First and foremost, setting clear boundaries and prioritizing open communication are essential in relationships, and going to therapy is in and of itself a green flag, Gallagher says. In fact, a January 2023 study commissioned by Plenty of Fish found that 77 percent of singles said the benefits of self-improvement (like going to therapy) can extend across multiple areas of life, including dating. Still, too much of a good thing can turn sour, and Gallagher notes, “Singles have some hesitations around their dates overly leveraging ‘therapy speak,’ also known as overusing or mislabeling clinical terms and language to describe certain behaviors.”
OK, so why is thera-posing, or overusing therapy speak, a red flag in dating? Gallagher stresses that therapy is a great tool that can help us communicate in a more constructive way and better understand ourselves and how we act in relationships. “With that being said, everyone and every situation is different, and behavior is nuanced and delicate, so it's important not to generalize or label people in romantic relationships or otherwise,” she explains. Basically, even though someone has been to therapy doesn’t mean they have the knowledge, schooling and tools to communicate as if they’re a licensed professional, whether that means inaccurately “diagnosing” mental health issues or offering “professional” “solutions” to problems.
Let’s say, for example, you’ve been on a few dates with a guy and you’re complaining about something your boss did (harmless, normal stuff). If he’s prone to thera-posing, he might launch into a tangent about how your boss is definitely a narcissist and you should probably start looking for a new job. The thing is, he’s in no way, shape or form qualified to make that diagnosis, and should instead just listen to your qualms and offer support from a distance.
This can also go both ways, of course. If you, as someone who goes to therapy, are tempted to write your date off because an off-the-cuff joke they made reminded you of a TikTok you saw about weaponized incompetence, you might be the one thera-posing. (If you have genuine concerns, take them to your therapist, who is literally paid to work through them with you.)
As for why we’re seeing this trend coming into 2024 (an August 2023 poll of Plenty of Fish users found that 33 percent of singles knew someone who has thera-posed), Gallagher explains that pop culture and social media have catapulted therapy-speak into the mainstream, “and people are identifying or relating to situations or behavior being described in a certain way, and then using this terminology to try and define their own experience or the behavior of someone they’re dating.”
So yes, going to therapy can be a huge asset when it comes to building a healthy relationship—just be wary of coopting the language of professionals with years of experience if you got your degree in art history.