Therapy versus friendship

During a recent conversation I heard “I’m lucky I’ve never needed a counsellor, I’ve always had really good friends.” I was inspired by that statement to delve a little more into the world of therapy and how it differs from other relationships. 

Friendship is a very important part of life, it’s mutual trust and aimed to be supportive. Many do find solace, care and compassion in the trusted bonds of friendship. Therapy on the other hand, has similarities to care, compassion and support that friendship offers but there’s no doubt a myriad of differences. 

To begin, therapy is just about you. You can be free of reciprocating interest in the therapist’s life. Friendship is the ‘two-way street’ asking questions back and forth about each other’s day /week etc. Whereas, in therapy the focus will be solely on your life. A therapist has been skilfully trained how to listen and reflect back what they hear you say, the themes and issues arising to gain added clarity. Furthermore, an experienced therapist will have developed full empathetic skills whereby they can appropriately empathise with what you are experiencing. Therefore, they will be skilled in exploring choices and highlighting viewpoints that are right for your progress. A friend may more likely view it as if it was happening for them and how they would respond. There’s nothing wrong with this in friendship, it’s just may not always highlight your viewpoint. For example, you may hear a friend say ‘well, if I was you…’ 

Even within the most trusted friendships, there may be a concern of judgement…’Oh I can’t believe you did that!!’ Even if it’s said with humour those kind of statements can linger. A therapist will listen without any judgement of your thoughts or actions. Moreover, will guide you through processing them in a safe, confidential space. 

A friend won’t like to see you upset and will do their utmost to cheer you up. this can inadvertently brush over the feelings. A therapist is trained in sitting with the hard, deep emotions and will guide you through them, summarising the themes to explore pivotal core areas in your life. This helps explore, guide and navigate through them in a safe manner.

Finally, sometimes sharing something with a friend can leave you feeling worried about them. You may worry that you’ve somehow impacted their mental health by what you’ve shared. A good therapist will have always done their own therapy, past or present with their own learned coping strategies or self care tools along with clinical supervision. They will be equipped to hold whatever you choose to share. You will not need to be concerned about their wellbeing and can safely continue to focus on your process without any concerns for their welfare.

Friends are wonderful, as the saying goes “ friends are the sun shine of life” However, if you want something that’s just about you, give therapy a try. It has the power to be life changing.