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Five Things I Have Learned From My Therapist

There are some things I need to be taught, that I cannot learn for myself.  If I had my way, I would mire myself in binge-eating, TV marathons, smoking, drinking and drug-taking all enveloped in a toxic bubble of anxiety and depression.  It’s an easy, seductive path I get lured down occasionally.  But with help and inspiration from others, especially my therapist, I can pull myself out of that hole and into life.

Here are five things I have learned from my therapist that I could not teach myself.

1.  Exercise -v- antidepressants.

A good brisk walk with the dog on the beach, at the local cemetery and seeing kangaroos, around the block, along the river and over the hills sets me up for the day in a way that a sleep-in, bacon and eggs and morning TV cannot.  Exercise releases endorphins and even though I have a crafty ciggie and cappuccino post exercise, those endorphins last for the better part of the day.

2.  Go green and plant a veggie patch.

I’ve managed to grow and cultivate some tomatoes, lettuces, snow peas, bok choi and chilli plants as well as a few herbs.  I water every day, weed and fertilise with horse manure.  At dinnertime I pull a bunch of green stuff from my garden that I grew and stick it in the family casserole, slow cooker or soup.  We bake our own bread in our breadmaker.  It feels good.  It heals the heart and soul.  It gives me a reason to want to eat healthy.

3.  It’s OK to fall out with people occasionally.

My therapist has the most amazing people skills, yet she has fallen out with people who longer wish to socialize with her.  That kind of does my head in till I remember not all people view her as an extraordinary person.  It’s validating for me to know others have relationships that don’t work.  All the world is not holding hands and singing Kumbaya, My Lord with me looking at the warm inner circle from the cold and chilly outer.

4.  Spend time connecting with yourself.

Yoga, breathing classes, meditation, walks with the dog, swimming, running, bike-riding, reading, gardening and even cleaning the bathroom are all ways to get in touch with how you feel about yourself and your situation.  Non-judgemental mindfulness – seeing situations without putting a spin on them can sometimes crack the code of what really happened, why I think that way, why who did what to whom and why it matters so much?  In a few months time how important is this?  Will it matter any more?  All things do have an entropy factor and are evanescent.  They just tend to live in our minds longer than they should.

5.  It’s OK to be ordinary and mundane.

It’s the little things in life that make me feel good.  Twice last week we had a family dinner where the conversation lasted longer than the food.  I drove my son to school and we talked about what he could have said when someone said something horrible to him, all the different answers we thought of weeks after the event — the perfect answer designed to make him feel good and put this person in their place.  We had some laughs and poignant moments but we both felt better afterwards.

I finally made some friends at Uni and had a coffee with them.  The common denominator here is relationship.  Being with and connecting with people.  It’s people who make me feel good, most of the time.  It’s keeping my identity intact and together when someone thinks I should go to hell and stay there.  It’s being consistent about how I feel about myself regardless of life’s circumstances.  It’s about creating new memories and forging new and better neural pathways over the same old disaffirming ones.

We are not the sole result of all the mistakes in our life.  Life is not perfect, it just is.

Five Things I Have Learned From My Therapist

Sonia Neale

Sonia Neale was recently awarded the Inaugural Barbara Hocking SANE Australia Fellowship to study and research Borderline Personality Disorder overseas in the USA, Canada, UK and Ireland. Her previous Psych Central blog was called Therapy Unplugged. She is the author of two books, The Bad Mother’s Revenge and Death by Teenager, both published by ABC Books/Harper Collins. She lives in Western Australia, is married with three adult children, has studied psychoanalytic psychotherapy, has a Certificate IV in Mental Health and is studying for a Psychology/Counselling degree. She currently works as a peer support worker in the mental health field. Please email her on davson at

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APA Reference
Neale, S. (2010). Five Things I Have Learned From My Therapist. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 10 May 2010
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