Apparently lots of people show up in the offices of therapists without really knowing what their problem is and they need somebody to help them figure it out. Not me. When I went to Corvallis therapist Madeline Rubin in the horrible summer of 2013, I knew exactly why I was there. I was physically sick from the effects of Oxycodone and Xanax, and my poor fried brains were making it tough for me to cope with everything and everybody. Having long since absorbed the idea that we can't change others, we can only change ourselves, I figured I was the one who ought to be signing up for therapy. Long story short—it's all in Accidental Addict—her sessions were my lifeline.
So when I heard therapist Lori Gottlieb being interviewed on NPR about her new book—Maybe You Should Talk to Someone—I was intrigued. Her subtitle explains it: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed. Gottleib is apparently a good therapist but also, she's a great writer and storyteller and her book is a winning combination of memoir and non-fiction treatise on exactly how therapy works.
The thing I valued most about talking to my own therapist, Madeline, was the way she would tell stories in general about people and human nature. Without betraying anyone's privacy, she would simply share what she had learned over the years by listening to her patients. "If a person says, 'That's it, I'm outta here,'" I remember her saying one time, "Nine times out of ten the other person is going to say, 'Well, I'm outta here too!' That's just how people are. They have to defend themselves." I never really thought she could explain me to myself and I didn't need that, but I was a rapt audience for her hard-won wisdom in helping me try to understand everybody else.
Gottleib likewise delivers, and in a highly readable fashion. She tells her own story intertwined with those of a handful of her clients. In her introduction she points out she has knocked her lights out changing details to make the characters unrecognizable as the real clients in her life and, in reading it, you have to feel she may have taken liberties to shape these stories into what amounts to entertaining fiction. I, for one, completely forgive her, since the principles of human nature she's explaining ring so true.
Some critics like to denigrate a book that makes for such fun reading. How can we take the author seriously? Well, not me! If an author can be thought-provoking and entertaining at the same time, more power to her.
If you have any interest at all in the idea of therapy and how it works, maybe you should read Maybe You Should Talk to Someone!