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My therapist once said…

The Lab Mag community shares pieces of advice from a therapist that changed their lives
therapist advice

Picture this: a young, eager soul stepping into the world of therapy, fuelled by one desire – “Someone, please take my life and fix it!”

At 23, I found myself surrounded by friends who were also on their therapeutic journeys, gently nudging me into the process while adjusting my expectations.

“One session is not enough.”

“It’s normal to cry in therapy.”

“It’s slow, will take time.”

“Please don’t expect her to give you solutions right away.”

“Give it time, it will change your life.”

If I am being honest, this mix-bag of advice left me in a conundrum. With therapy moving at a snail’s pace and my therapist lacking all the answers, was it really worth paying for? Why couldn’t I continue living on the advice of my well-meaning, supercharged girlfriends?

That’s when ‘sliding rates’ entered the debate. My therapy-enthusiast friends told me how many practitioners offer sessions at discounted rates, depending on the financial situation of clients.

I had no argument left. I took the leap and began my therapy sessions, and I can confidently say that I am incredibly grateful that I did.

How it’s been so far

Here’s a quick three-year update into my therapeutic journey – problems still exist, but I have gained a deeper understanding of myself and my triggers.

When I first started therapy, my primary goal was to find a solution for my general anxiety disorder. Months into my sessions, as I became more familiar with the process and no longer sought constant reassurance from my therapist, she shared something profound with me – “I can’t promise you a life without anxiety, but I believe you will learn to cope with it much better.”

These words have stayed with me ever since. Please note that had she said this to me earlier, when I was still adjusting to therapy, I might have felt disheartened and gone back to wondering what the point of therapy was, if not to free me of anxiety.

But then, I cherished the impact of her words. Therapy wasn’t about eliminating my problems altogether. It was about equipping me with the skills to manage them effectively. This realisation marked my first victory in therapy, releasing me from the unattainable pressure of living a flawless life.

Finding the right therapist

Therapist mental health advice

Photo: SHVETS production/Pexels

How I feel about therapy, has a lot to do with the therapists I met along the way. There were various reasons I had to change them. Shifting cities owing to COVID, affordability, and transference (the unconscious redirection of feelings and emotions from past relationships onto the therapist). An overshare – one therapist straight-up ghosted me!

My point is, it took me a few therapists, to understand the sort of therapist, and therapy style that worked for me. But almost every therapist I liked was always because something they said, stuck. For instance, when addressing my tendency to overthink, my current therapist said, “If you’re going to analyse every second of your life, when are you going to live it?” To date, that’s one of the most beautiful statements I’ve heard.

My life is not a case study. Milan Kundera, in his book, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, loosely compared life to a one-act play. He wrote, “There is no means of testing which decision is better because there is no basis for comparison. We live everything as it comes, without warning, like an actor going on cold. And what can life be worth if the first rehearsal for life is life itself?”

If this life is my first and only rehearsal, I am going to listen to my therapist, and try and enjoy the process.

Easier said than done.

Their therapists said

In the world of therapy, therapists have a way of saying things that really stick with us. They’re trained to harness a unique ability to make us reflect, question our thoughts, and untangle our reactions to the world around us. Reminding us that sometimes all we need is a gentle nudge to redirect our chain of thoughts.

I reached out to individuals, who wished to remain anonymous, and asked them to recall those unforgettable statements their therapists shared. In this safe space, they generously shared these profound nuggets of wisdom, which I sincerely hope will resonate with you just as they did with them (and me).

  • “It’s important to process our emotions, especially negative emotions. If we don’t, they’re going to become moods that typically last much longer and are more difficult to resolve.”
  • “If you draw a boundary with someone you care about, see that as a love language. You’re saying, “This boundary is expressing my desire for you to remain a part of my life. If I didn’t want you there, I wouldn’t have any boundaries.”
  • “Do you really need to feel anxious in this situation? Maybe you’re seeking a different emotion like nervousness, excitement, or sadness? Maybe ‘anxiety’ is just the most familiar emotion for you to unpack and sit in.”
  • “That’s all a feeling is–a feeling. It’s in the nature of a feeling to flee. Let it come and go.”
  • “If you’re going to analyse every second of your life, when are you going to live it?”
  • “Try talking to yourself and treating yourself the way you talk to the people you love.“
  • “Talk about how you feel. If not to anyone, talk to yourself. Write it down. Journal it. Don’t let it bottle up inside you. Everyone needs an outlet— find yours. “
  • “You don’t have to forgive people who hurt you. You’re allowed to take your time.”
  • “We’re not here to be scholars of life, we’re here to be happy.”