Have you ever thought about writing a book? Where would you even start? Keen to hear from someone who has done it all, from start to finish, successfully?
In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks with Lori Gottlieb about her current New York Times bestseller Maybe You Should Talk to Someone.
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Meet Lori Gottlieb
Lori Gottlieb is a psychotherapist and New York Times bestseller and the author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. She writes the Atlantic’s weekly, Dear Therapist advice column and contributes regularly to the New York Times. She’s also a frequent guest on the Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS Early Show, CNN, and NPR
Lori Gottlieb’s Story
Lori studied language and culture first at Yale and then at Stanford University, where she explored beliefs and traditions across the globe—and she immersed herself in those stories. In her twenties, she focused on visual storytelling as a film and television executive until she returned to Stanford for medical school. While there, her first book was published, and ultimately she decided to pursue writing full-time.
In This Podcast
In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks with Lori Gottlieb about her current bestseller, how it all came about, and what you can do if you also want to write a book.
You know, the irony isn’t lost on me that the happiness book was making me miserable.
Originally Lori was supposed to be writing a book about happiness, and she couldn’t get herself to write it. Because she was starting out as a therapist at that time, and she really felt like first of all, happiness was beside the point. But that happiness as a by-product of living your life a certain way is great, and we all want that. But happiness as an end goal is kind of a recipe for disappointment. And the other part of it was that it just couldn’t reflect the nuances of what she was seeing in the therapy room. How people really live their lives, what those heroic moments looked like, what pain and joy and holding both of those together looked like, how people grow and change and transform.
And so, it took her a long time before she got up the courage to cancel that book contract. Partly because her agent told her that if she didn’t write this book, she would never write another book.
Seeing Things Differently
We grow in connection with others, its really hard for us to see ourselves because we don’t have the vantage point of living outside of our lives. It’s really easy to see something about someone else, but it’s harder to see something when it’s so close to you.
The four patients Lori speaks about in her book and the questions they were asking, forced her to ask herself these same questions, and to really examine her own life. She then also speaks about herself as the fifth patient where she herself is in therapy.
Writing A Book
It’s important to know the why of why you’re writing what you’re writing. That it’s not just entertaining, but what’s behind that, is there something bigger?
If you are wanting to write a book the first thing is that you need an agent. And in order to get an agent, you need a book proposal. You can look online, there are all kinds of guides and samples of what a book proposal looks like. But it’s basically your summary of the book and why people would read this, who’s going to read it. They will also look at what your background is and why you are the person to tell this story. Based on that proposal, you try to find an agent. There are directories of agents where you can look. You want to look for agents who have written the kinds of things that are similar enough to your book so that you know that they might like that material. You have to submit to a bunch of agents and see who responds.
Books by Lori Gottlieb
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Meet Joe Sanok
Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.
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[JOE SANOK]: Do you want your private practice to stand out? Do you want to have influence and impact on your community, with your clients and in your life? If so, I want you to attend one of the webinars that I’m hosting this week. I’m hosting it at 1 o’clock EST, that’s noon CST, 11 MT and 10 PST if I can do my Math right, on 11 May. I am also doing it at 3 o’clock EST on the 12th. And then you can do the Math on the other stuff.
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This is the Practice of the Practice Podcast with Joe Sanok, session 378. Welcome to the Practice of the Practice Podcast. I’m Joe Sanok here in the Radio Center 2 building in beautiful downtown Traverse City. And I’m only going be able to say that for like another month, actually, you know, I’ll be saying it till the end of July and then it’s no longer going to be true. Our lease is up here and we are not renewing it and most likely by the time that this podcast goes live, the sale of Mental Wellness Counseling will be complete and I will no longer be doing clinical work. And so, once that’s all completed, I’m going to talk with the new owner and we’re going to talk through that entire process. Lots of people on the internet have been talking about how they’ve been selling their practices, and, you know, there are some differences in what we did compare to what other people do when they sell a practice. So, once that’s all complete and has all gone through, we’ll be on the podcast together.
But it’s so weird, you know, anytime we have a transition, anytime you do good work, there’s going to be people that you’re just letting down when you decide that you’re leveling up. I remember when I left the Community College, and we had a great stride going with this program I started called the Muster Project, it was for new students and they were supporting each other and you know, it changed. The new guy Paul, who is one of my best friends. He’s actually the guy that played the therapist in our new Star Wars series on YouTube where Star Wars characters go to therapy. Darth Vader, Stormtrooper, Luke Skywalker, and Chewbacca, I dressed up as all of those. And Paul is the one that plays the therapist in that, and he is one of my best friends, but he took a different direction with that initiative to help new students. Things kind of have to sometimes die for other things to be born.
And then, you know, I’ve been here for five years now. During that process when my daughter was born, I took that full Family Medical Leave Act to dip my toes into leaving my full-time job, doing Mental Wellness Counseling and Practice of the Practice and made the jump. I remember at that time, the big question I had was, would I regret trying and then failing, or would I regret having never tried? And I tend to be pretty risk-averse. I like guarantees, I like to guarantee my own success. In a lot of ways that served me well, but in a lot of ways, I’ve gone slower than I probably should have. So, all of you who have seen me now or maybe you’ve only followed my work for a couple of years here, it’s been a long journey. It’s been me running numbers to see if it makes sense as the sole income provider in our family. My wife has stayed home with the girls all these years. She works super hard but that was a big decision for me. When I sold my supervision group, I sold that group and there’s not a lot of good clinical supervisors here in Northern Michigan. There’s not a lot of supervisors in general, we’re kind of in the rural area. But the colleges are graduating 40 to 50 masters level clinicians up here. There’s just not a lot of good supervisors. And so that was hard to move away from that and it was a bummer for people that really wanted to work with me. But I wanted my nights back. I did it from I think it was 4 pm till 8:30 pm. It was four and a half hours, once a month, and we kind of packed it all in, but it just didn’t make sense for my family anymore. And that was sad. And now, every time I drive into this office… It’s like today, I was packing up, I was going through books, and there are all these old clinical books that I know that I’m not going to use. And if I do want to go back to clinical work, I’m going to buy new books, I don’t need a book that’s super outdated.
And so, it’s weird. You know, there’s this, this office that I’ve had a great view of, I have so many memories here. I sent my clients an email this week talking about the transition. And I know it’s going to be hard. But what’s on the other side? Over the next year, who knows what I’m going to do from a location independence standpoint. Christina and I have brainstormed/dreamt – she’s definitely past the dream phase. She’s totally bought and waiting for Joe to make his mind up phase. She wants to get a camper and travel the nation. And we could go meet all of you guys and do meetups around the nation and have this epic adventure while also getting to meet cool people that are running private practices while running their location independent business. So that’s one idea. We could do two to four-week trips, we could pull the girls out of school, we could go to Mexico for three months in the winter so we don’t have to deal with these Northern Michigan snowstorms. Who knows what’s on the other side? But we have to let some things die in order for things to grow.
You know, that’s so true, whether it’s our business, sometimes it’s our belief systems and maybe it’s our way we were raised. My parents, they came from that Baby Boomers Generation, awesome people! So many amazing things that I’ve learned from them. They set me up to know, positive and negative consequences. They were consistent. They helped me learn great skills with money and time management and setting goals. There are other things from my upbringing… I was raised Catholic, but my parents didn’t fully buy into that. And that was always confusing to me. Around religion, I had to let some things die to let some new things grow. I had to change my belief systems around having a full-time job and working 40 hours a week. Being what you’re supposed to do, if you don’t have a 40 hour a week job, if you’re not working 40 hours a week, you’re lazy. That had to die for me to figure out a different kind of life. And those are things, that if we want to get to the next level, we have to do. It’s not true just in businesses, it’s true in everything. The more I do this work, the more that I work with private practitioners and people that have big ideas like podcasts and e-courses, I realized that it’s universal. That we have to give ourselves permission to let things die, which is terrible. It’s hard.
I built Mental Wellness Counseling for years, and now I’m selling it and it’s not going to be a part of my life anymore, which is super sad. But it’s also standing in the way of whatever the next opportunity is. That attachment to that role and even the role of being a counselor… I have to let go of. It’s so interesting to think about because I teach you guys how to do this and even just saying, well will you listen to me if I don’t have my practice anymore? Will I be out of touch? Will people say what do you know? And I have to just believe that I’m going to interview the right people and be honest about what I don’t know. I’m going to continue to seek new and innovative ways to grow a business. And hopefully, you stay along for the ride. You know, that ride could be in a camper. That ride could be hanging out here in Northern Michigan.
So, there’s a lot of stuff going on in the Sanok household and with Practice of the Practice and June is a big prep month for Slow Down School. I’m taking the first two weeks of July off. We have the National Cherry Festival here where a million people come into our small town and it’s fun and crazy. And then after that, we go rent a cabin in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and sit on the beach for a week without caring about anything. And then I come back and I work for a week. And then we have Slow Down School. We’ve got people flying in for that and they’re so excited to slow down and then to run full tilt towards their business. So, there are things brewing! We’ve got Killin’It Camp coming up in October. Right now, at the time of this, we’ve done our Next Level Practice launch. And we’ve got these webinars over at www.practiceofthepractice.com/live. There are things going on to support supporting you but there’s also this sense of things growing up just like my kids, just like everything else.
Today we have Lori Gottlieb. She is a New York Times bestseller. At the time of this recording, her book was number five on the New York Times bestseller list. I got this book in the mail, we get lots of people that reach out to us. I started to read her bio, and then I was in an airport and saw her book, and I’m just like, this lady’s amazing! She’s got his book called Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. She’s a therapist, and she’s going to talk about the book and she’s going to talk about the journey as well. So, without any further ado, I give you Lori.
Today on the Practice of the Practice Podcast we have Lori Gottlieb. She’s a psychotherapist and New York Times bestseller and the author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. She writes the Atlantic’s weekly Dear Therapist advice column and contributes regularly to the New York Times. She’s also a frequent guest on the Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS Early Show, CNN, and NPR. Welcome to the Practice of the Practice Podcast Lori.
[LORI GOTTLIEB]: Thanks for having me.
[JOE:] Well, I am so excited to talk with you. I get a lot of books and people send me stuff and say ‘Hey, I’d love to be on your show’. And yours stood out so much. And as I’ve looked at it, it’s really entertaining too. And so, you’ve been on a crazy book tour, and this is continuing. You hung out with Katie Couric in early April, Dan Savage in Seattle pretty recently, so you’ve been making the rounds. How are you doing with just the pace of all this? I mean, you’ve been doing a lot of stuff.
[LORI]: Yeah, it’s been a lot. But I’m really grateful to do it because I really wanted to open up the conversations around our emotional lives. And you know, when I originally wrote the book, I had no idea If three people will read, or you know, only my family members would read it. But now that it’s been on the New York Times list for four weeks, it’s really gratifying that all of these people are starting to talk about things that I think they were maybe embarrassed or ashamed to talk about before.
[JOE]: Yeah, and your book, it weaves together in a unique way, your own therapeutic journey and your client’s therapeutic journey, and the characters in your life as well. Talk a little bit more about why you framed it out that way.
[LORI]: Originally, I was supposed to be writing a book about happiness, and I couldn’t get myself to write it. You know, the irony isn’t lost on me that the happiness book was making me miserable. I was depressed every day when I would open up my laptop and have to write about happiness. Because I was starting out as a therapist at that time, and I really felt like first of all, happiness was beside the point. But I think that happiness as a by-product of living your life a certain way is great, and we all want that. But happiness as an end goal is kind of a recipe for disappointment. And the other part of it was that it just couldn’t reflect the nuances of what I was seeing in the therapy room, how people really live their lives, what those heroic moments looked like, what pain and joy and holding both of those together looked like, how people grow and change and transform.
And so, it took me a long time before I got up the courage to cancel that book contract. Partly because my agent told me that if I didn’t write this book, I would never write another book. And the other part of it was that I had used the advanced to pay for my internship. So, I just graduated from graduate school and I had done this unpaid internship, and now I was starting out in my practice. Eventually, I did cancel the contract and I did exactly what I wanted to do. Which was bring people into the therapy room, let them see real life as it’s lived. But there was a twist, I follow four patients in the book, and they’re very different from one another in terms of age, gender, personality, the kind of struggle that they’re going through and what their presenting problem is. But there’s a fifth patient, and that fifth patient is me.
What I mean by that is I show myself in therapy with my own therapist, as I’m a clinician treating people in my own therapy office.
[JOE]: Yeah, so what are some of the stories that kind of rise up from the book for you. I mean, every book and author often has a handful of stories that feels like it captures the essence of the book. What are a couple of those that stand out to you?
[LORI]: You mean the stories of writing the book?
[JOE]: The stories that are actually in the book.
[LORI]: I think the four people that I follow stand out for me, and that was why I included them in the book. The first person that we meet in the book is John. And he’s this very ‘hard to like’ person at first. He’s incredibly abrasive. He’s insulting to me. He says that he’s come to me because I’m a nobody. And therefore, he knows that he’s safe, he won’t run into any of his high-powered colleagues in the waiting room because obviously nobody comes to me. He tells me in the first session that he doesn’t want his wife to know that he’s in therapy, so he’s going to pay me in cash at the end of the session. And as he hands me the cash he says ‘You’ll be just like my mistress; nobody has to know.’ And then it gets worse because then he says, ‘Actually, not like my mistress, you’re not the kind of person I choose as a mistress more like my hooker.’
And you know, you think well, why would I see someone like that? Why would I continue? Why would I choose to work with him? But I think that one of the things we see with him is that the ways that people behave are usually an indication of what they’re protecting themselves from. So, as we get to know him, people who have read the book say that he’s the person they come to love most in the book, even though they hated him at the beginning. I think that it shows that once we see sort of the underlying trauma and tragedy that he’s dealing with, he becomes so likable and so relatable, and so you see his humanity and you just want to hug him. And so, I think his story is really interesting in that way. And I think the other three are also really interesting stories, but they’re very different.
One is the story woman who’s in her 20s. And she wants to be in a relationship, but she keeps hooking up with the wrong guys. One of whom ultimately is a guy that she meets in the waiting room, and she thinks that’s a step up because she says, well at least he’s in therapy. And it’s decidedly not a step up because he ends up coming to therapy with his girlfriend. And that makes for an awkward waiting room situation.
[JOE]: Sure, sure.
[LORI]: And you know, and I can’t discuss it with my colleague who sees him, because of confidentiality. Right? So, I’m only hearing her side of the story during the same 50 minutes that my colleague is hearing this guy’s side of the story. I think in her case it’s really about these patterns that, a lot of therapy is about holding up the mirror and helping people to see something in the reflection that they’re not already seeing. And for her it was this way that she kept shooting yourself in the foot over and over and ending up in the same place, thinking that the problem was that men are terrible. And it’s like, ‘No men are not terrible, you keep choosing people who are going to disappoint you, you keep choosing a certain kind of guy. And every time a good guy comes into your life, you reject him.’ So, that’s her story and she also drinks too much and doesn’t realize that she’s drinking too much. She thinks she’s addicted to therapy, as opposed to her real addiction, which is drinking too much alcohol.
And so, her story is interesting, she changes the way I think most people change, which is as I like to say gradually and then suddenly,
And then the other two are a woman who goes on her honeymoon and she comes back, she thinks she might be pregnant because they were trying to get pregnant right away. And it turns out that what she felt in her breast wasn’t a sign of pregnancy, but was a sign of breast cancer. And ultimately, she asked me, when it seems like it’s very treatable, later, a different, more aggressive form of cancer comes back. It turns out that it’s untreatable and she asked me if I’ll stay with her until she dies. And I do.
And that story was a very, very intense and moving experience. But I think it also was about life in a lot of ways. It was about how do we want to live our lives? How do we look death in the eye and say, we all have a limited time on this planet? And how do we live each day more intentionally, knowing that we don’t need a terminal diagnosis to think about how we want to live our lives in the best way possible. It shouldn’t take that.
In contrast to the earlier person, the younger woman who keeps hooking up with the wrong guys, the last patient is an older woman who’s already made a lot of really bad choices in her life. So, the younger woman has this whole vista ahead of her of choices she can make, and the older woman is about to turn seventy. Her adult children are estranged from her and won’t talk to her because of the significant mistakes that she made as a parent. And she has a few marriages behind her, she’s incredibly isolated and lonely. She never did anything professionally that she liked. She had professional jobs, she was an assistant and a secretary and she had so much more potential and talent in terms of what she wanted to do. And she never did anything with it. And now she’s about to turn seventy. She says ‘If things don’t change in a year, I don’t want to live any longer.’
I think what’s interesting about her story is that when people come in for therapy, I’m looking at not just why are they there, but I want to know why now? Why this week, this month, and you call me even though you’ve been clinically depressed for decades, right? And I think the reason that I’m looking for that is that I’m not only looking for what’s not working, but I want to scan for strengths. I want to know what is their readiness, something made them call today. That is a strength, right? Something made them come in now so they’re ready for something. And in this woman’s case, she really was ready. So, you think well, what could happen given how many decades of regret and mistakes are behind her? But what happens in that year a surprising amount of change happens in that year because she was ready.
[JOE]: How do you think these four people impacted you? How did they help you see things differently? Because I think what often happens is, at least what grad school taught me and maybe this wasn’t what you heard, but was that you’re supposed to be this reflector, you’re really not supposed to bring your own stuff into the session too much. And that, it’s all about the client, which obviously on some level should be, but our clients do shape and change us. They help us become better versions of ourselves as therapists. How did these four people help change you in a different way?
[LORI]: They all helped me to change. I write about that in the book because I think that’s important to remember that we grow in connection with others, it’s really hard for us to see ourselves because we don’t have the vantage point of living outside of our lives. It’s really easy to see something about someone else, but it’s harder to see something when it’s so close to you. And so, I think that the questions that all of these people were asking about, how do I love and be loved? And how do I deal with regret and how do I manage my pain and also move forward? How are some of my patterns getting in my way more than any external circumstance might be in my life? Questions about meaningful fulfillment, the limited time that we have here. I think these are universal existential questions that all of us struggle with and when you see your patients grappling with them, you can’t help but be forced to ask them yourself. To really examine them yourself in your own life.
[JOE]: Yeah… So, tell us about that fifth client. How did you sort through some things as you’re helping these other four?
[LORI]: Well, so I end up in therapy because the person that I thought I was going to marry tells me right before we’re about to move in, that he’s decided he can’t live with a kid under his roof for the next 10 years. And at the time, that kid was my eight-year-old, who I should note had not been hiding in a closet, the entire time.
[JOE]: *Joking* There’s a kid here, that’s a game changer, where did he come from?
[LORI]: So, needless to say, this was quite a shock to me. But, you know, that was my version of the story. Meaning that when I go into therapy, I want to go because I am sure that my therapist is going to say the same things to me that my friends are saying, which is ‘You dodged a bullet. What’s wrong with him? And how could he do this at the 11th hour? Why didn’t he tell you this before he started dating you?’
And that’s not what happens when I get to therapy.
[JOE]: Therapists and their ninja moves.
[LORI]: Right, right! Well, you know, I talk in the book about the difference between idiot compassion and wise compassion. Idiot compassion is what our friends do. It’s that we want to make them feel better in the moment and so we take their side, ‘Yeah, this guy was a jerk. Clearly, something’s wrong with him. You’re so lucky, you didn’t end up with him. Clearly, he’s missing a few marbles if this is what he’s doing at this time in your relationship, right?’
The therapist uses wise compassion, which is that he wanted me to see something that I wasn’t seeing because it would help me in the long term as opposed to making me feel better and in the short term. It would help me feel better going forward, even though it doesn’t feel good in the moment. So, when I go to therapy, I’m telling him that I’ve wasted all these years, dating him and I’m in my 40’s and half my life is over. And I don’t even know where that phrase ‘half of my life is over’ came from, but clearly, it had been percolating beneath the surface. And my therapist glommed on to that phrase, ‘half my life is over’. And he said ‘I think you’re grieving, not just the end of this relationship, but I think you’re grieving something bigger.’ And I thought, are you kidding me? I came in here after this crazy breakup, and to get support for this and you’re telling me I’m grieving something bigger. The rest of my life is fine. It’s absolutely fine. I have a child I love; I have a career I love; I have friends and family who loved me, what are you smoking?
And of course, he was right. Our therapy ends up being about this question, about what’s going on with me and mid-life and some of these things, I like to say secrets, that we keep from ourselves… I think we all keep secrets from the world and even from people close to us, but we also keep secrets from our therapist. And more importantly, we keep secrets from ourselves. He helped me to kind of unearth these secrets that I was keeping for myself about these questions I was having about my life. Knowing that half my life was over and what does that mean? And that becomes what the therapy is about.
[JOE]: Yeah, it’s pretty amazing. My own therapist has a great way of doing that as well, where it’s the stuff I don’t want to talk about, but the stuff I need to talk about. Now I’m thinking, for a lot of therapists, I imagine one question that’s going through their head is like, what about confidentiality? Did these people know you were going to write a book about them and, how did you approach them about that? I’d love to hear that, that side of it as a professional, how you approached that?
[LORI]: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think I’m in an unusual situation, which is that I was a writer long before I was a therapist. So, I came to therapy at midlife, and I had been a journalist and author before that. And so, I had always written, so people know when they come to me often, that’s how they find me. They know that I write and then I write about psychology and culture and that I’ve written about things that happened in the therapy room. And that’s also laid out in my informed consent, that I might be writing about something that comes up. I might be writing about anything that happens in the therapy room, as long as I scrupulously change identifying details. And then I think when I was writing this book, I made sure that I wasn’t writing about anybody that I was currently seeing because I felt that I really wouldn’t be able to compartmentalize like that and it might affect the work, and I didn’t want that to happen. So, I didn’t want to be in therapy with somebody and then also writing something about something that was happening contemporaneously. Everybody was not in therapy with me at the time that I was writing the book, and then I also had permission.
The process of changing the information with the internet nowadays was really involved because there’s a place in the book where I Google my therapist. He tells me that I need to stop Googling the ex-boyfriend because it’s not helping me. If the ex-boyfriend would post pictures of salads in restaurants I would think ‘Didn’t I mean anything to him, he’s going out and he’s enjoying himself.’ And you know, the salad took on all this meaning. And my therapist said ‘When you sit down at your laptop when you feel the urge to type in his name into Google, you need to do something different.’ So, one night, the something different that I did was I typed in my therapist name?
Before I went to him, I never looked up where he trained, what is his website?
[JOE]: He’s actually not licensed then.
[LORI]: He definitely was, he was actually far more experienced than I was, which was part of the reason that I felt like Luke Skywalker to his Yoda. He was incredibly experienced. He taught me so much about the craft of therapy just by watching him, which I’ll get to in a minute. But I think in terms of the what I needed to change… There was a Yelp review for him when I Googled him, and I had to change something about the Yelper, even though that person’s not my client, just to make sure that that person doesn’t feel exposed. I mean, it was a little detail where she was talking about being on the beach and she gave this place a bad review because she stepped on something and I can’t say what the something is. And I had to change it to a rock. Because otherwise, people could find her. You know, little things like that. The process of disguising people was done with a lot of care.
[JOE]: Yeah. What about those four clients? How do you think they’ll take it If they read the book?
[LORI]: I’ve already heard from them and there was nothing that I put in the book that we hadn’t already discussed.
[JOE]: It’s interesting because I think a lot of therapists, as they go down the road, may think ‘This would make an amazing book, this could really help other people. But I didn’t have that in my informed consent way back when I didn’t have that foresight to think I might want to write a book.’ What would you recommend that they do if they’re down the road of thinking about a book?
[LORI]: I don’t know because I did it the way that I did it.
[JOE]: I guess when, when all this is brewing in your head, I’m interested in just the creative process. Because I don’t know about you, but I’ve had so many clients that have impacted me to even just narrow it down or to figure out what are the takeaways. To me, that would be really a difficult process too, to narrow it down then try to articulate it in a way that’s even somewhat short, because it’s just so in depth. Tell us about that creative process.
[LORI]: Well, I think, again, for this book, I wasn’t supposed to be writing this book, I was supposed to be writing that happiness book. Even when I canceled the happiness book, I didn’t have another idea for a book, I just knew I couldn’t write the happiness book. And it was really scary to cancel that and have to return the money and not know whether I would ever write another book. But at a certain point, the creative process sort of came to me in this one, which was, I kept saying, I want to write something about what I’m seeing in the therapy room. And then this light bulb went on one night where I just sat down at my laptop. And it’s in the book, there’s a scene in the book where you see what happened. I just started because I just had all of this stuff I wanted to get down on paper. I just wrote about so much of what had happened in my therapy with Wendell and what was going on with those patients at the time. It was later that I decided, I can make this into a book. I think the question for me was, what would be the value of the book that if it’s a book, who’s going to read it and why? And for me, I felt like there was almost a mission in writing this book that I had such a passion about, opening up these conversations, taking away the stigma, really showing what people’s lives are like. I just thought it was so compelling and I wanted to put that out there. So, I think that it’s important to know the why of why you’re writing what you’re writing. That it’s not just like, this is entertaining, but what’s behind that, is there’s something bigger? And I think that you have to have something bigger to know that it’s something that really can be a book.
[JOE]: I think when you when you’ve had your own personal transformation and have seen that transformation in others, it’s a lot easier to then write about the kind of transformation you hope your reader experiences. But when people just want to write, of course, they’re building their craft, but it’s sort of like you have to go through your own transformation just for the sake of the transformation, not for the sake of writing a book or doing a podcast or blog post about it. But just for the sake that it’s good for us to transform into a better version of ourselves.
[LORI]: Right. So, when I started when I sat down at the computer that night and started writing, by the way, again, not because I thought it was going to be a book, just because it was like pouring out of me, I had had my transformation. I was about to end my therapy. It was like near one of the very last sessions when I started writing all of this. I told my therapist that I’m finally able to write again, not because I was writing a book, but because it just felt so good to write. I had been paralyzed for all that time when I was supposed to be writing the happiness book, I literally couldn’t write a sentence. And then I ended up just kind of cranking through the book and then as if you’re turning in a school project that you hate doing, but you have to turn it in. I felt like all of a sudden everything just sort of started coming out and onto the page. And I said, I’m calling you Wendell, you know, I’m just going to call you like Wednesday’s with Wendell like Tuesdays with Morrie because I feel like that’s what our sessions have been like. But of course, I kept the name, Wendell for him, you know, when it later became a book
[JOE]: I’d like to shift, for people that feel like they may have a book in them if they want to go through traditional publishers. So, you were already connected to the journalistic world. What should people know that really don’t know what they don’t know, what should they know about traditional publishing? What should they know about finding an agent, about sketching out what they’re kind of see as a vision for a potential book?
[LORI]: The first thing is that you need an agent. And in order to get an agent, you need a book proposal. And you can look online, there are all kinds of guides and samples of what a book proposal looks like. But it’s basically your summary of the book and why people would read this, who’s going to read it. Also, what your background is and why you are the person to tell this story. Based on that proposal, you try to find an agent. And there are directories of agents where you can look, you want to look for agents who have written the kinds of things that are similar enough to your book so that you know that they might like that material. You have to submit to a bunch of agents and see who responds.
[JOE]: And then once you get an agent, what usually happens next?
[LORI]: The agent will help you develop your proposal so that it’s ready to submit to publishers. And then the once it’s ready, the agent will submit your proposal to publishers, and then you see who responds from the publishing side.
[JOE]: And then do the publishers kind of invite you in or does the agent just take it over from there?
[LORI]: So, if the publisher is interested, you’ll talk to the publisher and you’ll have a conversation. If you want to go there in person, you can, you can also do it on the telephone. And you’ll get a sense of how they think about the book. And if you’re lucky enough to have more than one publisher who’s interested, you’ll have several conversations, and then you’ll choose the one that you like the best.
[JOE]: Wow, well, there you go, folks. I mean, there’s at least the first steps for it, for all of you listeners. I know a number of people have reached out to me that knew you were going to be on, and any other kind of authors, to just get more of a sense of that. So, I’d love to go back to talking about just therapists in general. What do you feel like you’ve learned from these clients and from your own experience that would maybe apply directly to therapists or that you would want them to take away from just your experience that you’ve had?
[LORI]: Oh, I think that’s such a good question because there are so many things. One of them is that when I was training, a supervisor said to me ‘There’s something likable in everyone, it’s your job to find it.’ And at the time, I thought well, that sounds nice, but there can’t be something about everyone. We all know people that we don’t like. But I think that she was right, which is that once you get to know somebody, once you see their humanity, and you start to see what their real story is, and not the story that they’re presenting to the world, they become so relatable and you start to see pieces of yourself in them. Even if you don’t look the same on the surface. And I think that’s just this universal human connection that’s so strong and so important. I think that helps us not only as therapists to relate to clients who when they first come in, you know, we aren’t feeling that connection to, but I think just in the world, it helps us to have more compassion for other people, but also more compassion for ourselves. Sometimes we present in ways that aren’t the most likable and we all have our moments. And I think when people come in, they’re presenting a snapshot of themselves and it’s important to remember that it’s simply a snapshot. It’s not the whole photo album.
[JOE]: Yeah, I love that point. And when you were actually talking about your first client, in the beginning, it made me think of a client I had earlier in my career. It would have been like a year or two in, and her son was the main client, but the mom was the person that really rubbed me the wrong way. She was really just driven and pushing this kid and just really snotty. As I got to know her story, and how her parents were and how she was acting this out and thinking that that’s what real parenting was. And I just had such compassion for her. And I actually remember the moment when I just thought to myself in the middle of this session, man, I sure hope you didn’t say or push back in a way that shows that early in the sessions, because this woman is really trying the hardest that she can it with the skills that she has been given. It was the first time I really had someone that I had a hard time working with where it really kind of flipped like that. And so, I love that you bring that up.
[LORI]: Yeah, I think that it’s important to remember that we’re all doing the best we can do. I think sometimes you personalize people’s behavior and I think they’re just trying to get through the world in the best way that they know how. Sometimes that’s what we can help them with, is that maybe the way they’re going through the world isn’t actually helping them.
[JOE]: Yeah, I was in the Chicago airport, transferring planes, because we always have to Traverse City’s in the middle of nowhere. So, I always have to go through Detroit or Minneapolis or Chicago. And I ordered a breakfast sandwich and wanted some cream cheese on it. And the lady didn’t bring the cream cheese even though it was on the receipt. And I said ‘Oh, can I get the cream cheese, please?’. And she says ‘It’s not a bagel. Why do you want cream cheese!’ And I was just like, whoa. I was almost about to emotionally swing back and I told myself to take a deep breath and get a hold of these triggers that you know when you get pissed off. And I just said ‘I just need some cream cheese please.’ I thought about it for a bit afterward of how in the past I would have made her day even worse. She had 20 people in line that wanted to eat right now, and there was three staff there. I could have pushed back, but we all have those moments that hopefully, we’re taking small steps in the right directions to become better. I think it’s so easy in those moments to just snap back at someone that freaks out over cream cheese, and then it’s like I’m the one freaking out back about someone freaking out about cream cheese and I’m no better.
[LORI]: Yeah, yeah, that’s true. I mean, it’s funny that I think as therapists we also hold ourselves to a higher standard in terms of, we should be more evolved and we shouldn’t have those internal reactions, right. And I tell the story at the beginning of the book where one of my colleagues, she and her husband were trying to get pregnant and she was finally pregnant after multiple failed attempts. She was standing in a Starbucks when her doctor called to tell her the pregnancy wasn’t in fact viable. She just burst into tears in the Starbucks and one of her clients walked in, saw her, left and never came back to therapy. I think that people want to go to a therapist who’s a real person, they don’t want to go to a brick wall or to a robot. But when they see our humanity, it’s very uncomfortable for them. There’s a chapter in the book called Embarrassing Public Encounters, which is about all of the different embarrassing things that happen to therapists out in the world. And I always say in the book that my greatest tool is that I’m a card-carrying member the human race, that my humanity is my greatest asset as a therapist when I’m in the room with somebody. And yet it’s very uncomfortable for people to acknowledge that their therapists are just regular people.
[JOE]: Well, so the last question I always ask is, if every private practice owner in the world were listening right now, what would you want them to know?
[LORI]: I think it’s something that I learned from going through therapy in the book with my therapist, which is he brought his whole self into the room in a way that I had never seen. In graduate school, I think you see these very professional videos of therapy and they’re great, and they’re really helpful. But I think sort of therapy out in the world, it doesn’t look like a training tape necessarily. I think you see in the book he does all these unconventional things, and again, not crossing boundaries, it had nothing to do with self-disclosure. It was about how he was just so real with me. He brought his reactions into the room, he used our relationship in a way that was masterful. It taught me a lot about how to use the relationship with the client in a way that will help them to see something that they can apply out in the world. I think he just made me realize that all of these ideas that I had about what a therapist is supposed to be like or look like in the room were important, and they’re a good framework, but if you can really just feel like yourself in the room, you’ll be a much better therapist.
[JOE]: Such good advice! Lori, if people want to connect with you, they want to get the book what’s the best way for them to do that?
[LORI]: They can get the book on Amazon or any independent bookstore or wherever books are sold. They can find me on my website, which is www.lorigottlieb.com. I’m also on Twitter @LoriGottlieb1.
[JOE]: Awesome. The book is Maybe You Should Talk to Someone and get it wherever you buy your books. And Lori, thank you so much for being on The Practice of the Practice Podcast.
[LORI]: Oh, it’s been a great pleasure. Thanks so much, Joe.
[JOE]: Well, thanks so much for tuning into The Practice of the Practice Podcast. As you know, this is one of only a couple of our launches we’re doing this year for Next level Practice. This is the community for you if you want to start and grow your practice. If you want to grow faster, if you want to have access to over 30 e-courses that you can do at your own pace, live events, a community that’s going to help you save time and not confuse you more, and hang out with me and get a bunch of tools in the trade. Head on over to www.practiceofthepractice.com/door. That’s going to immediately get you there. If you want to read more about it head on over to www.practiceofthepractice.com/invite. We want you to join. We are having some of our largest cohorts each time and we love helping you start and grow a practice. This is the community for you. If you’re starting and growing your practice, if you want to get rid of the confusion and know what to do, and just get things done. You want to stand out make your practice stand out so that it can impact you, your community and your clients. Head on over to www.practiceofthepractice.com/door to sign up today.
This podcast is designed to provide accurate authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It’s given with the understanding that neither the hosts, the publisher or the guests are entering legal, accounting, clinical or other professional information. If you need a professional you should find one. Thanks to the band Silence Is Sexy for your intro music. We love it.