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I cannot agree with the rave reviews of this book. It's a woman constantly talking about her analysis of herself and her patients, as a psychotherapist. Somehow she comes across as smug and know-it-all. There are many different views in therapy, and she writes her book as though there was only one, absolute, way to view things. . I confess I abandoned the book after reading one quarter of it.
First let me say that I knew this book would become a top seller. I've been reading Lori's articles for The Atlantic for some time now, and it was clear that her audience - and her writing - would produce a best seller. I even wrote her about it beforehand. Anyways, the thing is, her writing skills are great; her conversational tone is engaging; the reading experience is a good one. But... it goes on too long. Too many passages that stress a point already made. Too much details and long digressions. Kudos to The Atlantic editors for keeping Lori's space into reasonable limit. In the acknowledgments, she states the original was 600 pages. The published edition got 411. I truly feel that would be a great 300 pages book. But it went a hundred-plus more...Insights and ideas get almost washed-away on the repetition of some narratives. Being a therapist myself, I DO know that sometimes it goes like this; repetitions and loops, during sessions. But, as a reader; felt slightly bored by some excesses.
Parts of this book are interesting. For example, most people are not aware of the fact that therapists have to see a therapist themselves as a requirement. It makes sense given that they deal with some heavy emotional loads with patients and would need to off-load that somehow in a healthy fashion. I thought this book was going to be about specific cases and how the therapist treated the patient. I was hoping to learn more about how a therapist approaches a diagnosis and about the diagnoses themselves. Most of this book is about the author bemoaning a break-up with a boyfriend. She obsesses over the former boyfriend and she even takes us on her own therapy journey about former relationship and boyfriend. While I am sure this was a difficult time for the author, it does not make for particularly interesting reading for the rest of us. Most of the time I felt myself saying "Get over it and Get on with it". The book would have been better if she had kept it to the science of therapy and left her personal boyfriend story out of it.
Parts of this book I liked and others not so much. What stuck me is the depth of insight had by the patients portrayed. This book felt very selective to me in that the patients seemed to be extraordinarily bright, insightful, creative and talented, and usually very likable. . When the author was unable to connect with a more challenging patient named Becca, she discharged her from her practice. The author says that therapists like getting referrals for high functioning patients. There are many people that do not fit this category.. I would have been more impressed with her and the book if she would have included stories of her work and how she handled challenging patients with severe Bipolar, schizophrenia, severe PTSD, severe depression, self harmers and if she would have dealt with issues regarding medications, stabilization, involuntary commitments etc. this book was way too “Hollywood therapy like “ for me. Very edited and ignores large groups of people who sit on therapists couches.
I would have given the book 4 stars because there was so much information about how therapy “works” and the various theories but I didn’t really like Gottlieb’s style of writing on a personal level. Not that I didn’t identify with her in many instances, I think I just felt uncomfortable with the way she disclosed a lot of personal information about herself and her clients. I know she said at the start that she had their permission but, knowing these people are/were real, I felt that she gave, in today’s vernacular, TMI.
Still, I read the book to understand more about counseling and I feel that the book gave me that. I took quite a few nuggets away about how the psyche works and where I could be making different choices. In the end it is a hopeful, human book and I am glad that I read it.