What Crazy Ex-Girlfriend teaches us about mental health


Crazy Ex-Girlfriend just wrapped up the series, leaving us with some amazing songs.

As a therapist for teens and young adults, watching shows that touch on mental health issues is much like a doctor watching General Hospital - no one is that attractive and making out all the time. They have jobs, you know?

This show touches on mental health issues in real ways. Plus, her therapist is also…good? (Not just someone who holds their temple and says “mmhmm” sagely.” Also, I like to think I’m pretty good at that, too.)

This show is awesome in so many ways. Here are some of my favorite songs that touch on mental illness.

When does drinking become a problem?

Many people use substances like illegal drugs, cigarettes, or alcohol.

How do you know when you start to have problems with substance use?

In this song, Greg realizes that his drinking is causing serious consequences. He feels out of control. Even his friends don’t realize how bad the problem is.

In gauging substance abuse issues for teenagers and young adults, I generally ask three questions:

  • Why?

  • When?

  • What are the consequences?

Are you using alcohol when you’re uncomfortable, bored, or anxious? It could be an unhealthy coping skill.

Are you risking legal trouble and straining close relationships? Your drug use might be taking you away from what matters to you.

Are you failing tests or having trouble at work? These serious consequences may indicate a serious problem.

I use a non-judgmental therapeutic approach to substance use treatment.

We work towards change - in order to give you the life you want.

Personal growth isn’t a straight line

(Confession: this song is my favorite)

So many movies, TV shows, books, etc. have characters follow set arcs. They encounter a crisis and eventually grow, wiser and completely over their previous issues.

Reality doesn’t work like that. Life is messy. It’s filled with complicated situations. Our ability to respond is tempered by how run down we feel, our support systems, and a million other variables.

That story of “I just woke up and my whole life was different” is just a story.

Slipping back into patterns that harm our mental health can be oddly comforting

It’s normal to feel ambivalent about therapy. I know so many people who have wondered “who am I if I don’t feel depressed all the time?”

When we feel a depressive episode creeping up (or a panic attack, etc.), those thoughts and sensations are familiar. But is that the same as feeling comforted and content?

If we get off our routines and neglect self-care, our struggles often pop up again. We can choose how to greet these feelings. At any point, we can continue to spiral deeper, or we can reach out and head towards mental health.

Why is group therapy for teenagers and young adults effective?

Why do I love doing groups?

I can tell you that you’re not alone for the next ten years, and it still wouldn’t have the same effect as actually seeing it with your own eyes.

We are all different, but so many of our struggles are universal. when we see how much we have in common - that’s magical.

How can getting a diagnosis of a mental illness actually make me feel more normal?

If you feel like something’s wrong with you, it’s scary.

If you know that your brain is a jerk (which is never your fault), it’s manageable.

Like with group therapy, there’s something so amazing knowing that it’s not just you. You’re not the only person who feels this way.

Your stress, anxiety, depression - they all can be named, understood, and managed.

Do I need anti-depressants or other medication for my anxiety and depression?

Medication could help!

Taking psychiatric medication is very common and “not a big deal.”

We can talk about whether you think medication might be right for you.

If you want to try it, it doesn’t mean that you’re dealing with something severe or unusual. It just means that you want to find an additional tool to deal with your struggles.

Bonus: As a teenager, what it’s like to graduate from counseling

How do you know when you’re ready to stop therapy?

You burst into an inspirational song!

Not really.

But you’ll take everything you learned with you. Even if you hate sincerity and cheesiness, it feels good to know you’ve grown.


Mental heath support for teens and young adults

Want more support? Read more about our teen counseling services, for things like anxiety, depression PTSD, and body image issues. Or, check out our counseling for transgender teens. If you’want to find out more about starting therapy, feel free to reach out.


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