The job of a therapist is multifaceted.
They have to be excellent and active listeners. They must be masters at holding space for people that need a safe zone to spill it all.
They must know when to interject and push a behavior change, and when to let the client discover the need for change on their own.
So it really is quite rare that a therapist actually makes the move to give advice to a client. It's usually a careful decision to intervene when all other therapeutic approaches haven't yielded results.
Unfortunately, it doesn't always do the trick. In fact, one recent Reddit thread asked people about the times their therapists gave truly terrible advice--so bad it left the patient scratching their head about whether to continue on the following week.
taiwanna asked, "What is the worst advice a therapist has given you?"
Never Good to Guilt Trip the Patient
"I give you a safe place to cry and you don't cry."
"I have bipolar and this was after my husband died. I was in a mixed episode. Because of my meds I seldom cry. It was as if she expected me to cry on cue."
Tough to Prove
"A 'therapist' once told my friend the reason why she fought so much with her sister was because they were enemies in a past life, reunited to solve their problem." -- TunyG
"What the actual f***? Surely this wasn't a licensed professional. If so, I imagine they lost their license soon after."
"Hopefully." -- Basgerin
Chances are it is NOT Pokemon
"My first childhood therapist thought that Pokemon was the root of all of my problems. Turns out the root of all of my problems was severe childhood trauma." -- mouthwordpasta
"I'm so sorry to hear that Pikachu mistreated you that way." -- kirotheavenger
"Omg! Mine said rap music was my problem. Hahahaa! Not all the trauma or death of my father... no rap music was my problem. 🤦♀️🤦♀️" -- Andandromeda3821
Only One Way Out
"I had a therapist who really, really insisted that I have to believe in a higher power of some sort. Yeah, I know that has proven positive effects for some people."
"Doesn't mean it works for me. Plus I'm not just suddenly going to start believing in something I haven't for decades, so can we move on, please?"
Heather, the Nonbeliever
"I had one tell my homophobic parents during family therapy 'Don't worry, a lot of teenage girls think they're bisexual. She'll pick a side before she's 21'"
"I'm almost 22 and still haven't 'picked a side', so f*** you Heather."
An Extremely Morbid Approach
"One therapist asked me what I wanted for myself. I said I wanted peace. She said: You will have peace in the grave." -- wintersweet05
"W H A T" -- DaktiloTuna
"what the actual—" -- thatonebandgeek
Seems Like a Personal Choice
"'You need to have another baby'" -- sidewhiner
"Wtf, a therapist said that? Like an actual f***ing therapist? Bruuuuuuh" -- Cheese_globe
"How was that supposed to help you?? 'Here, have another responsibility and more stress. That will solve everything.'" -- bookishweirdo
Just Stop Being You, Okay?
"Stop being sad and speak to people...im depressed with social anxiety and autism" -- DuplicateSolace
"I once had a therapist tell me I should go to events alone, and start talking to randomers, when I told her I might have social anxiety. Stopped seeing her after that comment.." -- theantonia
Sure Fire Way to Explode Later On
"To keep my feelings to myself in order to not cause problems with my family." -- Sigridhavorrk
"f***ing YIKES" -- ThermonuclearCream
"Bottle it up lol duh"
"I mean, really, how did these people get certified? They're teaching the exact opposite things to do. Even I know you don't do that, and I'm f***ing stupid." -- Basgerin
The Least Fun Fact
"Saw a therapist because of my OCD."
"Told her I had to make my bed every morning in a very particular way, and, in an attempt to get me to 'break that habit' she decided to tell me that 'actually, making your bed traps all the germs in your sheets, which is actually way more gross, so it's better to not.'"
"Result: I was both scared to make my bed and not make my bed. Great."
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Therapy is a wonderful experience for so many people. It's a tool that allows us to secure our own well-being with the help of a compassionate, engaged supporter sitting right across from us (in normal times, that is).
And yet, many people are not in therapy.
That is the case for a vast array of reasons. Cost, insurance struggles, lack of time, simply not being ready--all are very real and legitimate reasons.
So a crowdsourced resource like Reddit can be helpful.
A recent thread offered anybody on the internet the chance to anonymously take a look at very real tidbits of wisdom from people's therapy experience.
It's not at all the same thing, but it's nice to dip your toes in this way if you're curious or hankering to talk about the things weighing on you.
Phaesphoric asked, "What is the most helpful thing your therapist has ever said to you?"
"My therapist and I were discussing how I felt about a pretty deep betrayal from my now ex-wife. I was beating myself up for not seeing how bad she really was when there was plenty of evidence."
"He wrote down something on his yellow notepad and then held it up right in my face, practically touching my nose."
"He said 'what's that say?'"
"I couldn't read it; it was too close to my face. Stepping back from it a bit, it could read it said 'you're too close to see it.' He was right."
"I was too close to the problems and the situation to have been able to see it where in retrospect it was so obvious. I stopped beating myself up over it and was able to let it go."
"I'm confined to a wheelchair. It's amazing how many people still look at you like you're a freak! I was told by my shrink of 15 years to smile big and say hi loudly."
"They'll either say hi or look away. Either way, I've made an attempt to humanize them to the disabled. If they don't, it's their problem."
"Worrying about something that might happen just makes you miserable."
"It's great to have a contingency plan, but don't spend all your energy worrying about something that might never happen, just deal with it if it happens."
No Need to Overhaul
"'Maybe you can treat yourself like a person and not like a project.'"
"It changed my life. I'd been treating myself like something to fix, and seeing every little problem as evidence that I was a failure and a terrible person."
"I learned to give myself the same benefit of the doubt as I'd give any other human I met on the street. Humans make mistakes, including me—that doesn't mean there's issues to fix, it means I'm a person."
Address the Simple Stuff First
"'You're not sleeping, you're missing meals, and you barely see your friends. It's no wonder you're depressed. You are barely taking care of baseline needs, my dude!'"
"She was right. I needed to actually take care of basic human needs before I could move up any higher on Maslow's hierarchy."
Where Do You Take It?
"The lifespan of an emotion (the actual physiological sensations—adrenalin, heat in the face, tightness in the chest, rapid heartbeat, fists clenched, etc.) doesn't last very long. Emotions only last about 90 seconds or so."
"What keeps an emotion alive and lingering after the fact is the stories and the associated thoughts we tell ourselves about them."
"It's usually what we think should have been rather than what it is that causes us that extra suffering we're all too familiar with. And the longer we've been telling ourselves a certain story, the harder it is to "'just let it go."'
"That my mental health issues arise when my body is trying to tell me that i'm mentally exhausted. Just like when you don't get enough sleep, your body tells you that by making you feel tired, or hungry when you haven't eaten enough."
"When i haven't been giving myself enough down time, i've been super stressed trying to please everyone and meet everyone's needs, i burn out, and feeling depressed or anxious at nothing in particular is just a way my body lets me know that i need to look after myself."
"That I'm not necessarily broken or going to feel this way for the rest of my life."
It Is a Choice
"I'm not required to forgive anyone, especially from abuse. I can if I want to and it works for me but if I don't feel forgiving then I don't have to." -- NorienneSedai
"So important!! I hate how often people act as if forgiveness is the only way to be a good person or to move past something." -- Phaesphoric
"Mine said this in an offhand way, but it's stuck with me:"
"'Try to find something you enjoy in every day. Even if it's something small like taking a hot shower or going for a walk. If you start feeling down, you can think about what you enjoyed from that day, and recognize that you've done something nice for yourself.'"
"You cannot expect one person to fulfill all your needs and to be with you whenever you want them to." -- shieldsforcamelot
"Actually came here to say something similar. I had a therapist once tell me 'if you need someone you can't love them.'"
"Now, that statement was heavily based on context in that situation and my tendency towards co-dependence, so PLEASE don't take it as axiomatic." -- OfficerWonk
In a perfect world, every single person would have a therapist. Whether or not they are mentally ill, it's important to always have someone to talk things through with- that's what mental health professionals are for. But what some clients don't realize is that sometimes, the clients help the therapist just as much as the therapist helps them.
u/TheFoodTray asked: Therapists of reddit, what's something that a client has taught YOU (unknowingly) that you still treasure?
Therapists need help too.
In general - that humans can experience an incredible amount of trauma, loss, overall suffering and not only continue to exist, but continue to find meaning and even contentment in their lives.
It's helped me to re-frame my own trauma in a more helpful way and also made me less fearful of what my future may hold - recognizing that we can tolerate much, much more than we think we can.
Sometimes it's the people who have endured trauma that have an easier time letting things roll or looking at life's speed bumps and saying "That happened. How do I handle it?"
Once you've hit a hard bottom, any hardship that isn't that bad doesn't stress you as much. It also gives you more empathy and compassion for people in a hard spot.
When my mother was at her Cluster B best, my friends were impressively self-absorbed and actively did not care. People who had endured worse were so much kinder than people who hadn't.
A thirst for knowledge.Giphy
I work with college students (freshman all the way through final years of PhD programs, med school, etc.) I'm amazed by their constant desire for knowledge.
18yo and 40yo, it doesn't matter. There is an information lust in all of them. It makes me more passionate about my field and I go to trainings and conferences thrilled to learn thanks to them. It's incredible. The difference in my mental state from working outpatient to working exclusively with the student population is amazing. They've saved my career.
This is incredible advice.
Just today someone said to me, "I tell myself all the time 'if I can stay sober for the next 30 minutes I'm going to make it'. Sometimes I have to tell myself that more than once, but I make it every time".
It really got to me today, that little saying has so much meaning behind it for so many things. It put in perspective for me that dealing with certain issues is a minute by minute thing, but I can make it no matter what.
So many things it isn't even funny. I get to learn about professions and hobbies that I have zero knowledge about or desire to do, but I like knowing.
Beyond being taught something, two things have that clients have told me have made me feel so good and have stayed with me.
So, I use acceptance and commitment therapy as my approach. It is an approach that I use in my life so I will use examples of how I use it to help guide clients. I was giving an example of getting caught up in thoughts while on a walk on the weekend. Specifically thoughts about how this very client was doing because she and I had practiced a very difficult script for her to set some boundaries. I was getting swept away and wasn't present on my walk, so I dropped anchor and got in the present.
That client said that knowing that I think about her and her wellbeing outside of session made her feel so special and cared for. I took it for granted that clients knew we think about them. Half of my case planning comes from walking thoughts or driving thoughts. It changed how I practice. I make sure to share, in appropriate ways, how often I do think about my client's wellbeing outside of session.
Another was about 6 years ago. I was sick with my autoimmune disorder, about 100lbs overweight, medications weren't working, I was the only therapist for my work site as they couldn't fill positions. I burned out. Ended up on stress leave for 6 weeks. I returned to work kinda questioning how can I be a good therapist if I burned out. I returned to a hand written letter from a client from the year previous. She wrote a thank you letter that told me how she had continued to use the skills we worked on, how she had changed her life, and the impact I made in her. Literally, this woman's letter saved my career.
I truly love my work and I keep way better work-life balance now that I am more adept a living with a chronic illness! Also, I am 95lbs lighter now too. I got healthy.
Something everyone needs to know.Giphy
How to let go, over and over again, of people I care about. So many years of intensely relating, and giving, and letting go. I treasure the gift of being in the place to learn that lesson. It has helped me be a better friend and family member to not hold on so tight.
How a good relationship should be.
When talking about two people being in a relationship, a child I was working with described it as 1+1=2. Changed the perspective of "my other half" or looking at two people in a relationship as whole.
I know use two distinct wholes (1 person), who choose to come together as two.
To add to this, just this week in my session my counselor used the analogy of a 3 legged stool for a relationship and similarly I said that I always have seen a relationship as 3 people. There is me, you, and us. Each of the 3 need to be cared for to function.
Important to remember.
I'm a therapist in a psychiatric hospital and my patients have taught me how thin the line is between being mentally healthy and ill. Many of my patients were healthy and high functioning until one event happened to them.
That could be anyone. We are all just one incident away from being permanently ill. I am grateful and humbled by the tenacity of my patients, and for each day I am healthy.
Something I inadvertently taught my therapist is when I'm really struggling to start my day, I divide it up into "quest objectives" ala video games. ie "Shower, Breakfast and dress" "Get to work on time" "Complete at least three briefs today" and so on and so forth.
It really helps me set short term goals for getting through the day. She told me she has subsequently used this method with other clients and it's worked well.
I'm a therapist for children with autism. These kids go to school and then therapy 5 days a week. Adding up to 10 hours a day, more than some working adults. Most of the kids at least. They work hard to increase their skill sets. I have struggled with severe anxiety and still struggle with it sometimes.
While I'm teaching them life skills, they teach me perseverance through tough days and to smile and keep going even through the mistakes. These kids never fail to amaze me and I'm so proud to say I work with them.
I was the patient but during an early session I mentioned the Chaplin quote "A day without laughter is a day wasted." And my therapist had never heard that before and said they were going to use that. I saw it as a quote hanging on their wall soon thereafter.
Mental health is health. End of story.
For millions of people, the idea of mental health is wrapped up in this strange idea that unless you're hearing voices or having a full-on movie-style nervous breakdown (spoiler alert: those almost never happen that way) then there's no need to get your mental health looked into.
That idea has cost countless lives and made millions of people unnecessarily miserable. It needs to stop.
Reddit user Pixel_Pig asked:
Mental health professionals chimed in, but so did patients, loved ones, friends, etc. Surprised? You shouldn't be. Mental health affects us all.
Warning: Some of the following entries contain descriptions of abusive behavior.
Inability to regulate your own emotions. Also, negative self-talk. we talk to ourselves way worse than any person could.
Child Psychologist here. It bugs me how much parents don't think they're responsible for their kid's behavior.
Yes - it's the main reason I hate doing counseling with kids under 12. I spend more time trying to convince the parents that they play a role in their children's lives and ultimately are responsible for their behavior. A great many seem to think just bringing their child to counseling is the extent of their involvement.
I don't remember much of my earlier childhood, but what I do know is that I've always got easily frustrated and cried a lot, only to have my dad threaten me to stop crying when I was younger. I spent practically all of my free time from the end of primary school through to university playing video games because I didn't think I liked anything else, and couldn't seem to stick with anything else. I've always feared strangers, and been incredibly sensitive to the negative opinions of those I do know. My teeth are badly yellowed because I couldn't bring myself to brush my teeth often as a kid.
For as long as I remember, I've struggled with knowing what I feel, with knowing if I'm ever in the right, with knowing what I want, with knowing who I am, with being easily overwhelmed, with overthinking, with overly negative thoughts, with mood swings, with doing any work not last minute... the list goes on. I've always felt that something was wrong with me, that this wasn't how life was supposed to be lived, that I wasn't nearly as happy as I could be, but when I've reluctantly confided in my family, I've just been dismissed as overthinking again, or trying to blame something other than myself -- despite how utterly out of control my own actions felt.
I sat through 16 months of a toxic relationship with a girl diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety and was subjected to constant emotional manipulation including threats of suicide if I didn't call her, and yet I stuck by her because I just didn't know if I was in the wrong. I got counselling at university and felt bad for taking up the space of someone who will very likely need it more, and later that year I failed my degree because of what I felt was a rational decision that physics just wasn't for me anymore -- but neither was anything else.
Fast forward through a year and a bit of working full time in fast food, but working on myself through introspection, experimentation and research, I'm in a MUCH better place now; I've even got offers to study psychology at university next year. Despite this stark contrast, and an explicit collection of the ideas that helped me to overcome my own issues, my parents are reluctant to believe I have ever suffered with mental health issues of the anxiety and depression variety, and are insistent that my social difficulties must instead stem from Autism -- something out of everybody's control.
In having a conversation about the idea of Childhood Emotional Neglect, and explicitly telling them that it isn't placing blame, or preventing progress, and telling them how this idea has resulted in a huge amount of personal progress, they were still reluctant to believe it because they believe me to be just trying to place blame on them. Autism seems more viable to them because 'what normal person gets up at 8am every day and goes out to go to the gym and stuff?'
They completely deny that they've had any negative role in my upbringing, even after my mum has admitted that she never tried with anything in her life, including raising me.
I guess I ranted all this because denying parental responsibility/contribution does more than just bug me, it's hurtful and tragic. It could have been a never-ending generational loop of suffering were it not for a subtle but pervading inkling that life could in fact be better than this. And worst of all in my experience it seems to all have stemmed from a single stupid misconception about who we are. If there's anything we desperately need in these modern times, it's awareness about psychological ideas. Nobody is born to be a depressed recluse with no idea of what they want from life.
A good rule of thumb as to whether a behavior or symptom should be checked out is the same we use to determine a diagnosable disorder : if it causes impairment in one or more areas of life.
The range of what is normal is huge - but if something keeps you from going to school or work, keeps you from maintaining basic hygiene, from maintaining your friendships/ familial relationships/ romantic relationships... It's causing impairment and you should seek help.
If Your Toddler Is...
Research psychologist checking in:
If your toddler is doing socially unusual behaviors such as:
Not responding to name
Not responding to a social smile
Not pointing/ using gestures
Using your hands/arms as if they were a tool or extension of their body
Engaging in repetitive behaviors
Not responding to your use of gaze to direct their attention to distal objects
Check with the pediatrician about getting assessed for autism spectrum disorder.
Not Your Job
Therapist here. If you grew up with or currently are a part of a family where the whole family has to work to keep one or more members of the family in a good mood or appeased, that's not healthy.
People are in charge of their own feelings. It is not your job to appease others so that they can emotionally regulate themselves.
That was me growing up. Everyone had to make dad happy. Never knew if something was going to set him off. And when we pissed him off, it would go on for weeks. Outbursts, throwing breakable items, verbally degrading you, and sometimes it would get physical.
That man threw me into a wall while he was drunk. Would have gone all the way through but there happened to be pipes.
And then he would use us like therapists telling us all the traumatizing stuff he went through as a child and expecting that to explain his behavior. He'd be the first to admit that he needed therapy and medication but never actually did anything about it. Fortunately, he's no longer in my life.
Not Typical For Everyone
There have been a lot of my patients who have been pretty surprised when I've told them "hey, that's anxiety/depression" when they just thought their behaviors were typical for everyone.
- not being able to maintain friendships
- constantly being nervous about the safety of your child, to the point where you hate being alone with your child without your partner
- not being able to motivate yourself to do things, especially things you once enjoyed
- feeling excessively tired all the time
- not being able to calm down and just thinking about the same thoughts over and over and feeling worried
Other things we can help with:
- having a hard time trusting others
- trying to recover a relationship from infidelity
- not knowing why your kid is misbehaving so much and needing guidance
- helping to improve communication within your relationships
It can be hard to bring these topics up! I totally get it.
Some things you can try are:
- writing these things down and bringing them to therapy
- making a mood journal for a week where you track how your moods are and how you're feeling with different activities, and using that as a conversation starter
- two tools we use to measure depression and anxiety are the PHQ-9 and the GAD-7. If you google those, they're questionnaires that bring up some of these questions. You can fill those out and bring them in to your therapist
- you can bring a friend or family member to help advocate for you if that would be easier.
- you can write a letter reflecting on things you think you've made progress on in therapy and goals you have in moving forward and use that to start a convo with your therapist.
If you experience these things (and more!) therapists can help! Let us help you. I hate that cost is such a barrier for people. :(
Sometimes colleges offer free or discounted therapy from their students. When you're training to be a therapist, you spend at least 1 year working as a therapist while meeting with a supervisor each week to consult on your cases and get guidance on moving forward.
My college unfortunately didn't offer discounted sessions, but I know many do. It might be worth checking out.
Some systems also have charity care options for people with low incomes. That can be worth pursuing as well.
To find a therapist, if you're in the US and have insurance, you can call your insurance company and get a list of places that take your insurance. That's a good place to start.
Self-sabotaging behavior can ruin your life quickly. If you have an event in your life that has affected you negatively and you seem to find yourself exhibiting irrational or incongruent behaviors- see a counselor.
You don't have to have any certain pathology to seek mental wellness counseling.
Other People Have It Worse
I've seen a lot of people dismiss their depression/other mental illness because it's "not that bad" or "other people have it worse" or "I can/should be able to handle it on my own."
You shouldn't have to suffer through mental illness even if you technically can. You deserve to be happy and therapists and psychiatrists are there to help you learn how to help yourself. It's not a weakness to find someone who can assist you in figuring out coping skills or prescribe you medications to help fine tune your brain's neurotransmitters.
Your Child Doesn't Need To Hear That
The need for some parents to speak with their children about adult problems. No, your young child does not need to be aware that 'daddy slept with the lady next door'.
The parents that tell their children that they are going to 'go and speed my car into a tree purposely', 'kill myself while you are at school', or 'slit my wrist when I shower tonight'.
And, parents that feel they need their children 'fixed' as it's the child and not the family unit as the whole that needs support and/or assistance.
Your child doesn't need to hear that you are struggling financially - I'm talking more on the extreme side and towards children that have been extremely hurt and 'money talk' was used as a tool to make the child feel at fault and guilt to some degree.
I'm currently working with a child now that is triggered whenever he hears talk about finances and feels it's his fault they will eventually become homeless. They won't, but this is what he is told. If only he didn't eat so much, if only he didn't have so many school fee's. Not to mention the arguing between carers over finances - this must be his fault to though, they're yelling and shouting because of this.
Some Things Regularly Seen
Some things I see regularly that could have been caught earlier before they became a problem:
- Unhealthy coping mechanisms. For example, drinking "to relax" frequently or smoking a lot. Even something like promiscuity can be a red flag that a person is trying to avoid dealing with something stressful by distracting themselves.
- Self harm. Hitting yourself, banging your head on things, burning yourself on purpose, cutting yourself, etc. - all of those things indicate that it's time to talk with a professional.
- "Normal" child/teen behaviors that are not actually normal, like running away or getting into fights.
- Not communicating. When this happens, something is usually wrong (not always, as some folks are quieter than others). But if a child/teen/adult rarely speaks or if they are silent in the presence of their parent or significant other, it's time to get them to see a professional ALONE to have their safety assessed. I've seen individuals who are literally shut down due to having been profoundly abused by the people they live with and one of the main signs of that is silence. I've also seen people in perfectly good homes who cannot communicate due to extreme anxiety and without professional help it's hard for them to overcome this.
- Mood swings. When a person's moods change from one extreme to another fairly often/regularly that is another concerning symptom. Sometimes they are considered eccentric or hormonal, but that sort of thing can be a sign of many problems from bipolar disorder to post traumatic stress disorder.
Definitely Not God
New nurse here! Did my rotation for mental health and one patient in particular took quite an interest in me, he was very polite and very kind, he was chatting up a storm, answered everyone's questions and repeatedly asked my name. Later, we got to look at patients files and I got his. He had a psychotic break and started hearing God. She told him her name was Courtney and that She had chosen him and he was to find Her and marry Her.
Guess what my first name is. Courtney. They ended up moving me to another part of the hospital after that because he was quite interested. Can confirm: I am definitely not God. Way too much responsibility. Obsessive behaviors and thoughts like that should definitely be checked out.
- Extreme emotions
- Lack of or struggle with impulse control
- Extreme irritability
- Disrupted sleep
- Muted or bottled emotions
- Feeling like an alien
- Feeling like everyone has an ulterior motive
- Preoccupation with pleasing others or avoiding conflict
- Feeling of emptiness
- Feeling like a part of your identity is missing or you don't have an identity of your own
- Subtle tendencies to latch on to others (especially romantic partners or crushes — maybe sometimes you feel like you're just a tad "too much" or maybe you've heard that from some exes).
LGBTQ+ Youth can get help through:
TrevorChat — 24/7/365 at https://www.thetrevorproject.org/get-help-now/#services
TrevorLifeline — phone service available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386
TrevorText — Text "START" to 678678. Available 24/7/365.
TrevorSpace — online international peer-to-peer community for LGBTQ young people and their friends at https://www.trevorspace.org/
Trevor Support Center — LGBTQ youth & allies can find answers to FAQs and explore resources at https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/trevor-support-center/#sm.0000121hx9lvicotqs52mb1saenel
Trauma - some of it can't be fixed, and the people on the front lines of therapy confront the worst of the worst. Brace yourself, these are some harrowing stories.
LetsArgueAboutNothin asked mental health professionals of Reddit: What is the saddest case of "wow this person really fucked up because of how they were treated during their childhood" you have ever come across?
Submissions have been edited for clarity, context, and profanity.