Although mental health therapy has become much more acceptable in our time, there are still people who consider that if you have good friends then you shouldn’t really need a therapist.
Aren’t therapists just people you talk to?
Can’t your friends listen to you and help with your problems?
When we don’t completely understand what psychotherapy is, it’s easy to assume it won’t be more beneficial than talking to a friend. Like a relationship with a friend, seeing a therapist involves conversing with someone, being vulnerable and maybe receiving advice. These aspects of therapy are, however, only a small part of the experience.
Talking to a friend may be free, but only working with a mental health professional will give you the cognitive and emotional skills to live a happier life.
In saying that, there is something very special about the relationship between friends. The value of friendship can never be overstated. Its importance is often the key to a supportive and fulfilling life. The relationship between client and counsellor, though, is equally special but contains very different dynamics. It offers some unique things which even the best of friends cannot offer.
Once you learn the differences between working with a therapist and talking to a friend, it will be easy to see how therapy might be worth the investment. It’s more than paying to chat with someone, and it carries less risks than treating your friends like problem solvers.
The Benefits of Seeing A Therapist
1. In therapy, the focus is on you.
In a friendship, both you and your friend listen to one another’s struggles and support each other. In the therapeutic relationship, the focus is solely on you, and even during times when the therapist does share something, it is with you in mind.
Counsellors often share with clients that they have also suffered with an anxiety disorder with the intention of normalising the experience of anxiety and help their clients feel understood, while at the same time acknowledging that every person’s experience is unique to them. A therapist, unlike a friend, will never talk about his or her own problems since the focus of the therapeutic relationship is on you.
2. A therapist will be objective.
Because they do not have a personal relationship with you the way a friend does, they will not be influenced by personal feelings. They will be unbiased when looking at the situation and hearing your story.
3. A therapist has been specifically trained in therapeutic conversation, assessment and interventions.
Although it often may feel like a casual conversation, the therapist may ask questions during your session to help you uncover meaning and reflect on life experiences and how those have shaped your current situation.
They may help you make connections to discover hidden emotions. They may help you look at your thoughts and how your self-reflection contributes to your feelings.
How Can A Therapist Help Me More Than A Friend?
Here are some aspects of therapy that provide long-term value and go beyond the kind of chatting you could have with a friend:
- Learning how to better manage emotions
- Challenging negative beliefs that negatively affect your life
- Learning new perspectives on situations and people
- Learning how to improve good relationships and avoid toxic ones
- Identifying negative and positive behaviours, decisions and patterns
- Understanding how your past is affecting the present
- Reducing symptoms of mental illness
- Preventing the development of mental illnesses
- Learning therapeutic techniques such as breathing techniques and journaling
- Learning to be more authentic and understand who you are
In the end, a good friend will be caring and supportive during difficult moments, but a good therapist will be empowering, compassionate and insightful. Ultimately, having both of these people in your life is a huge win.
Common Misconceptions Of Seeing A Therapist
Therapy is Nothing But Talking – If therapy was only about paying someone to let you vent to them, it would be a waste of your money. But conversation only scratches the surface of therapy, and the conversations you have with a therapist will be a far cry from anything you’ll experience with a friend.
A Therapist Won’t Challenge Me – Some people assume therapists will only affirm what they are already thinking, something a friend could do for free. Therapists are actually supposed to challenge your thinking so you can try new ways of improving your life. They won’t agree with you as much as your friends will.
A Therapist Might Make Me Feel Worse – There are times when they might make you feel insecure or upset for a bit. This might be what it takes to change negative thinking or make you reconsider maladaptive behaviours. Some people avoid professionals who might present alternative views, because they are afraid of change. On the other hand, most friends will maintain the views you have.
I Must Be Weak – Seeking professional help is actually a very courageous and strong thing to do. You will have to be open to facing every corner of your mind and heart. You’ll need be completely, unabashedly open about fears, truths and experiences in order to really get the most of what a therapist can offer. That requires strength, to explore your own emotional and mental limits and boundaries, strength to be guided in directions you wouldn’t go and strength to learn and actively seek a better place.
I Must Have A Serious Mental Health Issue – Therapy is obviously useful in severe situations, but it’s also incredibly valuable as a method to treat moderate conditions and build positive mental health habits. If you approach mental health with a preventative care mindset, you can catch and treat downward trends in your emotional well-being before they become bigger problems.
Therapy is a scientifically proven process that teaches you how your mind works. It helps you navigate your feelings, build better behaviours, and relate to your thoughts differently so you can live the life you want. Therapists who use clinically-proven techniques work with you to set goals, track progress, and measure results. They teach you skills to build emotional resilience so you can eventually leave therapy and manage on your own.
Make an appointment with Katherine at Counselling@Voxen today and remember, therapy is a high-value investment in yourself. Many people seek advice from a professional for reasons which can include being at a cross-road, needing extra support with a big change or simply just to get to know yourself better.