Good friendships help us feel understood and connected, both important elements of psychological wellbeing.
But talking to a friend or family member is not the same as talking to a therapist.
Friends and family members want the best for us. But at the same time, they are invested in the ways we think and act. Our decisions can affect their lives. Without meaning to, they can influence us to do things that make things easier for them.
In your effort to keep your friend or family member happy, you might even behave in ways that are not entirely true to who you are. For example, how many times have you hidden something that was upsetting you because a friend wanted a nice day out? Or done things you didn’t really enjoy, because a family member asked you to go along?
In fact many of us have different versions of ourselves depending whether we are with a family member, partner, or friend. It’s not there is something ‘wrong’ with you if this is the case. It’s just that somewhere along the line you learned to compromise yourself and your own needs to please others.
A therapist, on the other hand, will want the best for you, but is not invested in your life. Outside the therapy room your therapist’s life is entirely separate from yours.
Nor is there any point in pleasing your therapist. The point of therapy is to show up and be as much yourself as possible, even if that means saying and feeling things that are controversial or perhaps show a side of you that your friends and family would not like.
A therapist creates a safe, non judgemental space for you to say and feel anything, and it’s incredibly liberating.
Finally, a therapist listens in a way that is entirely different to most people. They are trained in effective listening, meaning they do not interrupt, they don’t talk about themselves, and they don’t give you advice. They listen very intently, then reflect back at you what you say to make sure they heard correctly.
Being listened to so deeply will help you understand your own thoughts and also how you come across to others. All far more useful (if more hard work!) than a chat with a friend.