Note: This post contains mentions of suicide and abuse.
Going to therapy can be an extremely healing and eye-opening experience, and in many cases, it can also be life-changing. Recently, redditor u/brittanypdeluca asked people to share the most memorable thing their therapist has said to them, and the responses are illuminating. Here are some of the most enlightening and honest stories:
1."My therapist helped me understand that feelings aren't facts. My feelings aren't a reflection of the actual facts — they just come and go. That was profound for me."
2."I've never had a therapist that I've connected with right away, but I've had a few that said things that stuck with me. Right after my divorce, I told one therapist that I didn't feel like my ex deserved to be happy. He told me that he does, because if my ex-husband is happy, then he'll most likely be a better father to our sons. Another therapist told me that you should never want to be with someone who can't live without you. Why? Because they're with you because they have to be. Instead, choose someone that says they can live without you, but just don't want to. Love is a choice."
3."Something that took a few days for me to process was when my therapist told me: 'Every adult in your life has failed you.'"
4."I've been really struggling the last couple of weeks. I was talking to my therapist about how I feel like, at this point in my life, I should be able to just get over the (horrifically abusive) things that happened to me. She said, 'I think you're amazing! After everything you've been through, you haven't given up, and you keep fighting.' That's exactly what I needed to hear in that moment."
5."'There's a fine line between being understanding and being a doormat, and you don't know where the line is.' I'm still grateful for those words."
6."Whenever I'd say 'I don't know' in a session, my therapist would reply with, 'Are you SURE?' It helped me realize that, yes, I do know, but I'm just keeping it to myself. Now, I have a way easier time sharing with therapists and doctors, and I'm also better at communicating what I need in relationships. That very simple exchange with my therapist changed my life so much."
7."I'll never forget when my therapist asked, 'Why are you trying to please people who are dead?'"
8."My therapist said, 'Your parents tried really hard to fuck you over, and I'm not sure how you've managed to avoid the traps they set in your life.' That took a while to process. As a kid, I tended to believe that everything that'd happened to me was 'normal,' because I wasn't exposed to anything better. I was completely unaware that other kids' parents didn't have addictions because all of my friends had similar parents to mine. Our parents all got high together, drank together, and 'parented' all of the kids in the group. Therapy helped me recall so many deeply buried memories, but it also helped me appreciate life at a time when I didn't really find much value when I looked in the mirror."
9."I was complaining about my teen kids being dismissive and unkind to me, despite the fact that I'm super kind to them. My therapist said, 'Love flows downhill.' I love my kids, but they can turn around and love their own people, who in turn can love their people, etc. Very little of the love comes back to you, and while that may be a huge generalization, my kids are all young adults now, and it's still true. Kids don't give, kids take. So if you have kids and expect them to fill your emotional voids, don't. They won't."
10."One day, I said to my therapist, 'I don't understand why anyone would want to be my friend. I'm BORING.' And her response was, 'That's not your decision.'"
11."I was in alcohol counseling. I went 75 days without a drink, then on day 76, I got wasted. I told my counselor about it, and how I felt incredibly down and disappointed in myself. I told him I screwed up, and that I had to start all over at day zero. He stopped me right there and said, 'Absolutely not. You went 75 days without a drink and then made one mistake. If someone scored a 75/76 on a test, that's still an A, and the teacher may even round it up to an A+. Those 75 days say more about your character than the one day you slipped up. You've learned so much in these 76 days, so now we're on to day 77.' I haven't had a single drink since then, and now I'm five days away from my three-year sober anniversary."
12."My therapist said this to me, and it blew my mind: 'Narcissists are like sharks. When one of them takes a bite out of you, the rest of them can smell it.'"
13."My therapist advised me that being self-aware doesn't always mean that I know everything. I used to talk a lot about how I just knew how a situation would unravel or how someone would react, so she encouraged me to imagine a plethora of different scenarios to actually combat that. For example, if I miss a call from my friend and didn't get back to him that same day, I'm sure he's upset with me. But, maybe he's not. Maybe he had a really busy day and forgot he even called. Maybe he butt-dialed me and didn't even mean to call me. Maybe he would have called again if he really needed something. Maybe it was a call from the matrix. Once the scenarios get bizarre, it helps me realize that I don't know how someone feels unless they tell me, so I shouldn't worry so much about it."
14."'That's not normal.' That might sound like a routine thing to say, but I'd spent so many years driving myself wild because I was so unhappy with my abnormal, lonely life. I was surrounded by relatives saying that I was normal and everything would just sort itself out, so hearing those words from my therapist felt like a huge relief. I'm not crazy, just fucked."
15."I told my doctor I was happy but didn't have any reason to be. I wasn't looking forward to anything, nor was I in a relationship, and he said, 'Do you need a reason to be happy?' I don't know why, but it blew my mind realizing that it was possible to just BE happy."
16."What really changed my perspective on myself and my behavior as a child was when my therapist said, 'I think you acted quite clever. You did what you had to do to get what you needed from your parents.' I made up many illnesses as a kid to get my parents' attention, yet at the same time, I always felt a lot of shame for lying to them. My therapist helped me see this behavior as a strategy to cope with the emotional neglect I'd experienced."
17."My therapist told me that there shouldn't be any pressure when it comes to sex, and I should never have sex unless I want to. I shouldn't have sex to be nice, and I shouldn't have sex only because my partner wants to have it — only if I want to. It turns out that when I got rid of that pressure, I realized that I actually really do like sex. I have other issues to work through, but that alone made a huge difference."
18."Stop worrying about what you should do. What do you want to do?"
19."'You were doing what you could do to survive. You did the best you could, and you are doing the best you can.' That, and explaining the PTSD model to me, was truly the most life-changing moment ever. I see myself and the world completely different now."
20."All my life, my mom has trauma dumped on me, expected me to not have my own feelings, and would bring me around people I wasn't comfortable with. At the time, I went along with it just so that her feelings didn't get hurt. Well, my therapist said, 'You are not responsible for your mother's feelings,' and that stuck."
21."I was told, 'Just because you FEEL fragile, it doesn't mean you ARE fragile.' That was said to me probably a decade ago, and I still think about it multiple times a day."
22."For two months, I planned to escape my house and leave my emotionally and physically abusive family. They were leeching money out of me — I was severely depressed and cried myself to sleep so many times. I couldn't take it anymore. I told my therapist that I was going to leave and never look back. She said, 'Good. You deserve to be happy.'"
23."My therapist said, 'Support. Don't solve.' That made me realize that I can't solve a problem that isn't mine to solve. I was so wrapped up in my mother's problems that I was unable to relax. She was truly on my mind 24/7, and it was to the point where I'd go whole nights without sleep. And because I wasn't present in my own life, it became impossible for me to enjoy my life or appreciate the good around me. I was trapped inside my own head, trying to solve my mother's problems."
24."'What you went through was trauma, so it makes sense that you are reacting like how a trauma survivor would. Sure, you weren't being physically abused, but food insecurity is traumatic. Being raised by people with alcohol addiction is traumatic. Sexual assault is traumatic. Cancer is traumatic.'"
25."When it comes to problems or people, I was told that you can either try to confront the issue, or learn to be okay with it and move on. If you do choose to confront it, it may not change anything, and you'll still have to be okay with it and move on. Either way, you're going to have to move forward."
26."I always felt like I ruined my mother's life, because instead of going to college and living out her dreams, she had me at 19 and married a deadbeat. My therapist told me, 'Your mother had choices, and she could have made one of them.' It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders."
27.Lastly: "After many, many years of trying to help with my oldest son's depression, rehab, hospital stays, and suicide attempts, I was more than overwhelmed. My therapist told me, 'You can't stop him, but you can love him.' That changed everything. I went home and did exactly that. Giving me permission to just love him and stop policing him allowed our relationship to transcend. I loved him fiercely, and I miss him with every fiber of my being. He tried so many things to be okay. Loving him was the best, but I'll see him again."
Not gonna lie, I needed to hear some of these, too. If you've seen a therapist and they said something to you that was memorable or life-altering, let me know in the comments or submit your response using this anonymous form.
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline is 1-888-950-6264 (NAMI) and provides information and referral services; GoodTherapy.org is an association of mental health professionals from more than 25 countries who support efforts to reduce harm in therapy.