Some individuals who have never seen a therapist before believe that they “don’t need therapy because that’s what they have friends for.” However, there are actually many reasons why this idea is inaccurate. Talking with and/or venting to a friend is not the same as talk therapy, and the kind of support you receive from a friend is very different from the kind of support that a therapist offers.
There are a number of limitations that hinder us from sharing certain personal experiences with our friends, for many reasons:
- We may fear judgment or ridicule
- We may not want to offend or upset them
- We may choose to conceal particular details from them out of shame or embarrassment
- We may be worried that we will lose their friendship if we share “too much”
Additionally, it is important to note that talk therapy is not the same as “venting.” Now, don’t get me wrong – friends are excellent and very important to have. Friends can listen, offer advice, validate your feelings, offer some sort of comforting support… but it is important to note the distinction between a friend and a therapist: the emotional involvement. A friend cannot be impartial or unbiased; therefore, their support, while helpful, cannot take on the same level of support that therapy offers.
Talking with someone who doesn’t previously know anything about you, your history, or the people in your life might seem intimidating or even scary – but it is actually the opposite; it is quite freeing. Receiving support from someone who has no ulterior motives, emotional involvement in our lives, or prejudgments about us and what we’ve experienced is incredibly helpful and necessary.
In fact, one of the main reasons why therapy is effective is that the boundaries look very different in a client-counselor relationship as opposed to a relationship with a friend. A therapist uses helpful skills, like reflecting and reframing, to help clients process what they are talking about and what they might be going through, in order to help them better understand their unique situation and learn how to handle it in a way that works best for them.
Additionally, the boundaries set in place in a counseling relationship actually help to reinforce healthy boundaries in other areas of our lives. It’s important to understand that while your friend is not your therapist and your therapist is not your friend… both relationships help us process our thoughts and feelings in different ways.
If you are interested in seeing this difference for yourself, contact me to get the process started.