YANSS 160 – What therapy is, what it isn’t, and the difference between idiot compassion and wise compassion

In Lori Gottlieb‘s new book, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, she opens with a quote from James Baldwin that reads, “Nothing is more desirable than to be released from an affliction, but nothing is more frightening than to be divested of a crutch.”

It’s a book about therapy, what is is, what it isn’t, and how people do and do not change their behaviors. It’s intimate and human, gut-wrenching and inspiring, and full of science and drama and an honesty and candor that you rarely find in books like this.

It’s also a true story, about Gottlieb’s decision, as a therapist, to go see a therapist herself after a traumatic life event sends her reeling.

It’s also an autobiography, telling the story of how she became a therapist and what she learned about herself in therapy, later in life after she had a thriving practice. It’s also about the arc of change that five people experience while in therapy.

It’s a big book, 58 chapters long — so you get an deep, intimate look into the lives of those patients as they get what they need from therapy.

One is John, a belligerent asshole who wants to be a better husband and father. Another is Julie, a woman trying to come to terms with a terminal illness. Charlotte is a 20-something with alcohol and relationship issues who is trying to define herself. Rita is a woman close to 70 with depression who is dealing with a lifetime of regret concerning her children. And Lori, the author, was blindsided by an awful revelation from the man she expected to marry, which leads to a breakup that scrambles her plans, her sense of self, and alters her feelings of security, while causing her to fixate on her mortality and loneliness and so much more.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is doing really well in the publishing world. It’s been on the New York Times Bestsellers list for several months and will soon be a television show on ABC starring Eva Longoria. For me though, the most interesting part of the book is when Gottlieb explains the transtheoretical model of change — a much-researched scientific foundation used by therapists that explains how people go about realizing they want to change their behavior — and how to guide them though it.

In the episode, I talk to her about that, how people go from resisting change to embracing the behaviors required to alter their own thoughts and feelings when stuck in destructive, unhealthy loops. You’ll also learn the difference between idiot compassion and wise compassion, and we cover the misconceptions people tend to have about therapy and therapists, because more than anything else, her book is about pulling back the curtain and showing what therapy really is.

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Links and Sources

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

Lori Gottlieb’s Website