For mental health professionals, the wisdom of psychotherapists, philosophers, and other thinkers can be a valuable way to improve their therapeutic approach. Whether through books, lectures, or memoirs, studying psychology and psychotherapy from various perspectives can deepen your understanding of your clients and the issues they are facing.
Below, you can find a curated selection of inspiring quotes that can help you hone your approach, deepen the therapeutic relationship, and transform your practice. These quotes come from some of the most well-respected thinkers in the field of psychology and self-help, and, in addition to remembering these maxims, therapists may benefit from studying their works more deeply.
Inspiring Quotes For Therapists
If you’re a therapist or mental health professional looking for inspiration, here are some quotes that may resonate with you. You will also find some background information on the authors of these quotes, as well as a brief exploration of how these ideas can help you enhance your therapeutic approach.
- “Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.” – Brené Brown
In her 2010 book titled The Gifts of Imperfection, clinical social worker, author, and professor Brené Brown writes about the importance of vulnerability and connection in overcoming shame and connecting with others. For therapists, it can be especially important to create spaces where clients feel comfortable opening up and expressing vulnerability. For therapists, too, displaying vulnerability through self-disclosure can be a powerful tool for creating a strong therapeutic relationship.
- “The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” – Carl Rogers
Psychologist Carl Rogers’ On Becoming a Person has been one of the most popular books for therapists since it was first published in 1961. In it, Rogers outlines his philosophy on effective, client-centered therapy, as well as some basic tenets of personal growth. This quote can serve as a reminder to therapists and their clients to remain mindfully present in the growth process, pursuing progress rather than perfection.
- “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Viktor Frankl
This quote from Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning encapsulates the central message of his landmark book, in which he describes his experiences at a concentration camp during the Holocaust. Survival, he explains, often depends on a person’s response to hardship and pain, rather than the pain itself. This philosophy offers a powerful reminder to therapists who are helping clients through trauma: as a mental health professional, you have the power to create a safe therapeutic space for reflection, mindfulness, and intentionality.
- “Therapy should not be theory-driven, but relationship-driven.” – Irvin D. Yalom
This quote summarizes the central thesis of Yalom’s 2001 book The Gift of Therapy—the therapeutic relationship is of critical importance to the process, and ought to be prioritized over theoretical or technical considerations. Particularly for therapists just starting out in their career, remaining mindful of the dynamic between oneself and the client can help mitigate issues such as countertransference, bias, and projection. While theories can provide a practical framework for therapists, successful therapy often hinges on the therapeutic relationship.
- “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche was a German scholar who had a significant influence on contemporary philosophy. This quote comes from Nietzche’s 1889 book Twilight of the Idols, or, How to Philosophize with a Hammer, which explores and challenges many of the underlying beliefs of European philosophy and religion. This maxim underscores the role of meaning and life purpose in human well-being, an idea echoed in humanistic and existential therapies. Therapists may find value in fostering conversations about existential concerns with clients, as these issues can sometimes contribute to mental and emotional health issues.
- “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
Empathy and encouragement can be vital cornerstones of the therapeutic process, and this quote from Maya Angelou accentuates the importance of prioritizing the therapeutic relationship. While mental health professionals may be a source of practical guidance and wisdom, therapy is often most valuable when clients feel heard, understood, and supported by their therapist.
- “Addiction begins with solving a problem, and the problem is that of human pain, emotional pain. The first question is not why the addiction, but why the pain.” – Dr. Gabor Maté
Dr. Gabor Maté is a Canadian physician, author, and expert in addiction and trauma. This quote can serve as a reminder to therapists that treating addiction often involves a holistic approach that addresses underlying issues as well as the addiction itself. Whether managing and treating substance use or compulsive behavior, mental health professionals can help clients understand and work through past traumas while simultaneously helping them through active recovery.
- “People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” – Thích Nhất Hạnh
Known as the “father of mindfulness,” renowned Vietnamese monk Thích Nhất Hạnh offers therapists valuable wisdom for understanding the nature of hardship and adversity, core ideas in Buddhism. This quote may be worth remembering in situations where clients are having difficulty making the changes discussed in therapy. When progress stalls, it may be worth exploring the source of a client’s fear, apprehension, or lack of confidence to get them back on track.
- ″Not causing harm requires staying awake. Part of being awake is slowing down enough to notice what we say and do. The more we witness our emotional chain reactions and understand how they work, the easier it is to refrain. It becomes a way of life to stay awake, slow down, and notice.″ – Pema Chödrön
In her seminal 1996 book When Things Fall Apart, American Tibetan-Buddhist teacher and nun Pema Chödrön offers a helpful framework for understanding the effects we can have on others. For therapists, the duty to avoid causing harm to others can be of paramount importance. Therapists are specially trained to learn how to avoid re-traumatizing their clients or creating new psychological harm. Navigating the complexities of the therapeutic relationship often takes significant self-awareness, which Chödrön’s book may assist with.
- “The problem is not the problem; coping is the problem.” – Virginia Satir
American author and psychotherapist Virginia Satir is a leading figure in the field of family therapy, having developed an approach called the Satir Transformational Systemic Therapy. In her book of the same name, she reminds us that mental health and behavioral issues are often a coping mechanism or reaction to some other issue or circumstance. Therapists may find value in exploring these deeper questions with their clients.
- “Through the mechanism of carried shame and carried feelings, the unresolved pain of previous generations operates in families like an emotional debt. We either face it or we leverage our children with it.” – Terrence Real
American family therapist and author Terence Real’s book I Don’t Want To Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression may be a valuable resource for therapists specializing in male mental health. This quote exemplifies one of the book’s main takeaways: left unresolved, individuals may pass down generational trauma to their children. For therapists, understanding the unique struggles that a client’s family has dealt with can be crucial for creating an effective treatment plan.
- “Shame cannot survive empathy.” -Brené Brown
From her 2012 book Daring Greatly, this Brené Brown quote reminds us of the importance of empathy in helping clients work through feelings of shame. For many people, opening up to a therapist may feel new or unfamiliar, and some topics can be particularly challenging to talk about, even in a therapy setting. Thus, it can be crucial for therapists to be mindful of ways to extend clients their utmost support and empathy, such as through active listening, offering validation, and using appropriate body language and tone. When the therapeutic alliance is strong, clients may feel more comfortable being vulnerable during sessions.
Continuing Education For Therapists
In addition to honing your therapeutic approach through books, podcasts, and lectures, continuing education (CE) can be critical to professional development as a therapist. Whether you are looking to improve your overall clinical skills or are working in a specialty area, it may be worth pursuing CE units through online courses or self-study.
Interested In Online Therapy?
If you’re seeking professional development as a therapist, you may consider signing up as a provider on an online therapy platform like BetterHelp. Not only will you have the freedom to decide where and how often you work, but you can also gain access to over 390 continuing education courses upon meeting with your first client. If this is an opportunity that interests you, you can start your application process or reach out for further insight.
Coming from some of the most established names in their fields, these twelve inspiring quotes may serve as a source of wisdom and inspiration for therapists and other mental health professionals. Whether you are just starting your career or are working as a seasoned professional, these quotes encapsulate valuable lessons on the nature of effective therapy, the importance of the therapeutic relationship, and some of the deeper philosophies that may guide mental health treatment. If you are a therapist looking to hone your approach, consider signing up with BetterHelp and getting started with a free CEU.