Six Therapy Tools learned from Never Have I Ever Show

Move over Euphoria. There’s a new show in town – or I should say new season of a show you could actually watch with your mother.

…We’re talking about the Mindy Kaling Netflix hit Never Have I Ever. Before you get “the icks” (a term developed on TikTok and Instagram, describing the moment when attraction to a current or potential partner suddenly flips to disgust) at the thought of the game you played in middle school, take a beat. This is an AMAZING SHOW!!!!

We give full permission to binge watch the first two seasons before Season 3 hits sometime this summer…not only is it full of laugh-out-loud moments, it also has some great lessons about friendship, love and belonging.

There are so many cool storylines and lessons in this show, we couldn’t even begin to cover them all in one blog post. But here’s a quick synopsis of Season 1.

The main character is Devi, a first-generation Indian-American teenager. Aside from the challenges of being a super smart and competitive student, Devi struggles with her identity and her relationship with her mother. Devi has also suffered a great tragedy, having lost her dad her freshman year of high school when he had a heart attack at her symphony concert.

And of course, there are challenges with boys. After approaching the hottest guy in school, Paxton Hall-Yoshida, Devi finds herself stuck in a lie…and having to maintain it.

This coming-of-age show takes an honest look at many issues that teenagers face in a realistic, upli way. And did I mention that Devi has an awesome therapist, Dr. Jamie Ryan, played by Niecy Nash?

Even for those of us no longer in high school, the show feels not unlike sitting on a couch in a therapist’s office.

Here are six of our favorite lessons from the show.

1. Fitting in is the opposite of belonging.

Devi is really struggling and desperately wants to fit in after the traumatic event of losing her father. Her plan to fix everything is to get a boyfriend, and she convinces her two besties that this will be the defining moment of their sophomore year. But as she struggles to fit in, everything she does moves her away from actually belonging.

Here’s a quote from the Gifts of imperfect Parenting, an amazing audiobook from Brené Brown: “First, the definition: Belonging is the innate human desire to be a part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in, and by seeking approval.”

We have all had moments when we feel like we don’t belong anywhere, even at home. And as the research shows us, the biggest barrier to belonging…is actually trying to fit in. Crapola!

As Brené describes, “Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”

2. Fries before guys/ Donuts before dudes/dudettes, Pizza before partners

These are all the PG versions of this saying; however, no matter what cute phrase you use, it’s always a struggle to balance friends and romantic partners.

Unfortunately, Devi learns this the hard way. Not only does she lie about having sex to her friends  (again, in order to fit in and be “popular”), she also ditches her friends in their time of need to be with her crush.

Luckily, with the assistance of her therapist, she learns the technique of apologizing and finally makes amends to her friends. Unfortunately, towards the end of Season 1, Devi finds herself in another romantic disaster known as the love triangle.

3. Grief is like an onion.

After losing her father, Devi learns that just like an onion, grief has many layers that sometimes make you cry. Navigating the stormy waters of grief can be the first experience that has us deep dive into finding a therapist.

One of the best things I have heard about grief lately was on an episode of Brené Brown’s podcast Unlocking Us. Brené interviewed David Kessler, a student of Kubler-Ross, the guru of grief so to speak.

In the episode, Dr. Kessler explains that Kubler-Ross never wanted the stages of grief to be linear. She actually intended them to be more circular, meaning that each person’s experience during grieving is personal and individual, and that there are no “bad” feelings when it comes to grief.

Onions have layers, and as each layer dies off, it allows for a new layer – and eventually a flower.  Grief is hard and sometimes the goal is just to put one foot in front of the other. Just like the onion growing a flower, healing and peace can offer great comfort when grieving.

Dr. Jamie Ross, Devi’s therapist,  suggests a grief journal as a way to express and write down her feelings. We love that idea.

4. The body keeps score and it always wins. Some would say the body is a sore loser, pun intended. 🙂

In Season 1, we discover that Devi suffered a great loss in her life, the death of her father. One day, during swim practice, she suddenly loses her ability to feel her legs – super scary stuff.

I have had many clients and caregivers read the book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, and I highly recommend it if you have had a past trauma in your life.

We have a saying now at the office: “The body keeps score and it always wins. Meaning that until you deal with your emotions, your body will create ways for you to have to stop and feel all the feels.

Certainly there are medical reasons for physical ailments, but we find that many headaches, stomachaches and even muscle tension can be emotionally based.

When we slow down, we can listen to our bodies and allow ourselves to feel. One great way to do this is through music. We have playlists for every emotion, including one called Cry Fest. When I need a good cry, I listen to the ten-minute playlist and truly feel my sadness.

5. Finding the “right” therapist is key to healing.

I always joke “ Here at ATFG we are not regular therapists, we are cool therapists.”

We take our jobs very seriously and we also know how to have fun and laugh. The highly researched measure of success in therapy is your relationship with the therapist. Doesn’t matter what technique or theoretical practice the therapist has – the real question is, do they have your back?

And having your back does not mean they always agree with you. In fact, we believe choosing courage over comfort is the best way to earn trust with clients and caregivers.

Here’s a fun article about therapists commenting on why they love Dr. Jamie so much. “And if you’re a mom, it could be a fun way to teach your daughter about therapy”-

Real Therapists Dissect Never Have I Ever Therapy Scenes

Here’s another plug for us: We are doing something really fun and cool this summer, we are currently creating some short summer workshops. It’s a great way to have some fun, be creative and learn a helpful tool.

6. We all tend to blame our mothers.

It’s true, mothers tend to get the brunt of blame when it comes to our mental health. Happy Mother’s day to you. This show does a great job of showing some realistic mother/daughter relationships (the BFF narrative, like on The Gilmore Girls, does more harm than good).

Two characters on Never Have I Ever struggle with communication with their mothers, and we see that healing the mother/daughter relationship is key to mental health for them both.

Devi is grieving and so is her mom, which leads to a great deal of conflict within the relationship. Devi’s anger is uncontrollable at times, and even gets physical (not that we can blame her for throwing her Geometry book).  Devi’s mom goes and speaks to Devi’s therapists and it seems to build a bridge between the two when they have an honest conversation about grief.

Eleanor, one of Devi’s besties, has had a difficult relationship with her mom. Eleanor finds out through friends that her mom is back in town and works at a local restaurant. Eleanor reunites with her mom and they start to really build a relationship – until her mom, a struggling actress herself, watches her daughter become the lead for the school play.

Eleanor’s mom leaves again, with only a note in Eleanor’s school locker. Eleanor blames herself, drops out of the play and stops identifying as an actress.  She feels so hurt by her mother’s actions that she denies herself a thing that truly brings her joy. Eleanor eventually comes to terms with her mom’s disappearance and begins to give herself permission to grieve the relationship. She finds her joy again and lives truly in her authenticity, letting go of shame around not having the “perfect” mom.

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