1. I would say just talking to pals is a bit like using Web MD instead of going to a doctor, you might get the right answers and some peace of mind, but the actual nuances of what you are dealing with will likely be lost without the eye of a professional. And sometimes those nuances are the difference between getting useful advice and destructive advice.
2. I don’t feel guilty talking about my problems with my therapist. With my friends I feel like I’m burdening them with my problems, which feels rude and it worries me that they won’t want to be my friend anymore (can you see why I need therapy?).
With a therapist, there’s no guilt. This person has agreed to help me with my emotional burden in exchange for money.
Also, my therapist knows none of my friends. No chance of anything getting back to them.
3. I don’t see my therapist on a daily basis and I don’t have to listen to the therapist talk about her problems as well, when at the time I just need to vent.
4. I’m not burdening someone I care about. I know that once I leave that room, my therapist will close my case file, have some tea and then see someone else.
When I offloaded on a friend I trusted, I couldn’t face them afterwards. I know they’re gonna carry around that knowledge and any worry for me, atop their own issues.
My therapist is trained to deal with my own trauma as well as her own. She has a higher up she can go to if it’s too much for her to deal with alone and it’s not betraying my confidence, it’ll never get back to me.
5. My therapist knows the questions to ask to direct my thoughts in a productive direction. She gives me homework – exercises to practice tracking my feelings back to the thoughts that generated them, for example. She knows how to keep my thoughts focused on progress, instead of letting me wander off in some random direction.
There’s a helluva lot more to therapy than just ‘talking it out’.
6. Friends are awesome to talk to, but therapists have spent years studying how brains and mental health works. They will have insights that are beyond what friends can tell you.
7. Friends are incentivized to make you happy.
Therapists are incentivized to make you healthy.
8. Talking to a therapist removes bias. They’re also legally sworn to secrecy so it’s better to talk it out with a professional who can help you without worrying that another friend will find out.
9. Privacy and objective observations.
If you grow to trust your therapist you absolutely know you can talk about anything without having to worry about the therapist’s triggers.
Your trusted friend may be able to keep their mouth shut, but won’t have the same level of training to help quite as much.
I talk with my son on a regular basis and pretty much tell him the same thing his therapist does. But he tells his therapist much more than he can tell me. He also knows that his therapist doesn’t have any skin in the game, so he can trust the responses.
10. Something that really stuck with me about therapy was in the last season of The Office (US), when Toby says in regards to couples’ therapy, “you’re not there to talk to the therapist, you’re there to talk to each other.” When you go to talk to a therapist, you’re really there to talk to yourself, if that makes any sense. The therapist is really just a guide to help you figure out your own problems and work through them, with more advice as to how to work things out on your own. When you talk to a trusted friend, it’s more personal. Hopefully, they establish themself as a resource, as opposed to a therapist, who helps you establish yourself as a resource.
11. When you talk to a friend, their personal feelings get involved. My therapist Is only concerned with my own feelings, we had no personal relationship beforehand.
12. They are paid to listen to me. I don’t have to worry about if I’m bothering them (I am paying them, I am decidedly not bothering them they have nothing else to do at that moment), if its a good time for them to hear about my problem (its my appointment! of course its a good time!), or that I need to ask them about them and their lives and check-in on them. It’s SUPPOSED to be one-sided. What a blessing and a huge weight off my back. So all the politeness in my life gets to be shed and I get to just be sad, and angry, and irrational without worrying I’m burdening a friend and without worrying what my friend thinks about me now. It is guiltless and freeing.
And there’s something great about telling a completely neutral third party about shit. Since they don’t care about how our friendship is going to be if they say real shit, they’ll say it. Also since we’re not friends my therapist can see beyond the bullshit and look into my stuff with fresh eyes.
And like others have said she provides pointed questions, connecting things I never thought about, and exercises/books to read to help me more.
It’s like any other doctor. Sure you can go to your friend if you have a small cut and they can help you out with a first-aid kit, but if your arm is on the edge of being severed if you don’t get immediate attention why would you go to a friend or family member? You’d go to a freaking doctor who has training. Yeah the friend/family member might be able to help out a bit but that’s an unfair burden to put on them!
I resisted therapy for a long time because I had bad experiences. If your wife does go (which she should! everyone should!) remind her it’s okayy if the first one she goes to sucks and she can find a different one. Just like people shop around for doctors they like or find a specialist for them, you do the same with a therapist. I am SO happy i went, I was at my wit’s end and had talked to so many people about my mental health problems and I reached a dead end. Therapy was absolutely incredible. I no longer have flash backs to my assaults, I don’t break down in anxiety attacks anymore, my depression flare-ups are fewer and further in-between!
13. Number one for me it’s that no matter who the person I really trust is, they are IN my life. So, say I wanna talk about my parents (using the cliche because it’s easy but substitute whatever it is you want to talk about). My close trusted person will almost definitely meet my parents at some point, so I’m not 100% honest, because I love my parents and still want them to be liked by my people! You know who is never going to meet my parents? My therapist.
Similarly – a real issue I’ve had lately with all the news is talking about the few times I’ve been assaulted. My friends who knew me at the time are like WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY ANYTHING! My partner (in the past cause I’m SINGLE BABY! Sorry, unrelated) was so angry on my behalf, that we couldn’t talk about it. And my family? Please, they would freak. So I talk to my therapist about it. Because her reaction is both “this is wrong, this shouldn’t have happened to you” and also “do you want strategies? Let’s talk those through” AND “ok so is there anything else you want to talk about?” It sounds weird, but she listens without overwrought emotion, offers productive advice when I want it, and doesn’t treat me any differently than she did before. Cause she has to! That’s her job! And she’s very good at it!
Put another way – I love my best friend and he’s very handy but I’m not going to have him rewire my house – what if he gets hurt? What if he does something I don’t want? What if he feels like a failure for his lack of ability to fix something? I’m gonna pay a professional for that ish – that’s why they’re there!
14. In my experience, a therapist will tell you why your thinking that way, why you’re worried or anxious and what your human instincts are in a flight or fight situation that causes anxiety (I was in CBT)
A friend will give the advice on what to do about this, they will what the best for you and they’re happy when you are and they know you better than you sometimes know yourself and, if you have good enough friends, they’ll be honest enough about it with you rather than just trying to protect you from any harsh realities.
15. I saw a therapist who used Cognitive Behavior Therapy to treat depression.
It wasn’t just “talking it out,” (though there was some of that), more importantly they taught me how to recognize what specific negative thoughts are behind negative emotions, and dig down even deeper to identify the negative self-beliefs behind those thoughts. Then, to be able to recognize in the moment when I’n having have negative thoughts, evaluate how accurate they are, and reframe them in a more accurate, positive light, to prevent a downward spiral of rumination and negative self-talk.
It was basically like going to see a personal trainer, but for my mind. Specific exercises, homework, etc. And it really was like exercise. The more you engage in certain thought patterns, the more your brain learns to engage in those patterns, and the easier it gets (this is true both positively and negatively). At first I really had to pay attention to what was going on in my head, and try really hard to reframe things more positively, but it got easier and more automatic as time went on.
Obviously, talking about your problems with people close to you is important, and therapy wasn’t a replacement for that. But I also don’t think just talking to my friends and family would have helped me with the deeper issues at all, or even realize what the deeper issues were.
16. My therapist will ask the hard questions that friends are too afraid to ask. Therapists aren’t worried about keeping a friendship alive with you. Friends turn into yes-men who take your side regardless of circumstances when they don’t wanna make things awkward.
17. Therapists don’t have a stake in the conversation (basically). Your friends have an opinion based on how your decision will effect them, or how they think it’ll effect your family, or how they think it’ll effect your other friends, etc. The therapist literally is just going to tell you, without bias, what’s good for you.
18. Therapy offers honestly a lot “better” responses than most people.
For example: I went in for depression, while most people would just shrug it off and just say dumb stuff like “just get over it”, the therapist actually talks to you about it and how it affects you. They also usually explain your feelings a whole lot better.
19. I used to get upset with my therapist for “not being on my side” because I didn’t like what I was hearing. I thought she was supposed to have my back by agreeing with me, telling me all the reasons I was right and my opposition was wrong, whatever it was – but that’s the kind of support your friends are there for. Your doctor isn’t your cheerleader.
At the end of every session, I would realize she was making observations that were tough on me and challenging me for my benefit. She’d be doing me a great disservice if she treated me like just another friend/yes man.
20. Therapists are better at helping you come up with effective coping strategies and are generally less shocked or likely to panic because they’ve seen it all.
21. One big problem is a lot of people have their emotional eggs in one basket. If your SO is your confidant in every way possible, but suddenly there’s relationship troubles… Who do you go to, when the person you WOULD go to is the reason you need to talk?
22. Therapists don’t get butthurt when you tell them what’s upsetting you.
23. I’m a therapist as well, and I see my own therapist. It’s good to get another person’s perspective and I never have to worry about her shit or her feelings getting in the way. When I went (because talking to a trusted friend is basically venting) to a good friend it can often be about some mutual friends or topics I know are touchy for her. So I have to reign it in or feel like I have to apologise for talking. Not with a therapist. I’ve been in the field for a few years now, and it’s so hard to recognize our own shit sometimes. I thought my issues from growing up we’re done and dealt with but after talking with her, I see it’s not, and I still have more work to do.
Plus it’s not fair to my friends to unload on them regularly. They’ve got their own shit. A convo here and there is one thing, needing them to be therapists is uncool and totally different.
24. Therapist can notice unhealthy behaviors better as they are trained and educated. Also, they will not hesitate to point out areas for improvement whereas a friend may be hesitant to point out a flaw.
I self diagnosed an issue of mine and did self therapy for months and it largely worked. I had a trusted friend working with me and I felt I had worked through many issues.
Problem is, the underlying anger and bitterness were never resolved. I just resolved the cause of them. But the bitterness and anger required a professional.
Within six months, the professional cut through all the bullshit I had concocted in my head.
The person I trusted was just trying to relax me and keep me sane.
The Professional was trying to get my head back in the game so I could do the rest myself.
Needless to say, have your trusted person for small shit. Leave the big game to the professionals.
25. Therapists don’t just listen. They redirect, stop you from going down blind alleys, call you out on your bullshit that is getting in your way.
Friends are great. If you have real problems, the best thing a friend can do is listen…. And help you get to a professional therapist.
26. A run down of why “yes” to therapists.
If you have a hard time expressing what’s REALLY bothering you, they respect the journey you have to go through to become comfortable talking.
They use tools to help you through getting to the “comfortable talking” spot. I learned as a therapist there are many ways to get to that point. A professional will explore the options that work for you (for example, I love journaling.)
They do not “one up you” like friends or family (“Oh, you think YOU have it bad…”), etc. they actively listen to you.
They teach you that it is okay to HAVE feelings. It’s okay that you are angry, sad, confused, etc. Your friends and family often try to tell you that you should NOT feel “whatever” because of a tragedy or challenge in your life. Therapists are quick to tell you that what you are feeling is okay, and you don’t have to be ashamed. They give you tools on how to handle such issues.
It is the definition of a safe place for you to scream, yell, cry, ponder, analyze anything and everything.
It doesn’t mean you are crazy if you see a therapist, it means you are mature enough that you realize your friends aren’t equipped to help you through whatever it is you are dealing with.
Friends and family are wonderful support systems, but they can’t heal you. A therapist can help you heal.
27. The way I look at it is talking to a friend is like them opening the hood of a broken down car, without knowing anything about cars, while going to a therapist is like going to a mechanic.
28. My therapist doesn’t buy my bs shit and sometimes thinks I cause my own problems. My friends just kind of smile and wave.
29. Therapists are paid for what they do. Talking to a friend is nice but if you only talk to your friends to unload on them emotionally, you aren’t valuing them as friends anymore. Constantly being expected to perform emotional labor for your friends is tiring.
30. Friends are great. But they will probably tell you what they think you want to hear. And not help you to what you need to hear or even more need to accept. A therapist shouldn’t tell you what to think or feel. They can also help you learn strategies for how to process things and deal with difficult situations and people.
31. My therapist always gave me assignments and tasks that empowered me to improve. A friend can’t make you their project and to my therapist my improvement was their project.
32. Privacy: you wont say the same things to your friend, no matter how much you trust him, than to someone that your view as a professional and is external to your life.
Focus: talking with a friend is great for venting, but is easy to lose focus. Therapists often bring you back to the subject that matters if you start to talk about something else.
Most of us also try to give advice anytime that we hear a problem, but its not always wanted or useful at all. Its the difference between saying to someone with depression “you just need to cheer up! Do more exercise man!!” and a therapist taking a more “lets learn how your mind is working and then try to change your point of view a little” approach (and of course, using meds if needed)
33. I’m someone who tends to keep things bottled up. When I tell trusted friends about what goes on, they try to provide advice and find ways to help me directly. My therapist listens, and instead of providing straight advice, he poses questions that allow me to help myself. It helps to let people in sometimes, but if you truly want to get better, a therapist will help you pave the path yourself.
34. For me the biggest difference is that typically a therapist can talk to you without bias. And you will be able to say things to them that you wouldn’t to a friend or family member simply because this is the basis of your relationship. You have to see your loved ones in other environments and they are very intertwined with your everyday life. A therapist has only one form of interaction with you. It starts and ends at the door. I would be worried to speak about certain things with friends and family because of how their perceptions of me may change and how that could even change our relationship. And I would have to live with that shift forever. A therapist really has no horse in the race, you know what I mean?
35. Going to therapy is a completely different experience than talking to a close friend.
Therapists are paid to listen to you, to examine what you’re saying, and to make you critically think about what’s going on in your brain and causing these emotions. You don’t have to worry about being judged, because they’re simply there to help you, and you (most likely) won’t ever see them unless you have an appointment. Therapy is a blessing and will provide you much more satisfaction and help than your friends. These people spend years of their lives learning about the way humans think.
36. For me personally, I didn’t have anyone I could trust. The therapist is someone who is legally bound to keep confidentiality.
37. The therapist is someone you don’t have to hang out with, ever. It can be a lot more comfortable talking to someone you only ever see professionally. If you do happen to meet him outside of therapy, he’ll even act like he’s never met you.
38. Qualified vs unqualified.
Think of it like taking your car to a mechanic for some clunk you’re hearing. Your mechanic will know from their expertise and experience where to look and what to do. As opposed to taking it to John who will basically ruin it while trying to fix it.
Always. Always. Always go for the professional.
39. Therapists are better at knowing what you really need long term and not just what will make you feel better for the rest of the day.
For example, when I started with my therapist I really needed someone to make me upset so that I’d be forced to work through my experiences. I’m bad at talking about terrible shit. I’ll make jokes, change subject, literally anything so long as I don’t have to get anywhere near the root event.
But my therapist wouldn’t let me. If I joked or changed subject, she just kept going undeterred until I was crying and pissed. Then she helped me climb back out of the hole in a healthy way. Nobody who loves me could have done that. They’d have backed out when I started getting upset instead of continuing to push.
Plus they’re not as biased. They won’t agree with you just because they like you. If you say something totally wild, they’ll call you out.
Other people may need other things from therapists, but I need someone to call out my flaws and force me to confront things I avoid.
40. I have found, through years of therapy and also sharing issues with close trusted friends, that a therapist is far more likely to be impartial and not bring their own personal life experiences and/or prejudges to my situations.
41. Being that friend people confide in about big problems, if someone needs more help than I’m capable of providing I always remind them I’m not their therapist, I’m their friend. Because sometimes when you have the weight of other people’s problems on you, you don’t want to be responsible for what they do with your advice.
42. For me, it was kind of like a class with a professor of making my life better. They take your information in in a similar way to a close friend but more carefully, and then they are trained to give you better, usually scientifically backed advice. I encourage everyone to try therapy if they have the chance.
43. I always found it hard to talk to family about my problems. That wasn’t something we did in my house. I was taught to bottle things up and hide them. I always feared opening up to friends because I didn’t know if it might get back to someone or if they’d stop being my friend because of how weird I was. Therapy was just a safe space. I could tell them anything and not have it get back to anyone. Also felt less judged.
44. Therapists have ZERO emotional attachment to the issues at hand, which makes them excellent arbiters for your problems. Any relative or friend has an inherent self interest, always sort of asking themselves what they can get out of this, even if it is just their own happiness from your happiness.
45. Someone you trust will get sick of you. A therapist doesn’t.
46. I’m willing to say things to a therapist I wouldn’t say to others as not only do I know they won’t judge, but also they know others going through exactly what you are going through so they know how to help you. Going to a therapist really helped my life.
47. A therapist isn’t just there to by a shoulder to cry on, like a friend, or to take sides or tell you you’re great. They’re there to objectively evaluate how you handle situations and your feelings, and to help you with your mental health.
48. In my experience, friends often just want you to feel good, so they’ll say what they think they need to in order to get you there (for better or worse).
Beyond that, not all friends are great at talking. Some friends are so out of their depth in serious convos they try to joke their way out of it or change the subject.
Therapists, however, have no emotional connection to you and are trained in how to talk to people. I think this makes them a bit more effective at talking through issues or figuring out how to solve problems.
49. My therapist says she refuses to help friends in the same way because it’s impossible for both her to be objective, and for the advice to sound objective. It’s also too draining to be a friend and to be responsible for their issues. My last therapist said the same thing. The difference is a therapist really is someone you feel like you can say anything to, and they won’t judge you. You may think a trusted friend is the same way. But it’s different when they’re legally obligated to never disclose what you say – it’s just a different feeling. I can’t recommend therapy enough.
50. Lots of little differences, like therapists are usually better at being objective and helping you see what actions are rational vs. irrational, they’re trained in active listening and don’t talk over you or redirect focus to them, comfortable with outburts of emotion and don’t shy away from tears, can give you homework based on years of training, etc.
Biggest difference though? The knowledge that this person is a professional and that your emotional problems are not a burden to them. The ability to fully express your emotions, without qualifiers like “but it’s fine, I’ll figure it out” or “there’s nothing to worry about, I’m handling it” etc. The feeling of relief when someone else shares the weight of your grief without it draining them or causing them pain.
Therapy isn’t just beneficial to you. It’s beneficial to everyone who loves you.