August 3, 2020

Mental & Emotional Health

#122 – Lori Gottlieb: Understanding pain, therapeutic breakthroughs, and keys to enduring emotional health

“Change happens gradually, then suddenly.” — Lori Gottlieb

Read Time 19 minutes

Lori Gottlieb is a psychotherapist and the bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. In this episode, Lori extracts important lessons from her experiences as both a therapist and a patient. The stories Lori shares has provided her the material for insights into living a more fulfilling life. In our conversation, Lori also dispels some misconceptions about therapy, explains the process of big therapeutic breakthroughs, and reveals the most important steps for enduring emotional health.


We discuss:

  • Lori’s unique path to becoming a therapist [3:00];
  • Dissecting cadavers—a profound experience during med school [12:30];
  • The sunk cost fallacy—How Lori was able to walk away from med school [17:15];
  • Being aware of the gift of life, and other lessons from Lori’s terminally ill patient [24:00];
  • How underlying pain can manifest in obnoxious behavior [32:45];
  • Counseling versus therapy [36:15];
  • The story of John—why men hide their feelings, breaking down his shield, and uncovering his pain [38:30];
  • “Breaking open”—A shocking revelation about John that tests Lori’s resolve as a therapist [46:30];
  • Rewriting your story, the recovery process, and the most important step for lasting change [49:00];
  • The process of  many big therapeutic breakthroughs [56:00];
  • The 2 types of suicidal thoughts, and the importance of talking about it [1:01:00];
  • The most common issues that bring patients to therapy with Lori [1:02:45];
  • Clinging to the familiar—why change is so hard [1:05:15];
  • A story of shame, lack of self-compassion, and self-sabotage [1:07:00];
  • The importance of managing mental health to reduce unnecessary suffering [1:15:45];
  • Dispelling the misconceptions about therapy [1:23:15]; and
  • More.


Lori’s unique path to becoming a therapist [3:00]

Lori’s book: Maybe You Should Talk To Someone 

  • The book follows four seemingly very different patients going through therapy with Lori as their therapist
  • Then there’s a fifth “patient”, Lori herself, going to her own therapist
  • By the end of the book, Lori hopes everybody says, “I saw myself in every single one of these patients.

“It’s a book about how we’re all more the same than we are different and how we grow in connection with others.”

Lori’s current work

“I think that what I really love about what I do is that no matter what lens through which I’m doing it, whether it’s a column or a podcast or a Ted talk or a book or my practice, I’m really dealing with, I think what makes us most human at our core.”

Nonlinear path to becoming a therapist

  • After college, began working in network television for NBC the same year that the shows ER and Friends were debuting
  • While working on the show ER, a doctor saw the interest Lori had for medicine and encouraged her to go to medical school
  • Nobody comes to an ER because they expected something to happen. It’s always an inflection point in some way in someone’s life. . . I was really interested in those inflection points in people’s lives.

Med school

  • She eventually got into med school at Stanford
  • Pretty early on, Lori realized that what she wanted was to guide people and to have close relationships with patients — “And it seemed like the new medical model was not going to be conducive to that
  • Eventually, she left medical school to become a journalistbecause I felt like I could really delve into people’s stories and help them to tell their stories through writing”

Becoming a journalist

  • Lori became a journalist and had 10 years of success before making the next switch
  • She considered going back to med school to become a psychiatrist
  • But she came to the realization that she’d rather do the deeper therapy 

She decided to get a graduate degree in clinical psychology

Now, Lori is a psychotherapist 

“I went from telling people’s stories as a journalist, to helping people to change their stories as a therapist…I feel like I’m as much an editor as I am a therapist, because I really feel like what I’m doing is people are coming in, they’re telling me we’re all unreliable narrators. They’re telling me a faulty narrative. They’re telling me a narrative that is keeping them stuck and I’m there to help them edit this story.”


Dissecting cadavers—a profound experience during med school [12:30]

  • As early med students (or pre-med), you are required to dissect a human cadaver

{end of show notes preview}

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Lori Gottlieb

Lori Gottlieb is a psychotherapist and author of the New York Times bestseller Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, which is being adapted as a television series. In addition to her clinical practice, she writes The Atlantic’s weekly “Dear Therapist” advice column and contributes regularly to The New York Times and many other publications. Her recent TED Talk is one of the top 10 most watched of the year. A member of the Advisory Council for Bring Change to Mind and advisor to the Aspen Institute, she is a sought-after expert in media such as The Today Show, Good Morning America, The CBS This Morning, CNN, and NPR’s “Fresh Air.” She is also the co-host of the new iHeart Radio podcast, “Dear Therapists,” produced by Katie Couric. Learn more at or by following her on Twitter @LoriGottlieb1 and Instagram @lorigottlieb_author.

Disclaimer: This blog is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute the practice of medicine, nursing or other professional health care services, including the giving of medical advice, and no doctor/patient relationship is formed. The use of information on this blog or materials linked from this blog is at the user's own risk. The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Users should not disregard, or delay in obtaining, medical advice for any medical condition they may have, and should seek the assistance of their health care professionals for any such conditions.
  1. As always Peter, your intention to share deep subject matter of valuable worth with us is showcased in this podcast. Truly sensitive, straight to the heart and clear. This interview hit so many perfect notes for me as I move along my own path, answering questions I’ve had, etc.
    Please know how important & appreciated your & Lori’s work is-now even more than before.

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