Reese Witherspoon says she spent 7 years in therapy: 'It changed my whole life'

Blake Harper
·4 min read
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 09: Reese Witherspoon attends the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 09, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 09: Reese Witherspoon attends the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 09, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

Reese Witherspoon is an overachiever. One of the most successful actors and producers in Hollywood today, she juggles a lot — and has three kids too. And on the most recent episode of Smartless, a podcast hosted by Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes, the Legally Blonde star and Hello Sunshine founder spoke about her ambition and specifically how therapy helped her channel that drive to help make the film industry more inclusive and open to diversity on every level.

“What the hell happened to you as a child that gave you this boundless ambition?” Hayes asked Witherspoon, who laughed upon hearing the question.

“I was always like a really overachieving kid,” Witherspoon explained. “Every actor has to kind of dig down and figure out, ‘Who are you trying to make happy?’ So I figured that out through 7 years of therapy.”

And, of course, Bateman, also a child star, immediately identified that it was a parent she was trying to please.

“Yes, 100 percent,” Witherspoon admitted “It’s always [a parent]. Am I right or am I wrong? Once you solve that puzzle [with therapy], it’s kind of like, ‘why am I still doing this? What am I doing?’ That’s when my whole career shifted to more purpose-driven. I want more women behind the camera. I want to see more stories written from a woman’s perspective by a woman. I want women to make more money. And it just gave me more fuel. It changed my whole life.”

Witherspoon acknowledged that it was therapy that gave her the perspective to really bring a feminist lens to her career — and she isn’t just talking the talk when it comes to her purpose-driven approach to empowering women in film. Witherspoon and co-star Nicole Kidman are executive producers on Big Little Lies, the Emmy-winning show that has a main cast entirely comprised of women. She also founded Hello Sunshine, a storytelling brand that helps women achieve their creative vision in books, film, TV and whatever other media they may be passionate about.

On top of her career, Witherspoon is just like any parent: attempting to navigate the coronavirus pandemic one day at a time.

“I think the hardest piece is I have a daughter college and a teenage son,” Witherspoon said of daughter Ava Phillippe, 21, and son Deacon Phillippe, 17. “It’s easy to keep my 7-year-old at home but I think a big piece of being a person that age is social development. The depression that happened at the beginning of this pandemic between the two of them [from] not being able to see anybody.”

Witherspoon says her daughter is now back at college and while she is not attending classes in person, Witherspoon knows she must “implicitly trust” her daughter to be safe and responsible during this global pandemic.

“We talk frequently, we check in,” Witherspoon said. “It’s terrifying to me… and I miss her like crazy. But I just keep checking in with her.”

Witherspoon then shined a light on one aspect of family life during the pandemic that she thinks nobody is talking about: families that are divorced.

“This is really stressful [for families that are divorced],” Witherspoon, who is currently married to James Toth, and separated from ex-husband Ryan Phillippe in 2006. “And if you don’t have a good relationship with your ex-partner, I know people who are losing their minds over fighting.”

Witherspoon is right that co-parenting in the pandemic has proven to be exceptionally difficult, with parents often feeling like they are not able to see their kids enough or feeling isolated if they are not the primary caretaker. Fortunately, it seems that Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe are on good terms and co-parent happily and healthily, for their sake and the sake of their kids.

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