People Revealed The Toxic Vs. Brilliant Things Therapists Have Said To Them, And Their Stories Are Eye-Opening
"There's no reason I should tear my walls down. I could add doors and windows so I'd have control over who and what I let in."
We asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us the best *and* worst thing a therapist has ever said to them (to illustrate both sides of the therapy experience). Here are the eye-opening results.
Warning: Some submissions include topics of sexual assault, suicide, and domestic abuse.
Note: There isn't one "typical" therapy experience. Everyone's stories are different, and if it hasn't worked for some, that doesn't mean it hasn't worked for others.
1. The bad: "In my mid-twenties, I went to see a therapist for the first time because I was struggling with anxiety. The therapist asked out of the blue if I had ever had sex, and I told him I hadn't (I'm asexual, but I didn't know it at the time). He suggested that I just needed to get laid because it was a great stress reliever and would help me 'loosen up.'"
2. The good: "I'm someone who always puts what makes me happy on the back burner. My therapist looked at me and literally said, 'Fuck shit up.' She told me to do whatever I wanted because no matter what the reactions would be, it'd be MY mess I created with my own free will."
3. The bad: "I was taken to a religious therapist as a child, and it didn't take me long to figure out she was recording me and replaying it to my abusive parents, who then punished me for telling her things (things I needed therapy for). She said that because they were my 'God-given family,' they were obviously in the right and I was lying."
4. The good: "I often struggle with feelings of guilt due to PTSD and anxiety, so I apologize excessively. My therapist told me to replace 'sorry' with 'thank you.' So instead of telling people, 'Sorry, I'm having a stressed-out day," I say, 'Thank you for being supportive of me.'"
5. The bad: "During the pandemic, we were obviously meeting via Zoom. She thought the call had ended, and I heard her say, 'Jesus Christ, she's fucking exhausting.' I immediately texted her to call her out; she started and stopped typing a few times before asking to speak to me after she finished with the rest of her appointments. I had really liked her, so I was torn. I told her I would reach out when I was ready, but I wasn't able to get past it, and my therapy came to an abrupt end. It was already hard opening up to someone. After that, I was completely soured."
6. The good: "She suggested that I think of myself as a full cup, and every time I focused on solving someone else's problems before my own, someone was taking a sip. The more people sipped, the emptier my own cup would be."
7. The bad: "An old therapist once told me, 'You're too young to be feeling these things; they're all fake. Have you started your period yet? Did these things happen on your period?' No, the self-harm and suicide attempts didn't happen on my period."
8. The good: "Using the word 'always' can be dangerous. Telling someone that you'll 'ALWAYS be there for them' can interfere with your well-being and can unintentionally open you up to emotional issues you don't necessarily need or want to deal with. Setting boundaries is key, and true friends will understand when you mentally cannot be there for them all the time."
9. The bad: "A psychologist said we didn't have to talk about my experience with sexual assault because I 'didn't have nightmares about it anymore.' Mate, all of my dreams and nightmares are absolute incoherent nonsense. What about my actual conscious thoughts?"
10. The good: "Remember that emotional intelligence and skills — such as resilience and compassion — are no different from any other forms of knowledge. They aren't traits you're born with or not. They all take practice, and you have to actively involve yourself in the learning process."
11. The bad: "I was dealing with pretty significant postpartum depression after having my first child. I started seeing a male therapist who told me that I didn't have depression, I just needed 30 minutes of cardio a day. He told me that 'getting my body back' would help me snap out of it."
12. The good: "Let your good thoughts talk to your bad ones. It helps you slow down and address the 'irrational' parts of your concerns, and appreciate your good qualities and experiences."
13. The bad: "He began our session by asking questions about my experiences and things my siblings had been through. One of the things I disclosed to him was that my sister was raped when she was a teenager. During our next session, he was reading from his notes and said, 'I see you were raped at 16,' and before waiting for me to correct this *massive* piece of incorrect information, he went on to say, 'While you were being raped, Jesus was there being raped with you.'"
14. The good: "When dealing with the inevitable end of my marriage, my therapist told me, 'You didn't break him, so you don't have to fix him.' Those words finally gave me permission to let go."
15. The bad: "They said my being groomed for abuse was something I willingly participated in because I liked setting the 'rules of the game' and then breaking them. First off, the person being groomed has very little control over anything. Second, WHAT?! If I 'enjoyed' it so much, why am I here in therapy?"
16. The good: "My therapist told me it's easy to look back with the experience I have now and express what I would've done differently, but at the time, I was working with the knowledge I had then. So I shouldn't be angry with myself for making the decisions I did based on the information I had — it's helped me go a long way toward forgiving myself and healing."
17. The bad: "After I told one therapist about my trauma, she told me I was 'choosing to think about it' and 'just stuck in the past.' Another one was very annoyed when I started crying, and when I eventually started dissociating, she said it was a 'therapy-avoidant behavior' that I was doing because I didn't get what I wanted by crying."
18. The good: "I'm in grief counseling because my dad passed away. One of the most important things she has told me is that not everything has to have a silver lining. It doesn't have to be, 'He died and it sucks, *but* at least he didn't suffer long.' Sometimes things just suck, and it's okay to live in that suck for a bit."
19. The bad: "I was sexually abused by a family member and ran away to my then-boyfriend's house, which was a safe place for me. My therapist said, 'Why do you think he did it? Are you sure you didn't just imagine it, because I see no reason why he would have done that. Maybe you wanted to believe that so you could run away with your boyfriend.'"
20. The good: "Don't let the potential thoughts of others affect your actions or the way you feel about yourself. It really helped me to stop worrying about what other people think, mostly because they're probably not thinking of the things I'm so worried about. It's taken a long time for me to really start taking this to heart, but I've been a lot happier since."
21. The bad: "Once, when I was in therapy, I talked to my therapist about the hatred I received because I'm a lesbian, and she really said, 'Maybe just try being straight.' Wow...thanks for the AMAZING advice."
22. The good: "She said there's no reason I should tear my walls down. I could add doors and windows so I'd have control over who and what I let in."
23. The bad: "I was in a new relationship and talking about how I was scared I'd ruin it. My therapist said, 'Do you think you're being needy? Because of your abusive childhood, you're likely to be needy, and that scares men away — so don't do that.' I never saw her again after that."
24. The good: "One of my therapists told me, 'Just because you're in therapy doesn't mean people should expect you to help them with their problems. The next time someone seeks your advice, tell them you're not professionally equipped to give them therapy, and they should seek a therapist of their own.'"
25. The bad: "When I saw a therapist after having suicidal thoughts and self-harming, she asked me why I didn't just go through with it. I said, 'I got caught and the police escorted me to hospital.' She replied, 'Well, if you were really serious about it, you'd be dead right now instead of wasting my time.' I never went back to her after that."
26. The good: "Life is like the ocean, and it'll have calm waves and rough waves that are difficult to swim through. The rough waves will never stop, but each time you go through them, you become a better swimmer and know how to navigate through them the next time around."
27. The bad: "I was married and a mom of three kids when I started seeing a therapist for panic attacks. The male therapist asked me if I had an identical twin sister who happened to be single — he was a pig."
28. The good: "I haven't been to therapy in several years, but I still use something my therapist taught me every damn day: There are some things that are outside of your control, and it's no use trying to stop them or 'fix' them. If something's going to happen, let it happen — the only thing you can control is your own reaction to something, not the thing itself."
29. The bad: "I was in therapy dealing with the fact that my father didn't really know how to be one and was never there, which caused me to try to be perfect (which, SPOILER ALERT, isn't healthy). My therapist told me I needed to try harder and that if I found something my father actually cared about, he'd be a better dad. I explained that I had already emulated as much as I could from his high school years (soccer, choir, etc.), but she insisted I hadn't done enough."
30. The good: "They said, 'Happiness is like putting clean sheets on your bed — the only way to enjoy them is to be in them, but it also means you need to wash them again. Achieving happiness isn’t about staying happy — it’s understanding how to get there again and again after everything gets dirty.' My mind was blown."
31. The bad: "When telling a new therapist about my experience with sexual assault, she told me, 'He must've not been that bad a guy if he wore a condom! If he was really a rapist, he wouldn't have bothered.'"
32. And the good: "Hearing negative messages from my family about my sexual orientation and religious views messed me up badly. My therapist said that they won't correct the wrong, but I can change the way it impacts me by learning radical acceptance, unconditional love for myself, and healthy boundaries. She also said, 'You are fucking precious — period. No matter what they say or do to you, you are wonderful, and you have the right to exist.'"
Note: Some submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.