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8 Things I’ve Learned from Being a Psychotherapist

things I've learned from being a therapist

  1. Life is colorful, and having black or white thinking forces you to live a blind life

Imagine living in a world where you aren’t able to tell the difference between light blue, dark blue, purple, pink, red, orange, mint green, dark green, deep green, and blue green. Life would be bland and less interesting. Appreciate the different colors in experiences and the different colors of the year. In simpler terms, be flexible with your beliefs and accept that there is beauty in life’s detours and roadblocks.

  1. Toxic people make you have negative thoughts that cause negative actions that ultimately result in a negative life

It’s a cycle that people will commonly experience, especially in relationships. People are either helping you or hurting you, there is no in between. It’s important to reflect back on your life to determine where people fall on this scale.

  1. Be genuinely happy with your workplace

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people complain about their jobs. If you place yourself in a positive setting, you will be surrounded with positivity. The same is true for negative settings. For most of us, a substantial amount of time and attention is spent at work. If your workplace is a place where you are indisputably unhappy, your whole perspective on life will be affected.

  1. Everyone lives on planet earth, but we all live in different worlds

All of us have our own set of rules, beliefs, and norms. I am being trained to help people become experts in their world. Advice is actually frowned upon because it’s based on the therapist’s world, not the client’s. In fact, the likelihood that a psychotherapist will give you a simple answer even to a simple question without talking to you for at least some time is slim. The reason for this is because the answer lies somewhere in your mind and the therapist will need time to help you find it.

  1. Being emotional is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness

One of the first things I learned right off the bat was that people have a very difficult time with crying. Before clients could begin to work through their hardships, they first had to become comfortable with experiencing emotions. Many theoretical orientations focus on experiencing emotions because humans, in general, try to tuck them away and hope they never see the light of day. I’ve noticed, however, that once clients accept crying, they are able to acknowledge that it doesn’t mean they are weak but that they are healing.

  1. If people believe in you more than you do, something is off

Self-esteem and confidence are two tricky things to accomplish. Negative self-talk such as “I can’t do this” and “I am not good enough” really blurs your ability to look at yourself objectively. People, on the other hand, are able to look at you and make an objective decision about your ability based on your strengths and successes. The problem is, however, that we tend to be so hard on ourselves, we reject positive objective feedback. We must attack negative self-talk and dismiss it as soon as it enters our minds.

  1. If you aren’t actively attempting to improve, you are doing a disservice to yourself

One of the biggest lessons I have managed to soak up from working with people is that happiness is a state of mind, not an abundance of goods. I’ve noticed that when people are stuck and not attempting to improve any area in their life, they are the unhappiest.

It’s really an honor to spend time with people who have reached rock bottom, because you are able to see them pick themselves back up. Many populations who I work with have little or no resources and live in horrible circumstances. Despite their situations, they seem the most motivated and hopeful about finding peace in their lives.

Living a life where you are in an active process of exploring personal flaws and how to fix them means that you accept you aren’t perfect but genuinely content.

  1. People are books, and books are knowledge

Out of all lessons I have gathered in my mental library, this one is by far the most important. You can go to school and have multiple degrees and recognition, but if you aren’t able to appreciate other people’s experience, you have nothing.

Cultural evolutionists will tell you that we need other people to survive. Social psychologists will tell you that we learn everything from the people around us. It’s important to accept that we don’t know everything and that people all over the world have something unique and meaningful they can contribute that we can’t.

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8 Things I’ve Learned from Being a Psychotherapist

Leslie Santana

Leslie Santana is currently an MFT student at Cal Poly Pomona and is completing her practicum for the City of Chino Human Services. She was awarded the state stipend for the County of Los Angeles, where she will be completing her licensure requirements.

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APA Reference
Santana, L. (2018). 8 Things I’ve Learned from Being a Psychotherapist. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 21 Feb 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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