What Your Therapist Really Thinks: A Conversation With Lori Gottlieb

Have you ever wondered what your therapist really thinks? Are you curious to know if your therapist likes you? This week, Savvy Psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen and bestselling author Lori Gottlieb pull back the curtain on both sides of the couch.

Ellen Hendriksen, PhD
2-minute read
Episode #241

A poll by the American Psychological Association found that in the past year, in 48% of American households—almost half—someone sought out mental health care. Indeed, in the past few years, seeing a psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor has become an increasingly common and even typical experience. 

Whether you’re a therapy regular, "therapy curious," or a therapist yourself, it’s fascinating to think about what happens in the therapy room and how it has such an impact. For example, a listener of the podcast—a young man seeing a counselor at his college—recently wrote in and asked, “Why does therapy work?” 

It’s a great question—it seems like a black box. You go into a room with another person for an hour a week and come out with better mental health, greater confidence, and more happiness. It seems like a mystery. What exactly is happening in that room?

This week’s guest, Lori Gottlieb, can help us with the answer. She has rich experience from both sides of the couch. She is a psychotherapist and New York Times best-selling author who writes the weekly Dear Therapist advice column for the Atlantic, where she is also a contributing editor. She has written for the New York Times Magazine and has appeared on TodayGood Morning AmericaCBS This Morning, CNN, and NPR. She also has experience on the other side of the therapy couch, as the one seeking help. 

Lori’s new book is called, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed. And we are lucky to talk with Lori today.

Lori’s book is unusual and extraordinary in part because it’s a memoir. Therapists are typically a blank slate with a poker face, but Lori pulls back the curtain and lets us in on why she says what she says and does what she does in the therapy room with clients. In addition, after an upheaval in her personal life, Lori allows us into her own therapy sessions with a therapist she calls Wendell.

In this interview, Ellen and Lori discuss:

  • How therapists deal with clients they don’t like, and how all of us can apply the lessons to life outside the therapy room
  • How—and more importantly, why—to withhold judgment and pressure when we’re trying to support someone in improving their life
  • Why it’s normal, important, and oh-so-human to wonder if your therapist likes you
  • What it means when you suddenly see your therapist as an attractive person
  • How to know you’re better and are done with therapy (as Lori puts it, “Therapists have the world’s worst business model.”)

Lori Gottlieb’s new book, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is out now! Pick up a copy wherever you like to get your books and while you’re at it, check out LoriGottlieb.com.

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ellen Hendriksen, PhD

Dr. Ellen Hendriksen is a clinical psychologist at Boston University's Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CARD). She earned her Ph.D. at UCLA and completed her training at Harvard Medical School. Her scientifically-based, zero-judgment approach is regularly featured in Psychology Today, Scientific American, The Huffington Post, and many other media outlets.