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Thinking Through Therapy: what makes therapy so damn effective?

An idea is like a virus, resilient, highly contagious. The smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to destroy or define you

—Dominick Cobb, Inception

We set out to build a new kind of mental health tool and realized (with inspiration from Think Like a Rocket Scientist) we needed to step back and look at the fundamentals of therapy.

We questioned every common sense assumption and asked ourselves what core element makes therapy so effective.

Is it the empathy from the listener? It's great to feel heard and have someone relate to your particular struggles. But empathy is something that occurs to the listener, not to you.

New studies are also reporting people are more comfortable opening up to a bot and the digital buddies can be therapeutic.

Bots definitely aren’t empathic so that isn’t it. It must be something that's happening to you directly.

Is it the emotional relationship you have with your listener? The effects of an emotional relationship indeed happen to you and the listener. Talking to a trusted friend or family member can be therapeutic but there are a couple problems:

  1. Therapy with friends and family is not consistently effective. They may love you but they can be biased, you can be tempted to withhold relevant facts, and they likely aren’t trained at therapy.

  2. You don’t have an emotional relationship with a therapist.

An emotional relationship is a two way street of sharing and vulnerability. Therapists are trained to specifically not share about themselves.

They are professionals in a business relationship with you that are trained to get you to share then guide you with skilled concepts.

Ok, so is therapy effective because therapists have the best ideas?

Good ideas from others are helpful but we’re naturally skeptical of outside ideas. We’re most likely to pursue ideas we see as our own.

Therapists understand this and avoid force feeding ideas. Instead, they ask questions and make suggestions that enable you to discover the ideas.

No idea is simple when you have to plant it in someone else's mind. It's not their idea. The dreamer can always remember the genesis of the idea.


As Cobb is alluding to in Christopher Nolan’s psychological thriller about dream-state idea inception, a life-changing idea needs to feel like it’s your own. Ownership of the idea is crucial for a profound change in your behavior.

If a therapist can guide you to look inward and develop an idea, then your mind feels the aha! moment of self-discovery.

Now we're talking: the core element of therapy is introspection.

The bots, trusted friends, or therapists can all inspire some level of introspection, which is why they can each be therapeutic to varying degrees.

After we had our realization about the source of therapy’s effectiveness, we specifically designed the Resilience Diary to inspire introspection (and address 3 challenges with in-person therapy: cost, continuity, and objective tracking).

We began using the product on ourselves and realized our private video sessions were creating something novel: a personal mental health documentary.

This documentary of you is introspection for the digital age. You can finally see yourself evolve with every word, tone shift, and nuance of your body language.

The hunt for the aha! moment in your life isn't easy but it is doable.

The Resilience Diary lets you dig for clues from your past, observe subtle patterns as you grow, and connect dots.

See who you’ve been, who you are, and create who you want to be.

She was possessed by an idea, this one, very simple idea, that changed everything


Start directing your documentary, embrace introspection, and search for that one idea.

It might be the one that ends up changing everything.


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