If you’ve never been to a therapist, you might wonder what people get out of talking once a week to a near stranger about their struggles in life.
Plenty, it turns out.
Therapists guide people through some of the most personal and painful experiences of their lives, helping them overcome depression, live with loss, and stop self-destructive behavior (among other issues). But, while the results of therapy are often impressive, the process can seem mysterious—even miraculous—when you don’t understand what’s happening in the room.
Gottlieb, an experienced psychotherapist and author of The Atlantic’s weekly “Dear Therapist” advice column, gives readers front-row access to what goes on in therapy by following the narratives of four of her clients. We see how she approaches her interactions with them, using her empathy, skill, and humanity to encourage their healing and growth. At the same time, she shares her own life struggles that led her to seek therapy herself, helping to illuminate the difficulties of adapting to loss and the power of human connection.
Part memoir, part advocacy for the profession, the book is not only profound but also a gripping read. I spoke with Gottlieb recently about what therapists actually do and how we can all relate better to our emotions.