4 Psychological Skills That'll Let You Become Your Own Therapist

Become the guardian of your own mental health.

girl sitting alone thinking Dasha Petrenko / Shutterstock

Before we begin, let’s get some facts straight.

I’m not a therapist. I’ve never even had therapy myself. A few years ago when I was at my lowest and I would have benefited from therapy, I didn’t know that it was an option.

Now that I know how wonderful therapy can be, I’m at a place in life where I don’t think I need it. I listen to my gut a lot — and I know when it’s the right time to start therapy, my gut will tell me to do it.


However, even though I have no real experience with therapy, I have dug deep into this subject. I’ve read tons and tons of articles about psychotherapy in an attempt to understand my mind better. Even in med school, the subject that pulls my attention a lot is psychiatry.

And among the many lessons I’ve learned about therapy so far, one is that the eventual point of therapy might be that you don’t need a therapist to give you therapy — that you become, in the truest sense, your own therapist.

That’s what I’m trying to do with my life. To that end, I want to discuss four psychological skills that might help you walk this path as well. Let’s dive in.


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Here are 4 psychological skills that'll let you become your own therapist:

1. Learn to reject your first thought about stressful situations

Since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you

This is an excerpt from one of my favorite poems "Since feeling is first" by E. E. Cummings. The gist of this excerpt is that we observe the world firsthand through a lens clouded with emotions and feelings.


By this, Cummings wants to say that when a man sees a pretty girl, he feels emotion before anything else. After which, other voices in his head might talk him out of asking the girl out — voices of reason and logic that might say that getting into a relationship is not a priority at the time.

However, Cummings argues that a man should indeed ask the girl out because any amount of logic, reason, and maturity will feel pale in comparison to the raw joy of a first kiss.

It’s a beautiful poem indeed. You should check it out. However, what catches my attention here is that Cummings was spot on when he argues that we feel emotion before anything else.

And it is exactly why we should learn to reject our first thoughts. Our first thought in response to any situation is drenched with emotion, and in keeping with the biases, we have in our lives.

  • While thinking about a fight we recently had, we might think that we weren’t at fault — but that thought might be rooted in the bias "I can never be wrong" which is trying to protect our egos in the short term, but is actually disastrous in the long term.
  • While thinking about a career switch, the first thought invariably has to be rooted in fear — which might delay or even prevent us from pulling the plug.

First thoughts rarely ever carry the credibility that might warrant decisions based on them. Yet, so many of us take it as the final word. We never question its credibility. It’s because we were never taught to foster a baseline skepticism towards our own mind— which is often, quite notoriously, the biggest liar in our lives.

This is why it’s necessary that you learn to reject your first thought about situations. Question its credibility. Strip it off of its power by asking yourself a million introspective questions. Try to take out the emotion and neuter the biases with just as much skepticism. Always remember, your mind lies to you.

When you reject your first thought and force yourself to think without emotions driving the thought process, you’re more likely to find the truth about situations. And isn’t ‘Truth’ the essence of therapy?

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2. Take responsibility even when you think you’re not responsible

I believe most people misunderstand the word responsibility. For instance, are you responsible if you lose both your hands in a train accident? Certainly not, right? After all, you weren’t the driver of the train.

However, when we think about what responsibility truly means, a different perspective unfolds in front of us.

The word is simply a sum of two words. "Responsibility = Response + ability." Which means, having the ability to respond.

Take the story of Ibrahim Hamadtou. He’s the one who actually lost both of his hands in a train accident when he was young. What do you think he did? Denied responsibility and blamed his luck for the misfortune he suffered? Nope. He took responsibility.


He grew up to be a professional table tennis player and represented his country in the Paralympics. Yes, he plays table tennis even though he has no hands. How? He holds the racket in his mouth.

Therapy is about healing yourself. It’s about being self-sufficient and finding your own peace of mind. But that cannot happen if you avoid responsibility.

Even in situations when the people around you are clearly at fault, learn to take responsibility. By doing that, you convey to yourself that YOU retain the ability to respond. Yes, you cannot control people’s actions, and you cannot control every little thing that happens to you. But you always retain the ability to choose how you respond.

  • When people around you are cynical, bitter, and negative — you can choose to not let their negativity affect you.
  • When people around you wrong you, instead of anger and vengeance, you can choose to be empathetic by understanding that no happy person ever wrongs others. And perhaps if they’ve wronged you, it’s because they’re suffering themselves.

Understanding this does not mean turning a blind eye to people’s actions. No. It simply means that sooner or later you have to realize that the only person you have total control over is you.


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3. Trace back your characteristic traits to their roots 

Here’s a blunt question for you — in what ways did your parents mess you up? Yes. I’m not asking whether or not they messed you up. I’m asking in what ways they did — banking on the certainty that they did in fact mess you up.

As we grow up, we realize that our parents are not the perfect people we believed them to be. There comes a point where we take them off the pedestal we put them on in our childhood when we realize that they’re just humans — capable of making mistakes — just like the rest of us.

You see, for the first (more or less) 18 years of our lives we’re restrained to an institution we call home with overseers we call parents. In these formative years, it’s only natural that some gaps sneak into our path toward emotional maturity — as well as some scars.


And it’s not necessary for something particularly disturbing, sinister, or illegal to have happened to us in our childhood for those events to scar us. No. A seemingly normal or mundane event like a loud argument between our parents might be enough to micro-traumatize us in our childhood due to our vulnerable and fragile emotional selves.

Hence, it’s quite probable that our need for therapy in our adult lives might have its origin in our childhood. And hence, it’s a good idea to try to trace back our peculiar traits to their roots.

For instance, I’m an excessively independent individual. I don’t like to depend on people or expect a lot from them. That’s because as a child, I did expect a lot from people — and so I was disappointed a lot. That disappointment was partly because of my own high expectations, and partly because of the failure of people to deliver on even my modest expectations.

Either way, I didn’t like being disappointed. So unknowingly — as defense mechanisms often emerge — I grew fiercely independent. This is great at times, but it also proves as an obstacle to the growth of my relationships because of my lack of courage to be vulnerable.


Now that I know why I am who I am, I can try to work on some of the traits that might become hindrances in my life. But it only happened because I bothered to trace back my traits to their roots.

This is why I try doing this exercise often —not just with myself, but with others as well. Because, A, it’s good practice. And B, it helps me understand why people are who they are by looking at the cores of their emotional assemblies— which helps me empathize with them, instead of judging them by simply looking at the surface.

4. Get out of your own life

The reason a therapist is able to help you is that they’re knowledgeable, and at the same time, they are able to look at your life from the outside. This means that their perspective about your life will be free from biases, emotional hindrances, and prejudices.


However, the disadvantage here is that while the therapist might be able to understand your major emotional structure, he’ll be perpetually ignorant of the minor subtleties of your emotional complex. That’s because no matter how knowledgeable, they’re not the ones living your life.

You, on the other hand, are privy to all of your emotional subtleties. You know your desires, insecurities, and fears better than anyone else. However, the disadvantage in your case is that you’re plagued with biases, emotions, and prejudices. Which is what prevents you from helping yourself.

But think about it — if you’re able to look at your life from the outside — won’t you be able to help yourself better than a therapist — given the fact you know yourself like no therapist ever can? This, of course, is much easier said than done. Being able to objectively look at your own life means working on a lot of things —

  • It means learning to be skeptical about what you believe so that you’re able to neuter the millions of biases you harbor.
  • It means being able to move from prejudices to postjudices. Which essentially means forming opinions after examining the facts, not before.
  • And it means trying to reject your emotion-drenched thoughts and instead relying on objective reasoning to find the truth and make decisions accordingly.

If you’re able to do this, you’ll get a birds-eye view of your own life, and you’ll understand yourself better than ever. Of course, this won’t happen overnight. What I’m suggesting is you start working on this today — and eventually over the years, you will be able to get out of your own life whenever the need arises.


By writing this article, my attempt is to help you become better at assessing and healing your own life. However, this article is in no way a replacement for an acute need for therapy. In times like that, seeking the help of a professional might be the best step to take.

Yet we also need to keep in mind that since it’s our lives and we have to live it 24/7, it’s also necessary that we learn how to heal ourselves adequately. Here are 4 principles that might help you do the same:

  • Learn to reject your first thoughts. They’re often drenched in emotions, and they’re often not true.
  • Take responsibility even when you feel you’re not actually responsible.
  • Look for the origins of your peculiar traits.
  • Get out of your own life by minimizing — if not eliminating — the influence of emotions, prejudices and biases on your thought process.

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Akshad Singi, M.D. has been published in Better Humans, Mind Cafe, and more.