14 Therapists Share Their Favorite Stories of a Patient’s Recovery

Reddit tends to be one of those places where people go to hear all of the wild and tragic tales – the stuff that drops your jaw, but not in a good way at all.

It’s nice to balance that out sometimes with the happy stories, and I think we’ve got some good ones for you here.

14 therapists are showing up to tell you not about the hopeless cases, but the ones where people made recoveries that made everyone who knows them smile.

14. Sometimes they don’t get to see the end result.

I’m a therapist and when I think of all my successful clients I can see how wonderful it would be to hear the success stories. When I think of success stories, I cannot imagine a way to anonymized the information enough to protect privacy and keep it interesting.

Like to protect privacy, it would be along the lines of “they started a medication that helped them feel well enough to start doing the therapeutic change work. They overhauled their life and changed their interactions with others and are now doing awesome.”

13. You can’t give up on kids.

Therapist here. Withholding information for privacy reasons. Kids for me are really rewarding and inspiring to work with.

One kid growled and yelled at me, wouldn’t talk to me at all. fought and stole from kids. He had severe trauma of all kinds at a really young age and wasn’t given a chance. Refused to attend classes at school. By the end he did a complete 180. Not just because of counseling but also great support from the school.

But his transformation was incredible. He went from yelling and growling out of anger to verbalizing anger to verbalizing hurt it stemmed from. It was truly amazing.

12. To break the cycle.

Not my success, but one that stayed with me.

Was working as a secretary for a clinic that did forensic psychology/psychiatry. Got a call from a former patient: ‘I’d like to enrol my teenaged child. I recognise that they are doing as bad as I was at that age, and I wasted years of my live with that. You guys helped me so well, I want the same for my kid.’

That parent was trying to stop their generational abuse, and give their kid the best start they could.

11. We all need that something.

Any time a previously depressed, disinterested, apathetic, or suicidal client tells me about a new hobby or passion, I get so excited.

Doesn’t matter what it is. Dungeons and Dragons, pet rats, growing herbs, 3D printing, anime, video games, geocaching…I don’t know about any of those things but if my client is excited about it, I’m over the moon and I want to hear all about it.

Seeing them find a passion for SOMETHING, no matter if it’s something that I personally find weird or boring – that’s a part of my job that I love and I will sit and listen and cheer them on and I will leave that session feeling so happy.

10. All of the work is important.

Working with literally any client and being able to collaboratively work towards what is important to them, its hard to pick a favorite since everyone’s journey is extremely meaningful in one way or another!

9. It really is little things.

One that stands out most was a woman who had used heroin, alcohol, and crack for all of her adult life. She was homeless, had never really held a job, and had multiple legal problems due to her drug use. At 50something, she had decided to get clean and did so for several months, until her child was murdered. She had a brief relapse, but got clean again. In 4 years, she sorted out her legal issues, reconnected with her family, left her abusive partner, obtained her own housing, volunteered regularly, and completed a 4 year degree.

I can’t imagine having gone from a complete street lifestyle, enduring the worst tragedy one can imagine newly sober, and then entering and excelling in academia.

Honestly, it’s not the huge stories that stand out, it is little things that people accomplish during their recovery.

  • A person meeting their grandchild for the first time because they’ve gotten clean
  • A person that always wanted to go to the circus but had never gone because money always went to drugs
  • A person finishing school or actually keeping a job
  • A person leaving an abusive relationship and excelling
  • A person finally reaching out to family and getting an answer back or kind words after years of broken promises

8. One person’s take.

I’m a therapist as well as a client, and I’d be pretty fucking pissed if I saw my therapist posting about my case on a Reddit thread, even if my name wasn’t anywhere. I’ve told him some stuff that was really hard to talk about.

People are welcome to differ with me on this, but I feel like it’s tacky to share details, even if you can’t identify the person specifically. Clients come to us with the expectation that they will be safe, and I don’t feel like it’s our place to violate that.

“When someone tells you a piece of their life, they’re giving you a gift, not granting you your due.”
– Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man’s Fear

7. Just total pride.

I once worked with someone whose agoraphobia and intense anxiety had stopped them from visiting their child (who lived several states away) for YEARS.

By the time we wrapped up they’d bought a plane ticket to go visit. 😭

6. Just one small push.

I’m in school for my MSW but I am also a domestic violence advocate. The past year or so I’ve been working with a woman who has been married for 42 years to her abuser and has ten children with him. When I first met her she was told to come to us by her therapist.

She expressed that she didn’t think she needed to be there but she wanted to try it out. She joined a support group but was often quiet or said things like “I don’t deserve to be here”. About half way through the group she started opening up about the horrific abuse her abuser has inflicted on her throughout the years.

We had to end the group because of COVID and I did not feel safe calling her. When she came to group she said she was going to bible study and I would make “worksheets” for her to bring home to prove she was at bible study. Calling her would have out her in potential danger.

Finally, I started a zoom support group and was able to connect with her. She is now divorced, living on her own, and being independent. It is a total 180 and she is absolutely glowing. I am so happy for her.

5. May we all strive for balance.

Had a client with chronic illnesses. She was often sick or in pain and felt terribly guilty for not being able to care for her family when she had really bad days. On the days when she felt good, she would push herself to her absolute limit by cooking and cleaning and fitting in as much family time as she could before she felt sick again.

Inevitably, she would wake up the next day feeling way worse than she did previously because she overextended herself. This became a rather predictable cycle. It took months to convince her to slow down a little on the days she felt good and to take care of herself on those days too so that her good days might last a little longer, and to stop feeling guilty for her bad days.

She was able to find a balance and improve her overall quality of life. She did amazingly, and I still think about her from time to time. It’s been 10 years, I hope she’s still killing it.

4. The things we take for granted.

I’m an art therapist who worked on an adolescent inpatient psych unit in an urban area. There was a 6’ 17-year-old almost non verbal (spoke some Spanish and his own sign language) also born addicted to crack and was HIV positive and violent. He wore adult diapers.

His family never potty trained him and they basically dropped him off at the hospital and gave him up. His family never gave him services when he was younger and kept him in a room for most of his life. In 6 months he was talking and using the bathroom by himself.

3. The days are hard.

Coming into this one late- but I work with children in social services as a trauma therapist/teacher.

So the stuff I see is pretty horrific sometimes.

I had a kid a few years ago who will stick with me forever. PTSD at four years old from seeing some really awful things, things that d*mn adults into lifetimes of isolation and depression. And my job was to try to get this kid equipped to handle a kindergarten classroom.

A little info here- when young children experience trauma, one way they may communicate this is through mimicking their experiences. Sometimes in social interactions, sometimes in play. This child had this symptom.

Essentially, I had a four year old acting like a psychopathic, abusive, alcoholic grown man.

Every day we documented the bruises and marks he left on me. For two years he bit, spat at, shat on, hit, kicked, and slapped me. Some days I felt like I was getting to him. Most days I went into the staff bathroom and either punched the paper towel dispenser, or went home and drank myself to sleep.

He spat a used band-aid into my mouth. Threw his own shit into my eyes. Bit through my wrist, which, yeah, was all every bit as horrific as it sounds.

But I kept trying. Everyone did. We loved him, we never let him know how stressed he made us or how much we had to brace and prepare ourselves for sessions with him. We never told him that we dreaded some days, knowing we were just too tired but had to do it all anyways. Five days a week, intensive outpatient care, and it felt like we were getting nowhere.

And that was it. He came to me that way, and he left me that way. The day he graduated the program I cried, got heavily drunk, and prayed his kindergarten teacher would show him half the love and grace I’d been able to.

Only a few months into kindergarten that teacher reached out to me- we had an ROI from his IEP process, but I never thought I’d hear anything after school started- I usually don’t. And she said he was doing amazing. The medication we hadn’t seen work had started to balance things. The skills we taught over and over and over and over- he was using them. He had friends, where everyone had been scared of him before. He played with other children. He colored. He walked into school happy to be there and left happy to go home. She was describing to me a child I had never met, but had helped create.

Working with littles is discouraging, because I often don’t see the fruits of my labor. If I’m lucky, I can help identify ongoing traumas and put a stop to them so that the next specialist can treat it. If I’m even luckier, the child may be able to function in kindergarten better because of something I said or did correctly. But I usually don’t know.

If I’m unlucky, the grooming is so deep and so hurtful that the children give me very little to go off of, and I send them to school with little more than a lying parent and a wrist-thick binder of documentation that led nowhere. And my buddies on speed-dial with CPS do their best, they do, but there’s only so much we can do when a family really wants to hide something.

I have to remind myself often that my job is really just to plant a seed of healing, and that I’m doing it for the functioning adult they will get to be someday, whom I will never meet. So that their middle school teachers never realize what a broken child they had to be at this time, and their future spouses and children benefit from the love they’ve learnt and skills they’ve had mentored into them.

But f*ck if it isn’t hard some days. Most days. All of them. F*ck if it isn’t so goddamn hard.

I’m glad I do this, that all of us do. Social services is savage and unforgiving. We need more good people in it. I hope the kids I’m helping benefit and turn into the recovery journeys everyone here is describing- but unfortunately, I rarely ever really know.

2. Amazing to see.

I am not a psychiatrist or a therapist and I have not been in a recovery journey. However, there was this girl on my class at high school who must have had some kind of trauma, because she almost never spoke. And when she did, it was almost like a whisper. She must have felt really anxious around people because she would always secretly escape during school day trips to go home.

My friend and I took her with us (we were a bit of outcasts already), but she could not communicate well, even when we asked her questions about her hobbies etc. Talking made her really uncomfortable. So we just let her hang around, and she did follow us for all high school.

Many years later I saw her by chance on the street and she talked to me with a normal voice tone! We had a whole conversation. And she was fashionable, and had a husband who adores her. Later she got pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl. She is the biggest transformation I’ve ever seen and I’m so happy for her.

1. A beautiful moment.

Was working with a young boy who had experienced horrific trauma the first few years of his life. He was understandably angry all the time but you could tell he didn’t understand why. Often times I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere with him.

One day when it was time for him to leave, he hesitated between me and the person picking him up. We looked at eachother like “what’s happening?” and he suddenly ran right at me and gave my legs the biggest hug. He then let go, smiled at me, and walked out like he felt ok for the first time.

I don’t know why, but that moment sticks out to me and probably always will.

Heck, I don’t even know these people and I’m about to cheer!

If you’re a therapist or know someone who has walked back from the edge, share the tale with us in the comments.