Tiffany Haddish on how therapy gave her 'a different perspective'

The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

Tiffany Haddish has spent the majority of her life in therapy — much of it court-ordered as a teen growing up in foster care — though she opted out when her high school social worker gave the future star an ultimatum: Go to psychiatric therapy or enroll in the Laugh Factory's comedy camp. Haddish chose the latter, and the rest is comedy history.

But a mental health crisis at age 21 marked a turning point for the comic.

"I had like a breakdown — a full-blown breakdown — and went back into therapy," Haddish, now 42, tells Yahoo Life. "And that changed everything and gave me a different perspective."

Finding the right fit has been a challenge over the years, however. When asked if she's been with the same therapist all this time, the Girls Trip actress offers an emphatic "hell no." There was the one she liked who ended up moving away. One professional had theories she couldn't connect with. Another therapist seemed to find the comedy star's deepest thoughts a little too amusing, something that both flattered and "irritated" Haddish.

"I get it: I'm a humorous person. But if I'm pouring my heart out, I don't need you laughing in my face," she says of the experience. She's currently in a more satisfying counseling set-up.

The Emmy and Grammy-winning performer doesn't downplay the role therapy has had on her life, particularly as someone who has survived foster care, homelessness and her mother's own mental health struggles after a car accident caused significant brain damage.

"If I did not have therapy now I probably would be doing therapy in these streets," Haddish says. "I'd probably be talking to a whole bunch of people about things I don't need to be talking to them about."

Tiffany Haddish on travel saunas and finding the right therapist. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Tiffany Haddish on travel saunas and finding the right therapist. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers) (Getty/Quinn Lemmers)

While she's not one to bite her tongue, over the years she's learned its best to acknowledge her feelings and more productively talk through what she's going through rather than just lashing out.

"As I've gotten older, I try my best not to downplay how I feel about something," she says. "If I feel strongly about it, people are gonna know I feel strongly about it. If I'm uncomfortable in a situation, I think people should know that, 'hey, I'm uncomfortable right now.'

"I feel like feelings are a compass and when I push them to the side, that compass breaks and then my mouthpiece gets very vicious — and sometimes on people that don't deserve it," she adds. "You take things out on people that don't actually deserve it, you know?"

She relies on her closest friends and her team to be "sounding boards" to whom she can voice her frustrations and get a gut check on whether she's overreacting or reading too much into a situation. "In the past I would've just cussed everybody up," notes Haddish, who has also learned to set boundaries with her work schedule and block out time that she can spend with her friends and godchildren.

Given her outgoing persona, it might surprise Haddish fans to know that the Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent star keeps things pretty mellow while at home, which she considers her "time to recharge."

"I'm not a big talker at home," she says. "When I'm home, I'm pretty quiet."

Though sleeping isn't her strong suit — a brand ambassador for Vitafusion, she relies on its melatonin gummies to get some shut-eye — Haddish is committed to a wellness routine that keeps her feeling her best. Her essentials: Plenty of water, her gummies, a portable sauna she purchased off Amazon — "you can sit in there and just sweat it out ... I personally have stayed in there for hours watching movies and stuff" — and a journal for when "I get in my feelings."

Faith is also important. The Black Mitzvah comedian had a bat mitzvah at age 40 and says her newfound Jewish faith is "a big part of my life.

"I read my Torah every day," she says. "I talk to my rabbi on a regular basis. I do my Shabbat dinners. I mean, I don't mess around."

Haddish's first children's book, Layla, the Last Black Unicorn, was released just last month. The book, she says, was written to encourage young readers to be themselves and celebrate their unique qualities, even if they get made fun of. In addition to embracing her own individuality, Haddish says self-love for her means following her instincts.

"Right now self-love means listening to your inner feelings, listening to your body and honoring that," she says. "If you're hungry, eat something. If you're thirsty, drink something. If you're happy, express that happiness and share that happiness with others. If you're upset, why are you upset? And how can you fix that, if you can fix it at all? And if you can't fix it at all — I wouldn't say, like, mope and whine and complain about it — but definitely express that you're displeased with something and move on. And don't just express it to every single body, but express it to who needs to be hearing it."

—Video produced by Stacy Jackman

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