5 Differences Between Talking to a Friend vs a Therapist

5 Differences Between Talking to a Friend vs a Therapist

You believe that talking to a friend is just as good or better than seeing a therapist, but is this true? A friend’s ear is valuable in some situations but inappropriate in others.

Therapists have strengths in certain areas, so they bring something different to the discussion that a friend often cannot. This article will elaborate on five essential differences between talking to these two social support groups and highlight why you should not be ashamed to “see a therapist.”

#1. You Are Guided to Discover Your Answers

You may for different reasons, but you are most likely looking for answers to some problem you may have. If you think your therapist will give you the solutions to your concerns, you are mistaken. Therapists guide you in finding and transforming yourself. They cannot show you answers, because they do not have them.

They provide you with a non-judgmental environment where you will receive honest feedback and a fresh perspective on your problems. Sometimes, looking at things from a new angle is all it takes for you to have that “ah-ha!” moment of self-discovery.

While valuable in their own right, the emotional support and advice that friends provide may not help resolve the specific dimension of your problem.

#2. Therapists Are Neutral Listeners

Therapists must remain neutral in their private sessions. They are obligated to abide by ethical standards of their professional discipline and identify their own biases and reactions that may interfere with their work with you. By remaining objective and emotionally detached, they can see things you cannot.

Mental health professionals will be able to effectively apply the best of their training so that you can make progress. Friends, by definition, have a personal and emotional stake in your wellbeing, which can make them inherently biased, even when trying not to be.

#3. You Can Be Completely Honest

You can say almost anything in therapy. This safe space allows you to express yourself openly and disclose things you may not feel comfortable sharing with friends and even family. Honesty is encouraged by your therapist, and they are legally required to keep your secrets (with the exception of physical endangerment to yourself and others).

If you hold back your true feelings, you may be providing your therapist with a partial understanding of what you are going through. Those missing pieces may be essential to your diagnosis or the tools they suggest to you. Limiting your therapist’s perspective can mean limiting your progress in recovery.

#4. Therapy Is Focused on Your Problems & Progress

The great thing about therapy is that it is a chance to focus on your problems and develop skills to address them. It is a space where you get to do deep work and look at the big picture. You get to ask, Who am I, and what do I want for my life? Therapists are not looking for anything from you besides your willingness to strive for self-improvement.

After all, they cannot help you if you do not allow yourself to be open to being helped.

On the other hand, a friendship is a give-and-take dynamic. It cannot just be about you. Even when a good friend attempts to play therapist, they will bear a cost, whether temporal, emotional, or financial.

#5. Therapists Are Professionals With Personalized Resources

Therapists are well-educated professionals who went to school for many years to obtain the advanced degrees, certificates, and licensures needed to qualify in their field. Your friendly listener is unlikely to have this level of expertise. Friends are also unlikely to have the same listening and feedback-generating skills that your therapist has acquired through intense training and practice.

Due to their professional background,  therapists also have many resources they can personalize to your unique situation. For instance, your therapist might suggest that you try a mindfulness technique the next time you find yourself in a negative mindset.

Don’t Be Ashamed to See a Therapist.

Social support is one of the core pillars of a recovery that lasts. Friends are a critical part of your social support system, but they are not the only component. Therapy provides your recovery with another dimension of support that friends cannot offer.

Therapists have the knowledge and tools to help you do the challenging work necessary to discover yourself and achieve your goals that substantially improve your life. These trained professionals are there to provide you with the support you need.

There is nothing shameful about working towards a better you. Plus, everyone could use a professional’s perspective once in a while.

You might believe that talking to a close friend is just like talking to a therapist. However, at least five things make seeing a therapist a wholly different and valuable experience compared to talking to a friend. Your friends, family, and therapist provide various sources you can draw on when you need certain kinds of resources and interactions. Avalon Malibu is a California state-licensed residential addiction and mental health treatment center. Our focus is on bringing adults back to health and happiness and helping them discover their true potential. As we always say, we focus on potential, not pathology. We understand the importance of including family and close friends in your mental health or addiction recovery journey. These unique relationships are invaluable. We also appreciate that therapists bring something special to the therapy table. Call us at (844) 857-5992 to learn about our therapists and therapy methods available to clients.

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