Why Dolly Parton ‘Never Went to a Therapist’

Dolly Parton has gone through her fair share of bad times. But the Queen of Country has never been to a therapist. In her 2020 book, Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics, she writes about how she copes when life gets difficult.

Dolly Parton performs at the Lanxess Arena concert venue in Cologne, Germany in 2014.
Dolly Parton | Henning Kaiser/picture alliance via Getty Images

‘The Lonesomes’

“The Lonesomes” is a Parton song that came out in 2008. It’s about feeling lonely and sad, and hoping to feel better in the morning.

“The song reminded me of the ones that Hank Williams used to write,” Parton wrote in her 2020 book. “It reminded me of some old-timey songs like ‘In the Pine,’ those mournful, painful songs of feeling really, really, really alone and desperate and forlorn. I can write them as pitiful as ol’ Hank sometimes. I ain’t as good a writer, but I think I can feel as lonesome as he did. I do get ‘The Lonesomes.'”

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The song comes from a personal place for Parton. When the Queen of Country feels lonely and depressed, she turns to songwriting.

“That’s when the songwriting becomes therapy,” she wrote. “I never went to a therapist, because songwriting heals me. With my little guitar, my little head for writing songs, and my gift for rhyming, I can lift myself up.”

Dolly Parton ‘went through a bad time’ in the early ’80s

In the early 1980s, Parton experienced “a lot of health problems and emotional things.”

“I was overweight and having female problems that can affect your mind,” she wrote. “I really went through a bad time.”

It was an incredibly challenging time in Parton’s life. But she says it made her a better songwriter and more empathetic person.

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“I think God just smacked me down,” she wrote. “That was a hard time, but it made me understand other people a lot better. I related to how alcoholics became alcoholics. I related to how drug addicts become drug addicts. Sometimes your pain is just so great you can’t hardly bear it on your own. I completely had an insight into other people’s sorrows.”

Parton had to work hard to feel better again.

“I had to take a good look at myself,” she wrote. “I had to tear everything down, reshape myself, and get some priorities in order, so that I could pick up, move on, and become bigger than I ever was before. And I think that’s exactly what happened.”

Dolly Parton turned to songwriting

Throughout those difficult years, Parton leaned on her craft more than ever.

“It was all meant to be, because I really became a better person,” she wrote. “I became a better writer, too. Even during the time when I was really not in a good place, I was always able to write songs. Songwriting is my therapy, because I did not go to a therapist. My music has always been my best doctor. My guitar and my words always get me through whatever slump I’m in. That’s what helped me get myself back together, get myself back in shape, and get myself out of that whole world of darkness.”