Why pay a therapist when you can just talk to a friend?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.


Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Therapist or friend – what is the difference?

1. Friends may keep your secrets; therapists are required to keep them.

Some friends are so close you can tell them anything. Well, almost anything. Most of us have secrets which we were sure we could never tell anyone. Friends are usually friends because we have things in common. If you tell them everything can they, will they, keep the secret? What effect might their knowing the secret have on your friendship? What if you two have a falling out? Some things are just too embarrassing to tell a friend.

There are two concepts that keep a therapist from revealing secrets. Confidentiality, which means that they can’t talk about what you say unless it fits those very few exceptions like you are suicidal or talk about abuse of a child. Other than that what you say there stays there.

Also, there is what is called patient-provider privilege. That means some things may be protected even if police or lawyers come around asking questions. Friends don’t get legal protection to keep your secrets.

You are only as sick as your secrets – Friends shouldn’t have to carry some secrets

2. Friends can help you solve today’s problem – counselors can help you learn to solve your own problems.

Counselors often work with clients to help them learn skills to solve life’s problems. Friends may tell you what to do in a given situation but that does not help you with the next problem.

You want help that will help you become more independent not more dependent. Therapists are taught they should help you be independent not foster dependency.

3. Friends may not want to hurt you but sometimes you need to hear the truth.

A professional person can give you their honest opinion. You paid for it and you deserve it. Friends may be afraid to tell you the truth for fear of losing a friend.

4. Friends get tired of listening to your problems, therapists do this for a living.

Ever meet someone who was really needy. Every time you talked to them it was all about their problem of the day? When you are going through something difficult you need to talk about it. Friends can get talked out. Don’t burn out friends and damage friendships by asking friends to become very involved in your problems.

5. Friends have a good heart. They want to help with your problems. That doesn’t mean they always known how.

Therapists have many years of schooling and specific training in how to help people like you with problems. They study not only diagnosis and treatment but how to help with particular problems.
It is that kind of expertise that you need in your corner when that problem overwhelms you.

6. Friends can play the game with you, but counselors and coaches can help you improve your game.

When the team is losing all the players are going to talk to each other. They know what it feels like to lose. What they don’t always know is how to change that losing streak. That is where a new coach can come in and help turn a team around. Counselors, therapists, and professional coaches can do that for your life problems.

That does not mean you should avoid friends or peer support groups. Both are vital parts of your support system. Millions have recovered from alcoholism in A.A. But if you find that when you talk to your friends about your problem, that they don’t know how to help you or that the solutions they offer are not helping, consider that you may have a second problem, a mental health problem and seek professional help.

Those are some reasons that you might decide to see a therapist rather than talk with a friend. What if your friend is a therapist? What if you are a counselor? In the next post, I want to talk about reasons to keep that friendship and that professional relationship separate.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

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8 thoughts on “Why pay a therapist when you can just talk to a friend?

  1. Pingback: Do therapists have to report a crime? | counselorssoapbox

  2. Pingback: Should you tell that to a friend or a therapist? – Part 2 | counselorssoapbox

  3. A friend can not integrate triggers that are activated handling trauma thoughts, it takes skill to handle trauma properly. outside a therapy session our trauma needs to be left alone not engaged. Trauma grows with attention and energy it withers when we are present in this moment.

    A therapist can make so much more off a difference if we the client take a daily role and practice mindfulness to support healing.

    The king of all symptoms is dissociation or leaving this moment to think. PTSD fuels in dissociative states. handle dissociation properly and the other symptoms will fade.

    learn to use mindfulness and support your therapist and your own healing.

    make up affirmations with a friend and repeat aloud to reinforce withthecognitive frontal lobes.


  4. Let’s not forget that sometimes it’s easier to talk to a professional if you want to feel safe and not be concerned about what their reaction will be to the thoughts, feelings, events and circumstances that are involved. The thought of talking to the few “friends” I have can be intimidating and exhausting because I know what kinds of reactions and responses they will have. It’s hard to talk about what’s happening and how I’m feeling without being interrupted, or told what they would do or think about my situation. Even though they mean well, I often wind up feeling judged and defensive.


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