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10 Surprising Non-Mental-Health Topics That Made Me a Better Therapist

I’ve heard before that being a therapist is a calling. For me, I would have to agree. Although I have learned to create a work-life balance, I spend a lot of time commuting. My driving time includes listening to content that is very much work-related. That said, it can get overwhelming to constantly consume mental health content. When this happens, I often switch to different podcasts or audiobooks to give my mind a break. Funnily enough, I often find that I have learned so much from these off-topic items.

I encourage any reader to give themselves the grace to not work on professional development in their free time. Still, if you're looking for non-mental-health-related topics that will still be good for professional development, here is what I have enjoyed studying.


A quote I think about a lot is when Nelson Mandela said, "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart." Learning languages can be a fun pastime. Maybe you are traveling to France and want to learn French. Or maybe you know that there are many people who speak Spanish, Korean, or ASL in your community. Whatever your reason, you never know when it might come in handy to communicate in that language..


History has a way of having long-lasting effects on communities. Topics could include immigration patterns, national traumas, or conflicts between and within nations. History can be interesting to study just for the sake of learning, but it also might help you better understand different client backgrounds.


I'll keep this one short. Politics can get overwhelming, but they affect us and our clients.

Physical Health: Gut Health, Nutrition, Medical Disorders, Medications

While most therapists are not medical doctors, it is still important that we learn about physical health and health problems. There is emerging research on gut health and nutrition as it affects mental health. Further, we can benefit from understanding how medications and medical disorders can affect daily life and mental health. Not only has this helped me take care of myself, but it has helped me hear clues to refer a client back to their primary care physician or another doctor.

Other Cultures

I love to learn about other cultures, especially in countries I would love to travel to. There is so much to learn about traditions, food, and community. While it is important to practice cultural humility (I.e. never assume you understand, be open to learn), learning about other cultures may help guide exploration in sessions.

Local News, Global News

This is another one I will keep brief. Both good and bad worldwide news may come up in sessions, and it can be helpful to be even mildly informed. You may also be curious to attend community meetings like school board meetings or police commission meetings.

Local Law

Studying local law, including rent protection laws or tenant rights, can be important. I have had clients in the past have concerns about tenant rights, for example. Knowing the basics about tenant rights helped me to refer these clients to people who were qualified to help.

Pop Culture Podcasts

I like listening to podcasts where the hosts just talk about life or pop culture topics. Being exposed to different opinions has often helped me better understand my clients. Keeping up with pop culture has also exposed me to new shows or music that my clients also happen to like, which helps me connect with them.

Fiction Books

Authors often do pull from real-life experiences. You might find a profound quote or perspective that also helps you think about client issues in different ways.

Famous People Who May Be a Good Role Model

Sometimes learning about what others have overcome can be very inspiring. Examples of successful people who have spoken out about having mental health orders like ADHD, MDD, BPD, or PTSD may include Selena Gomez, Aubrey Plaza, Ariana Grande, and Jim Carrey.

Thank you for reading and I hope something was helpful!

Please browse this website for more resources and books for social workers and mental health professionals!

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