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Clinical psychologist, writer. Editor of On the Couch: Practical psychology for everyday life. karen@onthecouch.co.nz

Appreciate your own madness

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This post is a free therapy session — or at least the start of one.

When I meet a new client we spend a few minutes on paperwork. Beyond the formalities, there’s a basic symptom checklist and a scale for measuring life satisfaction.

The life satisfaction scale is my favourite. That’s because it gives us such an easy inroad to the session. It looks like this:

Rate Your Life Satisfaction:

1…………………………………………………………..10

(very dissatisfied)…………………………………………….(yahoo, loving it)

Obviously, you’re not going to see a lot of 10s in therapy or even coaching. …


Stop sighing at the mention of date night.

Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash

Want a great relationship?

Or at least a better one than you have now?

It’s a fair aim. Not easy though, is it? Not when you’re busting ass at work, still folding laundry at midnight and that dishevelled person slumped on the couch in their sweatpants will still want to have sex when you’re done.

Ah relationships. I sometimes wonder how any two people stay together, ever. We all get stressed. We all have annoying bits. We all drive each other crazy. But, still, we feel compelled to try. …


Who would you go to lunch with?

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Who would you most like to go to lunch with?

I know, weird question, but I got asked it recently. There were rules: It was a Lavish Lunch. You didn’t have to pay for it. You couldn’t choose your partner or family. Nor someone dead.

To be honest, I was fine with that. Why would I select my family for a lavish, free meal when I could have toast with them in the kitchen? And a dead person would make for a pretty quiet lunch.

But it made me think about who I admire. Being a therapist teaches you to…


What’s in your Love Bucket?

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“I like the bad girls,” my client said.

He was in therapy after his toxic relationship ended. The two years with his ex had taken a significant psychological toll. It had left him mildly depressed, anxious, almost traumatised.

At 33 he’d had three significant relationships, all of them unhealthy. Despite knowing that, he believed there was a high chance his next relationship would be the same.

“It’s like I’m a sucker for punishment. Why do I keep falling for the wrong women?” he said.

Good question. But we needed to explore: Was he drawn to a particular type of woman…


Especially the one about sex.

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So you want to live big and bold?

Achieve great things? Or, you know, anything at all?

Then you’ll need to step up to the plate and play in the big arena. Which means you’ll have to stare down hard at the things that will threaten your dreams.

We all have bad habits. We all fall at their feet sometimes because THEY FEEL SO GOOD. But, in the end, an obsession with ciggies or porn or food or Netflix might not do us justice.

It might keep us stuck. It might make us envious of others who didn’t do those…


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Who are you — really?

Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash

People come to therapy to figure out who they are.

Sometimes, they’re not aware of this. They come through the door seeking relief from the stress, anxiety and pain they are feeling. Validation. A place to cry. Ways to cope. Strategies for feeling less overwhelmed, more fulfilled, calmer, happier.

But, beyond that, they want to know who they are. Which is a smart goal because the more you “get” yourself, the better you navigate the world and all the people in it. The better your quality of life.

So a large chunk of therapy is devoted to helping people get…


There are better, smarter ways to love.

Photo by Mindy Sabiston on Unsplash

“We never go to bed angry,” my client said.

She was talking about settling fights with her partner. “We agree on that. We stay up and fight.”

“Sounds like you have a few late nights then,” I said. She and her partner were fighting all the time; she looked exhausted. “Where’d you get that advice?”

She looked at me like I should have chosen another career. “Everyone knows you shouldn’t go to bed angry. It’s just one of those things.”

But is it? Is it good advice or an outdated cliché?

Beware the Clichés of Love

Clichés are hackneyed phrases, so often used that they…


When you know you need to.

Image: On the Couch

“I’m finding it hard to let go,” my client said.

“There’s just too much water under the bridge.”

She’d been with her partner for 15 years, they’d raised a blended family together, but the love they’d once felt had lost its will to live.

“I know it’s over,” she said. “We agree on that. But we’ve got so much history. It’s hard to give it up.”

Her predicament was understandable. Even when we know what we want — or need — it can be difficult to detach from the past.

Welcome to the Sunk Cost Fallacy.

But how does it apply to relationships?

The Sunk Cost Fallacy…

Karen Nimmo

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