Why counselling is not the same as talking with a friend


SIGNIFICANT DISTINCTIONS Friendships and therapy are both invaluable in their own ways, but there are some important differences.

Mental Matters

Jannah Walshe

Many people describe counselling or psychotherapy as the same as talking to a friend, except that you don’t have to pay for your friend to listen to you. However, even though therapy can certainly be a friendly relationship, and your therapist may be friendly and someone who is easy to talk to, it is important to remember that therapy is not the same as a friendship. Both friendships and therapy are invaluable in their own ways, but there are some differences between them.

Therapy is confidential
It is usually safe to talk to a friend but there are things we are more likely to speak about in therapy that we may not be comfortable sharing with a friend. This means that it is possible to dig deeper in therapy and unravel the many layers within ourselves.

Therapists are trained professionals
Therapists have years of training and advanced knowledge in human behaviour, relationship dynamics and effective interventions. Many friends do not have this.
Also, friends want you to be happy but are not usually keen for you to change too much because then this would change their relationship with you. A good therapist will encourage and support you to change if that’s what you want or need.

Therapists are objective
Friends aren’t always able to stay objective or neutral. Naturally they have their own views, needs and opinions, which will influence the interaction between you whether they are aware of it or not. Therapists also have their own views, needs and opinions, but they are well trained to be aware of their biases and reactions and know how to work through them so that they have minimal impact on the interaction between you.

Therapy is for you
With friends it is normal to take turns talking about problems. Also, you may wait to talk to your friend about something, only for them to have a seemingly bigger problem to talk about. You may feel that you don’t want to burden them with your problems as well. In therapy you have a scheduled time that is only for you and is specifically for you to talk about whatever you want.

Therapy comes with clear boundaries
Therapy is usually on a specific day at a specific time in the therapist’s office. In friendship you are asked to be more flexible because there are more factors to take into consideration, such as the other person’s availability.
Friendship is such an important part of life and can be one of the big enjoyments and supports that life has to offer. A therapist is someone who is available to you for a time should it be needed. It is not the aim of therapy to replace friendship. A friend is a key player in your life, whilst a therapist is involved for a time only. Both are so important and needed, but not to be confused with each other.

Jannah Walshe is a counsellor and psychotherapist based in Castlebar and Westport. A fully accredited member of The Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, she can be contacted via www.jannahwalshe.ie, or at info@jannahwalshe.ie or 085 1372528.