Most traditional training programs emphasize that there are two paramount taboos in therapy: self-disclosure and giving advice. As the argument goes, therapist self-disclosure destroys the blank slate and turns the focus away from clients’ issues, and giving advice interferes with helping clients learn to solve their own problems. Yet one of our profession’s newest, most popular voices specializes in violating both of those taboos.
Lori Gottlieb, who pens the “Dear Therapist” column for The Atlantic, has written a trio of self-disclosing books: Stick Figure, centered on her teenage eating disorder; Marry Him, a controversial look at “settling” for a marriage partner; and the newly released Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed—bestsellers all. In fact, the legendary Irvin Yalom lavishly praised her latest work for being “so bold and brassy, so packed with good stories, so honest, deep, and riveting.”
A licensed marriage and family therapist educated at Yale and Stanford, Gottlieb manages to remain engaged in her clinical practice even as she’s attracting a growing audience with her books. I was fortunate to catch up with her just before her latest one hit the shelves.
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RH: How did you start the “Dear Therapist” column in The Atlantic?
Gottlieb: I’ve always wanted to bring therapy to a wider group of people,…