The Little Fires Everywhere star revealed why she's been in therapy for years and has no plans to stop anytime soon.

By Arielle Tschinkel
October 25, 2019

Therapy used to be a taboo topic—one that couldn't easily come up in conversation without tension or judgment.

Fortunately, the stigma around therapy is breaking these days, thanks in large part to celebrities who are opening up about their mental health struggles and using their platforms to normalize these issues.

Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/Contributor/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Recently, Kerry Washington and Gwyneth Paltrow sat down for a conversation on Paltrow's Goop podcast to talk about how therapy helps them stay mentally and emotionally fit. (Related: Kristen Bell Shares Ways to Check In with Yourself Amidst Her Own Mental Health Struggles)

Both women noted that when they were growing up, they were given the message—by their families and society in general—that having feelings, let alone expressing them, was a "bad" thing. In fact, Washington joked that her mom sent her to theater school as a kid because she had "too many" feelings. "The message I got was: 'Don't have feelings, and if you're having them, lie about them, and do not be intimate with your feelings,'" Washington told Paltrow.

But now, Washington said she's working on learning to "sit in her own discomfort" rather than push those feelings away. "We are such an escapist society," she told Paltrow. "We want a quick fix, we don't want to feel the feelings, we want to move over the feelings, we want to brush them away. We want to do whatever we can to not feel vulnerable."

Washington credited therapy for helping her make this shift in her mental health. "I found therapy in college, and I think I really needed it," she told Paltrow. "It's been invaluable. I've been in and out of therapy for the majority of my life." (Related: Why Everyone Should Try Therapy at Least Once)

However, Washington said that someone recently questioned her experience with therapy. The person asked whether it was a "problem" that Washington has been seeing a therapist for so many years and whether that might mean she needs to see a different one.

"I was like, 'Oh no, I'm not in [therapy] to be done,'" the Scandal star said of her response to that person. "This is a gift I give myself. The way I have a trainer for my body—this is my mental trainer. Because in my life, I'm always taking new risks. I want to be learning and growing. I want to give myself the mental and emotional support to stay in shape mentally and emotionally—for myself, for my work, for my family. I love [therapy], and I think it's really important."

BTW, Washington is totally right about therapy's similarities to exercise. Research has shown that talking to a therapist is linked with measurable, positive changes in the brain, much like how exercise can lead to visible, physical changes in your body. While a personal trainer might help you learn proper form for a squat, a therapist can teach you things like problem-solving strategies, healthy coping mechanisms, and how to identify and break bad habits—all of which have long-term benefits for your mental health. (FYI, though: It's not a good idea to rely on workouts as your therapy—here's why.)

In Washington's role as a parent, she said she now "tries to have real feelings" in front of her kids, Isabelle and Caleb, telling them "that we all have feelings, and we get to sit in them together and talk it through and be there for each other." (Related: Jessica Alba Shares Why She Started Going to Therapy with Her 10-Year-Old Daughter)

Watch the video below to see Paltrow and Washington discuss therapy, mental health, and more:

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