Misused therapy-speak is not healthy communication

In the wrong context, therapy-speak manipulates, isolates, and gaslights

Image by: Herbert Wang
Healthy communication is a staple in any successful relationship.

Going to therapy has become increasingly normalized, lending to the rise in the use of mental health jargon in our vocabulary – dubbed “therapy-speak” on TikTok.

Texts between recent exes Sarah Brady and Jonah Hill demonstrate the misuse of therapy-speak in relationships.

In July, Californian surfer, activist, and influencer Sarah Brady took to social media and shared screenshots of her and film star Hill’s text conversations. In the messages, Hill expressed issues with Brady’s friends, who he deemed as being “in unstable places,” and suggested that she only meet them for the occasional lunch or coffee. He asked Brady to turn down modelling jobs he felt were inappropriate and sexual, instead offering her his own financial support.

Violations of Hill’s other so-called boundaries included her posting pictures in revealing bathing suits and surfing with men. For Hill, these qualities weren’t something he wanted in a partner, and he felt by overstepping these boundaries, Brady hurt his trust in the relationship.

Healthy boundaries are meant to clarify the type of ways one person is comfortable with being interacted with. Boundaries ensure partners are on the same page about the rules in their relationship.

However, Hill’s problematic boundaries require Brady to alter her entire lifestyle. As a surfer, posting pictures in swimsuits is a part of her life, and something she shouldn’t have to change to appease a romantic partner.

The public texts reveal Hill tried to set rules for Brady’s life, and used an ultimatum to enforce them. To do this without allowing for any discussion on how Brady could navigate Hill’s discomfort with her lifestyle does more harm to the relationship than good.

Hill voluntarily entered a relationship with Brady. If he didn’t want to be in a relationship with someone who posts pictures of herself in bikinis, then he shouldn’t have dated Brady in the first place.

A hidden consequence of the misuse of therapy speak during a disagreement between two romantic partners is gaslighting. When faced with terms such as “trauma,” “boundaries,” and “abuse” from a partner, it becomes difficult to disagree with their perspective due to the weight of these words.

The misuse of these terms is textbook gaslighting.

That’s where the issue lies in Hill’s messages. His vocabulary is controlling, but presents the veneer of participating in healthy communication. This makes communication all the more difficult for Brady—she’s forced to engage with therapy speak used in a counter-productive way.

While Hill isn’t a villain, he needs to understand the implications of his vocabulary. Hill’s boundaries were ridiculous and restrictive in the context of Brady’s life.

When it comes to romantic relationships, our emotions often influence our mistakes, and often insecurities get in the way of healthy communication. I’m sure we’ve all had moments where heightened emotions led us to say unwise and potentially hurtful things.

At the end of the day, when two people have irreconcilable differences, such as Hill and Brady, the onus is on them to determine their compatibility. If Hill and Brady had done this earlier, I doubt their relationship would have concluded the way it did.


Communication, Jonah hill, Relationships, Sarah Brady, therapy

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