What Does Maria Shiver’s Commencement Speech Have to Do With Therapy?

There was such a fuss about Maria Shriver’s commencement speech to the graduates of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication, I finally took the time to watch it. And damn it, it was good.

What made it good was what makes most communication good. It was genuine. She spoke with ease and humor, some of it aimed at herself which is always charming when the woman is gorgeous and powerful. And she spoke from a place of passion that made you think that she really believes what she is saying, she really wanted those young people to listen.

What she wanted the kids to hear is not original to her. That doesn’t make the lesson any less valuable to all generations, not just the Annenberg graduates. She pointed out that in this crazy world we live in we could use time to stop, to set aside for ourselves, weary from the chaos of 24/7 connectivity, to pause. She said:

You know, I didn’t invent this stop-everything-and-pause idea.

Jesus fasted for forty days and nights in the desert. Henry David Thoreau went to Walden Pond. Ann Morrow Lindberg went to the sea. Buddha, Gandhi, Mother Teresa — the greatest and wisest have often stopped and withdrawn from active lives to journey within themselves. The wisdom they garnered there and shared with us has impacted the world.

But, hey, don’t worry! I’m not asking you for 40 days and nights! I’m only asking you to stop every so often and turn off your mobile device, put down the Angry Birds and the Words with Friends and take a moment. Stop to look up and look around. Pause and check in with yourself — and spend a moment there.

It wasn’t until after I heard the entire speech that I thought, “She could be describing therapy.”

Good psychotherapy gives you a pause away from the world; a little space and time away from the tsunami of demands coming from all directions from all kinds of people at all hours of the day and night. During the pause of the psychotherapeutic hour, in the hands of a good therapist, we have a chance to step back, even from our own mind and those impossible expectations we place on ourselves. In that pause we give ourselves a precious gift. We learn to nurture ourselves. We learn to heal the hurt places. We re-discover the strength that had abandoned us long ago. We learn to love ourselves again. To love again. That is good therapy.

Here is Maria Shriver’s speech in its entirety:


  • Hello Dr. A – I love this perspective on “the pause” of psychotherapy. It exactly captures my own experience about the hour I spend with my therapist, too. What began a couple years ago as weekly appointments during the depths of bleak post-heart attack depression and anxiety to help “heal the hurt places” has morphed into bi-weekly (and more recently, monthly) visits as we both are able to observe the healing in action. It’s been the best gift I could have ever given to myself. Thanks for this!

    • Dear Carolyn, I am so glad you ‘got it’ and that you give yourself that gift. It is exactly what I was trying to convey. Patients have actually told me this directly, that even on days they don’t have much to say they are grateful for the pause in the ‘safe space’ of therapy.

  • [...] May: What Does Maria Shriver’s Commencement Speech Have to do With Therapy? [...]


Leave a comment


Email(will not be published)*


Your comment*

Submit Comment

© Copyright Explore Whats Next - Designed by Pexeto