I’m a Therapist Who Wrote the #1 Book on Happiness, Yet I Still Go to Therapy

Two women in a therapy session.

Verywell / Catherine Song

I’ve worked as a therapist for almost 20 years. My book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do often ranks number one in the happiness category on Amazon—out of millions of other books.

Altogether, I’ve written four books on mental strength. They’re translated into more than 40 languages and have hit bestseller lists across the globe.

I’m the editor-in-chief of Verywell Mind, the biggest mental health website in the world. I also host The Verywell Mind Podcast

However, my education, expertise, and accolades don’t make me immune to hardship and emotional distress.

Like most everyone else, I’ve been through tough times. My mom passed away from a brain aneurysm when I was 23. Three years later, my 26-year-old husband died of a heart attack.

Losing the two people who were closest to me did a real number on me. It took years to work through my grief and accept how those losses changed me.

Fortunately, I have a great life now. I live on a sailboat in the Florida Keys. I get paid to write books and interview amazing people on the podcast. Yet I still see a therapist because I want to make sure I’m living my life to the fullest.

Therapy Helps Me Feel My Best

If I’ve learned anything from my losses, it’s that life is short. So I want to make sure I enjoy every precious minute to the best of my ability.

I don’t pressure myself to be happy all the time, though. Tolerating distress helps me learn and grow.

Managing uncomfortable feelings is also key to healing emotional wounds. And allowing myself to feel unpleasant emotions helps me appreciate the more pleasant ones, like happiness.

My therapist points out times when I allow my emotions to cloud my judgment. And sometimes he helps me problem-solve specific issues I’m facing.  

Talking to a therapist helps me connect a lot of the dots in my life. Just saying things out loud to an objective person helps me understand myself better.  

Quite often my therapist says the same things to me that I say to the people who come into my office. Hearing my therapist say these things out loud helps me recognize when my thoughts are irrational (despite seeming quite believable inside my own head).

Mental Health Fluctuates

There have been many times in my life when my mental health suffered. I grew up an anxious kid who probably met the criteria for a host of diagnoses, ranging from separation anxiety to social anxiety.

Losing my mother and my husband actually cured a lot of my anxiety in a strange way. I figured the worst possible things that could happen had already occurred—and that put things in perspective. Suddenly, small things like public speaking no longer felt scary.

Dealing with the death of my loved ones introduced new fears into my life, though. There are times I’m convinced the people around me are going to die at any given moment. 

My brain tries to convince me that a loved one’s cough is likely a sign of deadly pneumonia or that their paper cut is probably going to turn into a lethal infection. Seeing a therapist helps me make sense of the lies my brain tells me.

There are times when I feel quite mentally strong. And then, there are days when I feel I have no business being the person who literally wrote the book on mental strength

The Stigma Attached to Therapy

There’s a belief that if you talk to someone, you must have serious problems. I grew up thinking that way.

I come from a family where mental health problems and substance abuse issues are rampant but rarely mentioned. When the topic can’t be avoided, we use words like “chemical imbalance” because it sounds better than “schizophrenia.”

When I studied psychology and mental health in college, I learned that there aren’t two groups of people in the world—the mentally healthy and the mentally ill. Instead, everyone struggles with mental health issues at one time or another.

I also learned that we can’t control all aspects of our mental health. Genetics, life experiences, and personality are major factors in mental health.

We can, however, take steps to manage our mental health the best we can. For me, seeing a therapist is one of the things that helps me feel my best.

I realize that not everyone has the luxury of attending therapy. But if you do, I highly recommend it (even if you’re already doing OK in life). Talking to someone might help you reach your greatest potential.

Was this page helpful?