Comments on
12 Things I Learned from My Therapist

By Therese J. Borchard
Associate Editor

I’ve spent more time in therapy than I care to think about. More hours on that bloody couch than I’ve spent in the shower, brushing my teeth, or on the phone with telemarketers, because let’s face it, when I’m home, there really are no decision …

30 Comments to
12 Things I Learned from My Therapist

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  1. very nice posting. Will go in my files of articles to share with patients who have appreciable insight and interest in change.

    thank you for sharing.

    therapyfirst, board cert psychMD

  2. The most important thing I learned was to pay attention to songs running through my mind, to thoughts that pop up out of nowhere, to scenes on TV that cause an especially strong emotional reaction. These are messages from my unconscious, and I can learn from them.

  3. Hi great post!

    I think the things we learn are the things we are there to learn:

    how to trust wisely
    how to pay attention to and learn from one’s internal world
    how to be accountable for our own happiness and not that of others.

    I blogged on this a while back which may be of some interest
    http://tiny.cc/zU1ow

    Best

    BTC

  4. Thanks for your feedback! t

  5. I’d really like to contribute to your list but, unfortunately, I’ve never been to therapy. Now, before you start envying me, let me just say – I’ve never had the money. So through all these years of crisises and what-not conditions, I’ve had to be my own therapist. I bet I’ve done a lousy job but still… here’s one trick I use.

    When I’m sick and tired of it all and feel like taking the next train to The Middle of Nowhere, I just tell myself that I will. “No problem, sure, why not”. So this same-old-cronic-friday-the-13th day will be the last of its kind. I just have to live through it patiently and tomorrow I’m packing my stuff. And when I find myself not bonded to anything in sight, once of a sudden it all seems shiny and new. I’m free, the stress is gone. And I miss my life already. So relaxed about seeing the dishes, the enemies, the everything for the last time, that I savor every moment. Plus, having that little secret that soon I’ll be gone and happy, leaves me with a smile all day. And in the end, I’ve liked my little imaginary pre-holiday celebration so much that I feel like I can take another.

  6. I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy but most of it was against my will and not too fruitful. I did learn a breathing technique that actually works for me, after learning a bunch that were like yours and required counting and just stressed me.
    The one that works for me is simple: make the exhale longer than the inhale.
    I’ve learned far too much about how therapists are merely human and very fallible.
    I’ve learned that nobody understands me but sometimes it’s enough if they just try.

  7. I have learned that all things shall pass,that everyone makes (many many many) mistakes,that it is ok to have feelings,ok to cry…I have learned that God is Big enough for all of us…no matter what and that honest hard work in thearpy reaps grand results…even if it seems to take forever.

  8. Those are great. I haven’t learned anything from my therapist yet. I wish he would start teaching me things soon though.

  9. My therapist taught me that while medication is helpful and recommended, it won’t completely erase what I have been through. At some point I have to talk about it. When it comes to talking about “stuff” in therapy it really is going to be okay afterwards, he’s still going to be there and not dismiss my feelings or tell me I’m being stupid.

  10. Very good therapy suggestions. I’ve learned CBT and progressive relaxation. When I feel down, a walk around my backyard; especially when the sun is out and the birds are chirping, cheers me up.

    I’ve been in therapy a long time. I need someone to validate my feelings as I don’t get that here at home.

    Thank you for a good article.

    Regards, Sara

  11. Thanks for your list. I found a wonderful therapist because I saw everything in my life as “broken” – I was broken. She helped me to focus on the areas where I wasn’t “broken” and the strengths I had – and that was incredibly helpful to me. She also encouraged me to continue to write – even if I’m not on the NY Times Best Seller list (yet), I have much to share… Loved your post!

  12. I learned in therapy to separate what I do from who I am. People like what I do or hate what I do, but what I do is not me. I am and have always been perfect. I continue to work on my behaviors that help me like me more and to have a positive effect on others. I changed my life by changing my behaviors which meant changing my beliefs about myself and other people. Great therapist!

  13. I learned from my therapists to recognize distorted thinkings such as:
    over personalizing
    black and white thinking
    labeling (judging)
    mind reading (assuming I know what the other person is thinking)
    and others

    Being able to recognize my thinking distortions has helped me be able to cope to negative social interactions

  14. Your article is great and I thank you!

    Two really helpful things my therapist taught me are;
    1. Never Make Assumptions! If you are assuming another’s feelings, thoughts, or the meaning of their behavior, be direct and ask. Often enough, my assumptions have been dead wrong prior to inquiring.

    2. Do Something Differently (especially if your way isn’t working). Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

  15. GREAT POST!!!
    MY THERAPIST HAS TAUGHT ME THAT EVEN WHEN I THINK I CAN’T GET PAST MY TROUBLED LIFE ONE DAY TO REMEMBER THERE WILL BE ANOTHER DAY AND THAT DAY IS TOMORROW. DON’T WORRY ABOUT YESTERDAY BECAUSE TODAY IS ALREADY HERE!

  16. I usually go to therapy to deal with issues (read ‘arguments’) that arise around the relationship with my spouse. We could never see each other’s point of view; my therapist has 2 things to say about this (she had more I’m sure, but these 2 stick out because they are so helpful):
    - Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?
    - Understand different perspectives and separate realities

    I never knew that 2 people could see or experience the exact same event (even like turning the TV on or off) in completely different ways…

    So now when my spouse and I can’t agree… instead of arguing, I say ‘it may be that way in your world, however, it’s like this in my world’. That way we both see another perspective on a situation or event, without claiming that either one is 100% right :)
    I prefer being ‘happy’ to being ‘right’, don’t you?

  17. My therapist has taught me to just keep trying, to recognize things that make me unhappy, and how to get what I need from other people if the people who are supposed to provide it can’t

  18. I learned that to trust is to truly feel safe and I learned the value if not being alone with a nightmare. It wasn’t east and it certainly didn’t happen overnight and now that it’s over I miss the safety of those hours but I have learned and time may not heal but it goes by and you are the one that makes choices to deal with your issues or not. Therapy gave me someone to be accountable to and that person is now me which is a blessing in itself. I never trusted me before.

  19. Here’s the most useful thing that my therapist taught me. An old folk adage:

    “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.”

    Another way to put it is, it does no good to try to change the way other people are. You can’t change other people, only your own reaction to them.

  20. My therapist taught me ‘I’ comes before ‘U’ in the alphabet, meaning ‘I’ have to take care of me first before I can take care of ‘U’ or anyone else.

  21. These are all things you could have learned from a $10.00 self-help manual, a women’s magazine or a blog. Definitely not worth the hours spent in therapy if this is all you got out of it.

  22. These are good. You’ve gained a lot of good info. I loved the scene in Harvey, when James Stewart says he’s learned it’s more important to be nice than it is to be smart.

    mysteryshrink.com

  23. I’ve learned that I DO NOT have to like my mother … or anyone else who enjoys taking pot shots at my self esteem.

    Some things can’t be fixed, let it go …move on to something that can.

    Learn to say “I’m sorry you feel that way.” And don’t add another word.

    Not everyones opinion is valuable. I get to choose.

    An ol’ AA buddy said this one. I never spend time bemoaning the fact that I can’t play the violin and never will because I’m tone deaf. I try to do the same about drinking.

    There’s more than 50 ways to skin a cat. So if ya got a cat (problem) that needs skinning bad..keep trying till ya find the right way.

    When you separate wants from needs you usually find out you have everything you need and then some.

    Loved your post and your sense of haha…you ARE an awesome writer. Marthe

  24. MY THERAPIST TAUGHT ME

    I NEEDED TO NURTURE MYSELF AS MY PARENTS NEVER DID

    IT IS OK NOT TO BE PERFECT

    JUST BECAUSE THEY’RE YOUR BOSS, DOESNT MEAN THEY’RE RIGHT

    THIS TOO WILL PASS

    DON’T TAKE THINGS AT FACE VALUE

  25. I saw a therapist only twice. I learned two things from her that I will carry with me for life:
    1. I am an intelligent woman. Trust my instincts.
    2. Do 3 things for myself every day that I enjoy and that is good for me. (In a way, it is like feeding yourself) For me it is exercise, read or do a puzzle, and work on a project that benefits my home/area.

  26. 1. Be willing to be vulnerable in therapy, to approach past beliefs once adopted to keep me safe, but that are no longer useful, and to release them and fill their place with love and light.
    2.Find the place in my body where the memory resonates and find out what it needs and go in and give it. If I find fear in my stomach and the image of a child being beaten, I can rescue the child in my imagination and nurture it.
    3.Universal human needs are nothing to be ashamed of, but rather to be honored even if they are unmet. Imagine that they are met. Feel that deeply. A shift occurs then, and instead of loss I feel more calm.
    4.As one of the previous writers said: trust yourself and do something enjoyable for yourself every day! If you are not all right with your self, you can’t be even aware of others’ needs much less able to respond instead of blindly reacting.

  27. A wonderful post–and beautifully written, too.
    I’ve learned to cultivate the ability to laugh at my mistakes– and find friends who do, too. I have AD/HD, and when I recount a goofup to a friend, I can “spin” it so we both find it very funny!

    (There’s an insight in there about “reframing” that someone else might be better at articulating. I’m still working hard on learning to reframe!)

    I’ve learned that I always feel better after 30 minutes of breathing-hard cardio exercise. It gave me blessed relief during a mean depression years ago, and has staved off the “black dog,” as I think Winston Churchill called it, a few times since.

  28. DEAR Therese J. Borchard …
    I LEARNED THAT TO ATTEND UNIVERSITY AND STUDY ENGLISH LITERATURE WILL AND DOES CONTRIBUTE TO MY PERSONAL GROWTH… SOMETHING I HAVE BEEN MISSING AND LONGING FOR…
    BEST WISHES…
    GERSHON…

  29. WOW this was WONDERFUL!! I have a family of Bipolar kids and husband.(adopted so from several sources and degrees) and this was MOST helpful for me to be able to Que into areas of weakness and to build strength effectively. It is hard for me a NON-BIPOLAR to understand and hone in on ways to be helpful. Thanks so MUCH!!

  30. I’ve learned to look inward at myself from my therapist and to be a more responsible person for my actions, instead of focusing the blame onto others.

  31. hi therese, i have been in therapy for … 15 years. off the top of my head, because i have short term memory loss, i’d say that even though i didn’t believe in myself sometimes, she did. another thing i learned when i would bring up something, which eludes me now, but let’s say i would think that something i said, or did was something that made me different, and she would simply tell me that everyone does whatever it was, that i was like everyone else, in other words, normal. Normal? ME?
    i carry a lot of guilt that i still try to shake off. in the middle of a crisis, when i have to make a decision without her input, she would tell me i did the right thing. even though i did the right thing, as hard as it was, for instance, confronting someone who i think wronged me. she would tell me i did the right thing, as hard as it was, because confrontation and rejection are my two hardest demons to overcome. it’s been that way since i was a kid. but she still is teaching me that i do things like everyone else. i HATE confronting someone, i feel like they will hate me for the rest of my life, even though it was something that i had no choice in doing. and after the confrontation, comes the feeling that i will be rejected by those i had to confront. is any of this making any sense to you? raised Roman Catholic in a home with critical father who drank, not all the time, but was critical, nonetheless. i better shut up now. i guess i wrote so much because this was a real recent confrontation and i haven’t accepted that maybe they will forgive me and still love me any way. thanks for letting me vent.

  32. Thanks. This helps. I’m one of the lucky ones in that I didn’t repeat what was done to me like my mother and her family. I will never understand that, how any mom can hurt a child. Or put them where they are being abused, sexually too, and the mom abuses you for telling anyone and trying to get help. she made sure everyone thought I was crazy and lied by the time I was 5 years old. Her family all think the same thing, now 45 years later. I’ve a lot to get over and STILL trying to do that. That is my biggest frustration, just wanting to not have dark days and trigger events on thousand of memories of events I hardly remember, just the fear, anger, confusion and pain.

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