Does this sound familiar? “I really need to talk to someone.”  Or this one: “is it worth it to see a therapist?”

How about: “why can’t I just talk with my best friend? What will the therapist offer me that my friends won’t?”

Well, there are some differences between therapist and friends.

A therapist:

  • is trained (usually has a master’s degree) to listen without judgement or interruption. They’re trained to recognize shifts in emotions that need to be addressed, and to do so in a way that does not belittle or cause harm to you
  • makes you the sole focus for the duration of the session; for that 45-55 minutes, it’s all about you
  • provides objective feedback
  • comes into the therapeutic relationship with no preconceived ideas about you (your character, attitudes, beliefs, etc.)
  • won’t disclose what is shared (unless you tell them that you plan to harm or kill yourself or someone else, or you share knowledge of abuse or neglect of a child or vulnerable adult, or that you yourself are the victim of abuse); information shared in session will remain confidential and will not be used to harm you
  • helps you to make connections between your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
  • provides a safe place for you to express your emotions without fear of reprisal or ridicule

A friend:

  • will likely listen to formulate a response and will most likely give their opinion throughout the duration of the conversation
  • doesn’t always recognize when your emotions are shifting, and if they do recognize the shift, they are often unsure of how to react
  • can’t always guarantee and that they’ll be able to provide you with of time needed to work through your problem
  • may be unable to remain objective; they may share opinions about what’s going on because they are actively involved in a personal relationship with you
  • sometimes (though it may be unintentional) inhibits your ability to be completely open and honest for fear that we will lose acceptance or be judged for what we say
  • knows your behavioral patterns, so they may not be able to listen without judgement or saying “I warned you about…”; their reactions and responses are usually based on the familiarity of your relationship
  • No matter how good a friend they are, there is no guarantee that what you share will be kept between you; whether on purpose or inadvertently, your thoughts and emotions may be shared with others

If you’re still unsure about seeing a therapist, remember that we are here for you. We see you and accept you as you are. We don’t tell you what you should and shouldn’t do; instead, we provide guidance to help you reach a healthy decision.

Written by Sherine Chambers, Stepping Stones Therapist