Therapy Speak Isn’t Making Us Selfish: It’s a Tool

Warning: This article deals with the topics of anxiety and may be triggering for some readers.

Therapy speak: The art of using the language of a therapist in everyday conversation. Maybe it’s you saying, “My inner child loves this strawberry ice cream I’m eating.” Or maybe it’s you saying, “Mate, you’ve crossed a personal boundary of mine.”

Either way, therapy speak has popped off in recent years. And no, it’s not because having a therapist is vibes or trendy. It’s because this complex psychological field is becoming less stigmatised. People are now a tad less afraid of getting the help that they need, which is a good thing.

However, on April 7, Bustle published an article called Is Therapy Speak Making Us Selfish? And in this article, the author provides some examples of people using therapy speech in a number of crummy ways. Some examples are smaller, like someone who’s constantly cancelling plans in the name of self-care. Others are larger, like a couple accusing one of their friends of being a narcissist. 

Now, it’s worth noting that this article advocates for setting healthy boundaries. But it doesn’t advocate using therapy speak. The thesis of this article is: Using therapy speak is a dangerous path to walk down. 

Which brings us to my own two cents on this matter. Because I don’t believe that therapy speak is making us selfish. Therapy speak is a tool. Like an axe. Or a hammer. It can be used for good and for ill.

For instance, let’s time travel back to March 5 of this year. ‘Cause on this date, my pal Jimmy texted me while I was struggling with my anxiety disorder. An all-to-real anxiety disorder. An anxiety disorder which was making me sway on the edge of a crash.

So, with this in mind, I decided that I couldn’t text Jimmy back that day. I did a bit of self-talk.

What’s more, I said something like, “Joel, set a boundary. Do some self-care. Your mind is currently a tangle of stretched rubber bands. If you don’t slow down, you will snap.”

And I would consider this self-talk therapy speak. Useful therapy speak. Some prescriptive language that helped my mind from snapping. Saying these words to myself prevented my noggin from becoming overstimulated. It gave me the space to calm down.

However, I then proceeded to not text Jimmy back for a few weeks. In the name of self-care. Which wasn’t the right thing to do. In fact, doing so was avoidance. It was making my anxiety worse.

As of April, I’ve texted Jimmy back. I’ve apologised for being a rubbish friend. But I still think therapy speech can be useful. I just need to be a bit more responsible with my tools.

Related: 10 Years Ago, I Tried to Opened Up About My Mental Health

Related: My Dudes, There’s No Shame in Taking Meds or Going to Therapy for Your Mental Health

If this article brings up any issues for you or anyone you know, or you think you may be experiencing anxiety or need support with your mental health, please contact your GP or in Australia, contact Lifeline (13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) or Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636), all of which provide trained counsellors you can talk with 24/7.

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