You are going through a challenging time. Maybe your boss is giving you a hard time, your significant other is not listening to your concerns, or your mother is nitpicky about everything.
Talking to a friend is nice and helpful to get support, but you’re finding you’re really not moving forward with anything changing. Maybe you’re also worried that your friend only hears about your partner when you are having problems and you’re worried they are going to develop a negative opinion of him or her. You’ve never seen a therapist and are unsure whether it makes sense to see one, but the thought has crossed your mind.
There are benefits of seeing a therapist over talking to a friend. A therapist is not just for those with serious psychological concerns. Anybody can benefit from seeing a therapist. Here are just a few points to consider when determining the difference between seeing a therapist and talking to a friend:
- Therapists are bound to confidentiality.
Therapists are bound to ethical standards which state that everything that is said in the therapy room remains there, except when there is an intent to harm oneself or another or child/elder abuse is occurring. You don’t have to worry about what you share getting back to your partner, your parents, your sister, your boss, etc because therapists are required to maintain confidentiality. When talking with friends or family, you can’t always guarantee that confidentiality.
- Therapists are objective.
Therapists are looking at your concern from an outside lens. Therapists are not biased and do not have a preconceived notion of you. Family or friends are unable to be objective, due to the personal relationship they have with you. They may not be honest for fear of hurting your feelings or may be overly critical, such as saying “there you go again” or “I told you so.”
- You have a set appointment time.
You will have an hour each week of uninterrupted time to meet with your therapist to address your concerns. When spending time with family or friends, it tends to be more of a “give and take” conversation, with both sides sharing things. Have you ever experienced telling a story where a family member or friend says “I know what you mean” and proceeds to take over the conversation with their experience? This will not happen in therapy.
- Therapists are trained.
While friends or family members may provide support, you will also get that in therapy. But, therapists will work with you to determine the root cause of your problem, process and explore your thoughts and feelings, and work with you to identify coping strategies, behavioral changes, and help you to create the outcome you’re looking for. This is a lot more than just providing a listening ear.
Although there are benefits to getting support from family and friends, there is a different type of value in seeing a therapist, which anyone and everyone can benefit from.
Carolyn Cole, LCPC is a Chicago based therapist specializing in relationship counseling. With over 14 years clinical experience in a variety of settings working with adolescents and adults, individuals and couples her specialized training includes a focus on couples and family therapy including Gottman Method Couples Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Solution Focused Therapy.
You can email her directly firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 312-809-7017.