Therapy speak out of context ruins clarity

Before you say I am “toxic,” “gaslighting” or “manipulative,” I want you to hear me out. Everyday, therapy speak limits the potential of our relationships. What we have been told by mental health professionals has been taken out of their intended settings and has been applied quite literally. 

Therapy speak is a term that encompasses  psychological vocabulary like “setting boundaries,” “self-care” and “codependency.” The term gained attention during the COVID-19 pandemic, when people were at home and had copious time to think about their interpersonal relationships. Internet users gravitated to TikTok, where mental health experts were producing therapy related content using associated lingo. These terms are good to know in the context of relationships and everyday interactions. However, when you are told what to say verbatim by a mental health professional it can abandon any  sincerity and nuance. 

A lot of the verbiage is making us lonelier. The terms may momentarily give people insight into the bigger questions they ask about themselves, yet there is no social solution to be found by using these words. There is rather a series of questions that are raised about moral authority and accountability in everyday life. In therapy speak, there is no simply disliking someone. You must explicitly tell them that they are a narcissist with one sided and manipulative tendencies. 

The other end of the spectrum is just completely ghosting someone and making them endlessly question where they went wrong, which is also absolutely unhealthy. No one will learn anything from just disappearing and not knowing where you stand with someone. This leaves feelings of confusion and shame for those on the receiving end. What is even worse is when someone spends their dear sweet time therapy speaking, then ghosts. As someone who is part-Italian, this is where I appreciate directness and sincerity. You can have a happy medium of making amends while also being vulnerable; it just comes down to patience.

I have no problem with people expressing their needs by setting boundaries in their life. I have no problem with speaking up about mental health. Certainly, I have no problem with someone seeking help for their mental health. Where the problem lies is when therapy speak is used to exclusively express failings of an individual. One will live a sorry and stressful life if they accept conflict and challenges of the world. Instead, I know we can understand how each of us has the capacity, while also being vulnerable. Learning to be specific and using more words to describe your needs in life rather than spilling jargon may get you the outcomes you actually want. 

Therapy speak is not inherently harmful, in theory. The practice of its usage and context is what matters. These terms are not to be gatekept, but it is important that we are mindful of how we use them for those on the receiving end who are not necessarily “manipulative” or “narcissists” (by the way, a Narcissistic Personality Disorder diagnosis is rare). We must consider that not everybody has access to “self-care,” may not yet understand how to “show up” in the way you hope or is confused about expressing how they feel with “love bombing.” 

Subscribe to the Mossy Log Newsletter

Stay up to date with the goings-on at Lewis & Clark! Get the top stories or your favorite section delivered to your inbox whenever we release a new issue. 

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

AlphaOmega Captcha Classica  –  Enter Security Code