One day, Lori Gottlieb is a therapist who helps patients in her Los Angeles practice. The next, a crisis causes her world to come crashing down. Gottlieb invites us into her world as both clinician and patient, examining the truths and fictions we tell ourselves and others as we teeter on the tightrope between love and desire, meaning and mortality, guilt and redemption, terror and courage, hope and change.
What makes this book a joy to read is that it offers a wise and witty meld of the author’s personal insights and clinical observations plus bite-sized nuggets of psychology without ever lecturing or boring the reader ... For those who are skeptical, fearful or turned off by the idea of the talking cure, this fly-on-the-wall view of the subject just might convince you that therapy is remarkably worthwhile ... For self-help aficionados, there is wisdom galore on topics such as the drivers and inhibitors of psychological transformation, managing loss and grief, discovering meaning in life and work ... And for therapists, there is the chance to sit back and take note of how another clinician applies her skills to conjure up the magic of effective therapy ... A talented and highly accomplished writer, Gottlieb’s insecurities and chronic internal conflicts may surprise some readers. The fact that she doesn’t hold back talking about her suffering is what makes this book so powerful ... a most satisfying and illuminating read for psychotherapy patients, their therapists, and all the rest of us.
... an irresistibly candid and addicting memoir ... [Gottlieb's] book does feel deeply, almost creepily, voyeuristic ... In showing us how patients reveal just a part of their selves, [Gottlieb] gives us a dizzily satisfying collage of narratives, a kind of ensemble soap opera set in the already soap operatic world of Los Angeles ... Gottlieb can be judgmental and obsessive, but she’s authentic, even raw, about herself and her patients.
...she combines journalism and therapy, most notably in her 'Dear Therapist' advice column for the Atlantic, which itself somewhat makes the argument for therapy based on the fact that the questions are often far too complicated ever to be answered in the span of one response, though Gottlieb does her best ... There’s something satisfyingly voyeuristic and intimate about getting to listen in on anyone else’s therapy, a feeling Gottlieb amplifies by contextualizing what is actually happening in each session from a more clinical perspective. She does this by gently and constantly explaining to the reader what exactly therapists are trying to do with their patients, sharing language and frameworks ... It’s strange to see Gottlieb, a therapist herself, seemingly imply that someone can be too 'together' to benefit from talking to someone. And yet, I’m glad she grapples with this. Watching her come to the realization that the process has things to offer her beyond a quick solution is a lesson in and of itself.