Include the link to the site and why you find it inappropriate. You must include the URL the ad takes you to. Send it to rob@opednews.com and also, please include the exact location on the page where the ad appeared.

I'll consider blocking ads linking to a particular site. For example, we wouldn't tolerate a link to a hate site. But then again, neither does google, so those are rare.

As I said, this was written years ago. Now all ads are not only context sensitive but also reader history sensitive. If you click on the ad, then the advertiser helps pay for OEN expenses.

Submitted on Friday, Jul 26, 2019 at 5:29:52 PM

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Joan Brunwasser

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Reply to Rob Kall:   New Content

Thanks for weighing in, Rob! People are always curious/annoyed about those pesky ads. It's good to know that there's a reason for them.

Submitted on Friday, Jul 26, 2019 at 7:49:20 PM

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Joan Brunwasser

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Reply to Linda Andersson:   New Content

Thanks for your kind words, Linda! And your good question. I'm glad Rob responded. Hope that helped.

Submitted on Friday, Jul 26, 2019 at 7:49:59 PM

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Meryl Ann Butler

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Thanks, Joan! Love it...all about the story! ;-)

Submitted on Friday, Jul 26, 2019 at 5:22:18 PM

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Joan Brunwasser

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Reply to Meryl Ann Butler:   New Content

Thanks, Meryl Ann! It's really a great book. I enjoyed it immensely.

Submitted on Friday, Jul 26, 2019 at 7:48:38 PM

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