Is Talking To a Therapist The Same As Talking To Your Friend? 5 Things You Need To Know About Therapy.
Recently, I overheard a conversation between two people. They were talking about how they didn’t need therapy, because they have such a great community of friends and family who support them.
Since hearing this conversation, I have been reflecting about it. Why is it that, though the rate of mental illness is 1 in every 5 people, not nearly this many people actively seek therapy?
Why is it that if our throat is sore, we would go to the doctor and get antibiotics… If the lights in our house stopped working, we would call an electrician… Or, if our car stopped working, we would go to a mechanic…
However, when our mental health starts deteriorating, we tell ourselves we need to suck it up and deal with it?
Just like a doctor, electrician, or mechanic are experts in their field and are trusted in the areas where they are trained, a counsellor is an expert in the field of mental health and can be trusted to help you with your mental health issues.
1. Therapists Won’t Judge You.
I recently watched a movie where the therapist talks to a couple for less than five minutes before telling them they should get divorced.The couple left feeling judged and hopeless.
The truth is, that when you come into a therapy session, you can expect to tell ANYTHING to your therapist, without fear of being judged. They are simply there to listen to you, and help you live your best life!
2. Therapists Will Keep Your Secrets Safe.
Unless your therapist wants their license taken away, they cannot tell ANYONE about what you tell them (*unless you have an active plan to hurt yourself or others*).
In our training, we have full courses on ethics and how to keep confidentiality. Unlike friends who may let your secrets spill, no matter what you tell us, we will not share your information with anyone… not our spouses, friends, or family!
3. Therapists Can Actually Help You Change The Way You Think.
I’m in my 8th year of training to become a licensed therapist. 8 years of classes, placements, papers, and working with people, and I am still not done learning. Therapists live of life of continuous learning and development. When you talk to a therapist, our intent is NOT to have a casual conversation. Our intent is to help you change your life in a positive and meaningful way. We are trained in evidence based practices that have been shown throughout decades of research that they can actually change the way you think. Even more, research has shown that some of the methodologies that therapists use can actually change your brain! Helping you form new pathways, and new ways of thinking and acting.
4. A Friend Cannot (And Should Not) Commit To a Weekly Time To Support You and Talk Through Your Worries.
When you go to therapy, you can depend on sessions that work with your schedule. You don’t have to worry about the therapist cancelling or not showing up. You don’t have to worry that you are talking too much, or that too much of the attention is on you. Instead, you can know that the therapist will be a reliable person in your life, and that all the attention will be on you for the duration of your session. This is a great landing place when other things in your life are unstable or unsure. You never have to feel bad about talking too much (or too little!).
A friend should not have to carry this load. Even as a therapist, I never counsel my friends. If I think they need counselling, I will support them as best as I can as their friend by listening to them and caring for them as their friend (not as their therapist). It is so important for both parties that friends are not treated as therapists.
Often times friends who are treated as therapists will start to pull away. This can cause significant strain, often times permanently damaging friendships. If you want to ask your friends for advice, or talk to them about the hard stuff that is going on in your life, that is great! Friends can be an awesome source of love and encouragement. Therapists can be there for you when you are struggling and/or are looking for ways to change your thoughts and behaviour.
5. In Therapy YOU Are the Focus.
In therapy you are the only focus of conversation. Therapists want to have an understanding of you, your values, and your struggles, so that they know how to best support you. No matter what is talked about in therapy, it is to help YOU get to where you want to be. Therapists don’t judge you, don’t dish out advice for an hour (contrary to popular belief, you do most of the talking), and don’t talk about themselves. Therapists want you to be living your best life, and the whole time spent in therapy is focussed on this!
Take Home Message:
Talking to a friend about your problems can be a great way to get advice and love from someone you trust. However, this should not be a replacement for getting treatment from a trained therapist.
Talking to a therapist is different than talking to a friend because:
- Therapists won’t judge you.
- Therapists will keep your secrets safe.
- Therapists can change the way you think!
- A friend cannot and should not commit to a weekly time to support you and talk through your worries.
- In therapy you are the focus!
If you have ever considered going to therapy, now is the time to go! It can change your life in so many amazing ways. If you are still hesitant and unsure if therapy is for you, make sure you check out this post where we debunk more popular myths about going to therapy.
There is still such a stigma surrounding getting help! If you want to help reduce this stigma, make sure you share this post!
Thank you for reading,