Using Therapy Terms In Your Everyday English Conversations Ep 666

A photo of a therapist working with clients. Dive into British English and grasp key therapy terms!

📝 Author: Hilary

📅 Published:

🎈 Updated On:

💬 3883 words ▪️ ⏳ Reading Time 20 min

📥 Download 13.4 Mb ▪️ 👓 Read Transcript

Unlock The Secrets Of Everyday English With Therapy Terms!

Do you use therapy language in your everyday English conversations? Are you ready for an English therapy phrases challenge? Today's Adept English podcast jumps into the mesmerizing world of "therapy speak". Whether you're an aspiring therapist or a fervent language enthusiast, this is your ticket to learning English fluency like never before.

🔥 Why Choose This Lesson?

  • 📚 Authentic Vocabulary: Grasp therapy terms that have effortlessly seeped into everyday English.
  • 💡 Clear Definitions: Ever wondered what 'toxic', 'trauma', or 'gaslighting' truly mean? Get the real low-down.
  • 🌐 Universal Appeal: Relevant for learners across the globe, from the curious novice to the seasoned polyglot.
  • 👩‍🏫 Expert Guidance: Learn from Hilary, a seasoned psychotherapist with a burning passion for teaching English.
Therapy is about unlocking and unblocking.
⭐ Jane Fonda

✔Lesson transcript:

💼 Don't just learn... Immerse yourself in the authentic, enriching, and sometimes puzzling realm of English language, and come out wiser than ever!

Discover the calming power of language with our new lesson. #EnglishTherapy 🎧 Ever found yourself in the midst of a conversation, feeling like you're sitting on a therapist's couch? Therapy lingo isn't just reserved for the professionals any more; it's trickled down into our day-to-day chats, and today, we're about to demystify it!

Want to get a true taste of Britain? Dive into our lesson and elevate your English! #BritishEnglish Dive in with us as we unveil some of the most popular 'therapy speak' and enrich your English vocabulary, making your conversations more insightful and your English fluency skyrocket. Ready to take a deep dive into the mind and language of an English speaker? 🌐

Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.
⭐ Rita Mae Brown

"Discover English, not as just a language, but an experience." 🌟

More About This Lesson

Unlock the world of therapy language and enrich your British English vocabulary with our insightful lesson. Understand how therapy terms have made their way day-to-day English conversations and unlock a broader mindset to connect on a global scale.

With languages, you are at home anywhere.
⭐ Edmund de Waal

Things you will learn in today's English vocabulary and phrases lesson:

  1. Therapy Speak Intertwined with Vocabulary: The speaker explains therapy terms in English, offering dual value – psychological insights and vocabulary enhancement.
  2. Definition of "Disparaging": Learners get a clear definition and usage of the term, which can be a new word for many.
  3. Explanation of "Psychobabble": Provides context and understanding of a niche term.
  4. Breaking Down the Term "Toxic": Detailed exploration of a popular term in both therapy and casual English.
  5. Comparison of "Trauma" in Therapy and Common English: Demonstrates the nuance in how words can change meaning based on context.
  6. "Trigger" and its Origin: Explains an everyday term and its roots, offering cultural context.
  7. Terms "Accountability," "Agency," "Boundaries" Explained: Clear definitions and usage examples that can aid in daily conversations.
  8. Introduction to "Self-Care": A term increasingly common in modern conversations, making it valuable to know.
  9. Discussion on "Gaslighting": Explores the origin of the term, making language learning a more cultural and historical experience.
  10. Detailed Dive into "Narcissism" and its Variants: Introduces learners to more complex language structures and a wider vocabulary.
  11. Podcast's Repetition Encouragement: The advice to replay the podcast assists in reinforcing learning.

Benefits of our listen & learn approach to learning

  • Cognitive Resilience: Studies reveal that learning multiple languages, especially specialized terms like therapy jargon, boosts cognitive abilities, potentially delaying age-related cognitive decline.
  • Cultural Insight: Dive deep into British English and understand the cultural nuances behind therapy terms, making you more culturally competent.
  • Professional Edge: Equip yourself with therapy jargon in English and gain a competitive edge in international healthcare, HR, and counselling sectors.

Key Points:

  • Therapy terms have trickled down into our regular chats.
  • British English offers unique insights into the cultural view on mental health.
  • There's a connection between multilingualism and cognitive health.
  • English language proficiency can be a professional asset in several fields.
Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.
⭐ Rudyard Kipling
  1. Stay Relevant: Keep your English contemporary and in line with evolving terms.
  2. Genuine Understanding: Prioritize genuine understanding of the language over mere memorization.
  3. Cultural Awareness: Gain the cultural and situational context behind therapy terms.
  4. Community Support: Join a community of learners for a supportive language journey.

🎧 Don't wait! Dive in and let your curiosity drive your fluency journey. Follow and subscribe for more enriching lessons on British English and therapy jargon. 🌍 Every word you learn is a step forward in your #LanguageJourney. Let’s take it together!

Questions You Might Have...

Diving into this lesson is like opening a treasure chest of English jewels; each therapy term you discover is a precious gem, waiting to shine in your vocabulary!

  1. Why is it important to learn therapy jargon in British English?
    Learning therapy jargon in British English not only enriches your vocabulary but also helps you understand various nuanced discussions in British media. As you dive deeper into the language, these terms give you a richer, more layered understanding, much like exploring different genres in literature.
  2. How does exploring therapy jargon improve my fluency in British English?
    By introducing you to less common but highly relevant terms, it challenges your listening and comprehension skills. Remember, fluency isn't just about common phrases; it's about understanding and using the language in diverse contexts, as you would in your native tongue.
  3. Will this lesson help even if I'm not interested in psychology?
    Absolutely! While the focus is on therapy jargon, the lesson is designed to bolster your overall English vocabulary. Think of it as a unique way to expand your word bank while diving into an intriguing topic.
  4. How does enriching my English vocabulary help in real-life conversations?
    You'll find that many of these terms, like 'gaslighting' or 'narcissism', are frequently used in daily conversations, news, and media. Recognising and understanding these terms boosts your confidence and makes your conversations more engaging.
  5. Are there more lessons like this that mix niche vocabulary with general English learning?
    Yes, blending niche vocabulary with regular lessons is a hallmark of an effective learning strategy. It keeps the learning process fresh, intriguing, and more connected to real-world scenarios, ensuring you're always excited to learn more.

Most Unusual Words:

  • Disparaging: Speaking about something in a way that shows you don't have a good opinion of it.
  • Psychobabble: Language that is used by people who talk about mental and emotional health and that is seen as silly or meaningless.
  • Toxic: Harmful or dangerous, often used to describe negative relationships or environments.
  • Trauma: A deeply distressing or disturbing experience.
  • Triggered: To cause an emotional reaction, often because of a past experience.
  • Accountability: The fact of being responsible for what you do and able to give a satisfactory reason for it.
  • Agency: The ability to act in a particular environment or situation.
  • Boundaries: Limits that define acceptable behavior.
  • Gaslighting: Manipulating someone into questioning their own reality or sanity.
  • Narcissism: Excessive interest in or admiration of oneself.

Most Frequently Used Words:


Listen To The Audio Lesson Now

The mp3 audio and pdf transcript for this lesson is now part of the Adept English back catalogue . You can still download and listen to this lesson as part of one of our podcast bundles.

Transcript: Using Therapy Terms In Your Everyday English Conversations

Therapy speak that has become everyday English

Hi there. Have you ever wondered how the language of therapy comes into everyday English? I know that you like listening to things that are ‘psychological’ and for those of you that don’t know - that’s my main job, my main profession. I've been a psychotherapist for over twenty years. Besides my love for therapy, I'm equally passionate about teaching English. And I'm excited to walk you through some popular 'therapy speak', while we also enrich your English vocabulary.

Hello, I’m Hilary, and you’re listening to Adept English. We will help you to speak English fluently. All you have to do is listen. So start listening now and find out how it works.

Dismissing the put-down ‘psychobabble’ - let’s learn something useful instead!

I read an article this week describing ‘common therapy phrases’ or ‘therapy speak’ which has come into everyday English. Often articles in the press - newspapers and online magazines are disparaging about ‘therapy terms’ That’s ‘disparaging’, DISPARAGING and means ‘putting something down, talking negatively about something’. Articles are often ‘disparaging’ and their favourite put-down word is that these terms are all ‘psychobabble’, PSYCHOBABBLE. Writers often use this coverall put-down, instead of taking the time to explore the useful ideas and concepts behind the phrases. The ideas from therapy are useful to everyone if you take the time to understand them. So I thought today I would take some of these therapy terms and give you my own explanations and definitions introducing English language learners like you to these words. And even if you recognise the idea, you may not have heard the English for it. As ever, a useful English language lesson. Let’s get away from the idea of ‘psychobabble’ and into some useful insights instead!

A reminder of our podcast bundles - and credit to the inspiration for this podcast!

Before we get into that, I just want to remind you that there are 100s of English language learning podcasts available on our website at It's your one-stop-shop for enhancing your English listening skills, whether you're lounging on a sunny beach or curled up at home on a wintry evening. Wherever you are in the world, in other words.

Boost Your Learning With Adept English

I also want to give credit where credit is due. The inspiration for this podcast comes from an insightful article I read, entitled 'What really is therapy speak?' by Sandy Cohen. The link is in the transcript. She makes the point that a lot of these psychotherapy phrases and terms that have entered everyday English are sometimes misunderstood and misused. I couldn’t agree more.

Therapy term 1 - ‘Toxic’

Take the term 'toxic', for example, TOXIC. It's a popular term amongst younger generations to describe a harmful relationship. But what does it really mean in therapy? Well, it’s a relationship where you're constantly put down and belittled. It's a recurring pattern and it's damaging - ‘toxic’. We usually use the word ‘toxic’ to mean something ‘poisonous’, a substance that should ‘t be there. If there was a chemical factory that leaked chemicals in the land around - we might say that the land was ‘toxic’ because of the leaked chemicals. A ‘toxic relationship’ can that with a partner, a friend or a family member. Sometimes the work of therapy is helping people recognise their ‘toxic’ relationships and deal differently with them. Often people come to therapy because of the ‘difficult others’ in their lives. Or they may be the person who’s toxic to other people. But the term is also overused, with a relationship perhaps being declared ‘toxic’, when actually the person just didn’t like something the other person had to say about them!


A photograph a therapist working in couples therapy. Boost cultural insight and stand out professionally!

©️ Adept English 2023

Therapy term 2 - ‘Trauma’ and ‘traumatic’

Staying with words beginning with T for a moment, another concept from therapy is that of ‘trauma’, TRAUMA - and the adjective we use - and overuse all the time is ‘traumatic’. Previous podcasts on trauma? In podcast 478, I recommend the leading writer on trauma, Bessel Van der Kolk, and his book ‘The Body Keeps the Score’. Or try podcast 530, where I talk about ‘fight or flight’. So a ‘trauma’ means something very bad that happens to us. It could be a car accident, the loss of a loved one or a health problem which has threatened our lives. It could be an experience in war - trauma is almost inevitable in a war situation. Or it could be something unforeseen that threatens our sense of safety in the world - like your house burning down, or encountering an intruder, a burglar, a thief in your home. Whether the event is ‘traumatic’ or not isn’t determined by the event itself, but by your reaction to it. If after this event, you are changed, you feel like a different person and especially if you can’t process and ‘come to terms with it’ easily, we would call that a ‘trauma’ or a ‘traumatic’ event. You can usually tell a truly traumatic event in someone’s life, because they see their life in two pieces - ‘before the event’ and ‘after the event’. There’s a split point in their life, a ‘before’ and an ‘after’ and things aren’t the same after. That’s when something is truly traumatic. But this term ‘trauma’ gets used of many experiences in life that aren’t really traumatic. It could be a visit to the dentist that was painful and unpleasant - and we might say ‘Oh, it was ‘traumatic!’. But if we’ve forgotten it the next day, it’s hardly a trauma in the true sense.

Therapy term 3 - ‘Triggered’

And the word ‘triggered’ goes with trauma too. A ‘trigger’, TRIGGER is the part of a gun which you squeeze with your finger, when you want to shoot someone or something. And we use ‘trigger’ to mean ‘a stimulus, something we see or hear in our environment, which may in itself be quite benign, quite OK - but which causes us to have a big emotional reaction’. So if you’re traumatised by a medical experience, you may ‘get triggered’ when you enter a hospital to visit a relative. Or if you’re traumatised by a car accident, you may be ‘triggered’ by passing the place on the road where it happened. If we’re using the term ‘triggered’ in its proper sense, it’s a serious, severe reaction. The person experiencing the ‘traumatic trigger’ is taken in their mind back to the original event - and they re-experience it as though it’s happening now. But if you’re in one of those ‘toxic relationships’ I described earlier - we may also use that word ‘triggered’ to mean that certain patterns in that relationship ‘trigger’ or cause a big emotional reaction in us. And that reaction is bigger, because it’s all part of a pattern, there’s a whole history behind it, so we react more. Again the misuse of these terms is rife - common. Like my example of terming a painful experience at the dentist as ‘traumatic’ when we’re fine the following day - it’s an over-statement, an exaggeration sometimes to use these terms and unfortunately, it dilutes the original meaning.

Therapy terms 4, 5 and 6 - ‘Accountability, Agency and Boundaries’

The next three ‘therapy speak’ terms are related - accountability, agency and boundaries. ‘Accountability’ or ‘being accountable’ means ‘accepting our part in a situation’. Sometimes in therapy, the job is helping someone understand that they are ‘less accountable’ than they think. Some people ‘soak up responsibility like a sponge’. And their habit is to feel guilty, especially about things for which they’re not ‘accountable’, or responsible. Helping them see that they’re less accountable than they think, is useful. On the other hand, some people have difficulty owning their ‘accountability’, especially in relationships. Their pattern is more to see others as responsible, or others as ‘wholly responsible’ and they’re unable to accept their part in it. You might call this ‘projecting the blame onto others’. It usually takes rather longer in therapy to address this one. There’s often a lot of investment in not seeing oneself to blame! Agency on the other hand, AGENCY means ‘your sense of your ability to have an effect, to change things, to have power in your world’. Sometimes people lack a ‘sense of agency’ - they’ve lost the ability to take the initiative, see what they can do to solve a problem, sort out their situation. Again sometimes part of therapy is working on someone’s ‘sense of agency’. What can you do to solve your own difficulties? And boundaries? That’s such a therapy term, but an important one. You set a boundary, BOUNDARY - rather like a fence or a wall. ‘That’s my limit, that’s what I’m doing, or that’s where I’m stopping the situation - usually to protect myself’. A boundary might be ‘I am willing to spend time with my father, but if he starts to shout or raise his voice, I’m out of there - that’s my boundary’. The article by Sandy Cohen makes a very important point too, which often is misunderstood by people. She says [Most of the time] ‘... people won’t know your boundaries, so chastising someone for violating your boundaries is a misuse of the term.’ What she means is that ‘we each are accountable, responsible for setting and managing our own boundaries’. So it’s no good telling others off for ignoring our boundaries - they’re not responsible for knowing where our boundaries are. That’s our responsibility. But setting boundaries is really useful - and protective. ‘Here’s what I’m prepared to do, to tolerate, to offer - and here’s where it ends, because I need to look after myself and my wellbeing’.

Listening Lessons

Therapy term 7 - ‘Self-care’

Which brings us neatly onto another therapy term that’s made its way into everyday English - ‘self-care’. ‘Self-care’ means ‘looking after yourself’. Some people have learned to do this naturally for themselves, others struggle and have to learn consciously. Self-care can mean what we’ve just talked about - ‘setting boundaries’ and not offering too much to others or tolerating certain behaviours. But self-care can be as basic as ‘making sure you eat properly, sleep properly’. It can be ensuring you shower, wear appropriate clothing, make sure you socialise enough, take exercise and take care of your health. And of course there’s psychological self-care - which could involve therapy, but which equally might involve reading, yoga, massage, meditation or making music and art. All of these are what we call ‘therapeutic’ and ‘good self-care’.

Therapy term 8 - ‘Gaslighting’

Two more terms in the article I’m going to mention today. The first is ‘gaslighting’ - that’s GASLIGHTING and it’s from the verb ‘to gaslight’. I’ did a whole podcast on this topic, this toxic pattern in relationships - partly because I thought it was an interesting study in the origins of new words in English - and how they enter the language. This term comes from a book and a play! If you want to understand more about ‘gaslighting’, that’s podcast 642.

Download The Podcast Audio & Transcript

Therapy term 9 - ‘Narcissism’

Related to ‘gaslighting’ because people with this personality do ‘gaslighting’ - Narcissism is also on the list. That’s NARCISSISM. Again this is a massive topic in its own right. The famous Narcissistic personality that we’ll recognise? Donald Trump is the archetypal grandiose, overt Narcissist. ‘Grandiose’, GRANDIOSE means ‘full of yourself’, superior, seeking admiration, arrogant and of course, accepting no blame. So Donald Trump, but there are plenty examples - I think maybe Kanye West may tick many of those boxes for Narcissism too! But there are different types of Narcissist - there are those like Trump or Kanye that do Narcissism by positioning themselves ‘above you’, ‘superior’. But there are others, like the Antagonistic Narcissist, who keeps themselves ‘on top’ by criticising others. Then there’s the Covert Narcissist, the Malignant Narcissist, the Communal Narcissist and the Decompensated Narcissist. Narcissism is a much bigger topic, so I’d rather cover it separately - if you’re interested, let us know. Narcissism is also ‘on a spectrum’ - there’s a range - and Narcissism is just one of 10 different personality styles, which are so useful, I think they should be taught to children in schools! Just my opinion!!


Anyway, this is just a quick tour of ‘therapy speak’ that has entered everyday English. As ever, please end us questions or comments or requests for more. And don’t forget to listen to this podcast a number of times, so that your brain can do its English language learning - and you remember the new vocabulary.

Enough for now. Have a lovely day and speak to you again soon. Goodbye.

Thank you so much for listening. Please help me tell others about this podcast by reviewing or rating it. And, please share it on social media. You can find more listening lessons and a free English course at



The voice of Adeptenglish, loves English and wants to help people who want to speak English fluently.
🔺Top of page

TAWK is Disabled

Created with the help of Zola and Bulma