Your Friends Are NOT Your Therapists
OOOWEEE! Having friends, acquaintances, and just cool people to talk to is great. It's often those connections that make you smile, make you feel supported, and maybe even give you meaning. But how often do these relationships make you deeply reflect and feel challenged? How often do these interactions make you feel uncomfortable, and you DON’T stop to question their loyalty to you? That, in your defense to these accountability partners, you don't retaliate by cutting them off or being petty? Because friends- in all of their ability- bring in biases, preconceived notions, and their own experiences into the room with you.
Often times our support system is simply that. Support. Support by people that listen, and encourage you, and even give advice. You know, the advice that sounds good but we tend to ignore. That thing. The advice that leads us back into talking about the same issue over and over because you choose to ignore it. But this is supported by research that says that we often don't listen to advice because we want to maximize our independence and personal sense of freedom. Adhering to someone else's opinion challenges that and we often become defensive to it, either directly or indirectly.
Therapists are not in a position to judge you. What you say and how you say it is welcomed, it’s not something that will be used against you.
THERAPISTS DONT HOLD THINGS AGAINST YOU
As therapists, we do not hold things against you. It’s kind of a part of our speech when we first meet. You know, the whole "this is a safe space..." speech. There is no value in judging you because it will deter you from seeing what is needed for your growth. Therapists reflect on your thoughts and actions and allow you to come to your own understanding of what it is. We validate your truth by acknowledging it and being curious about it.
YOU ARE THE EXPERT OF YOUR LIFE- NOT THE THERAPIST
We don't know you and that's a great thing. We didn't grow up seeing your habits, we only know you from what you do and say and the lived experiences you share. What we have the beautiful luxury of doing is accompanying you on your current journey. Friends sometimes know you to a point and support you on where they think you are in life. Your loved ones may not be well trained in keeping their biases to themselves and not projecting things on to you.
"OH YEA THAT HAPPENED TO ME TOO"
Your friends may be victims of projecting their personal challenges on you, putting you in a position to be their healer while you are hoping they can be one for you. Therapists are an unbiased member of your journey that processes your projections and keep the experience focused on you. We do not minimize you in any way. You don't always need your friends to say something to you, but rather listen. We are well capable of doing both: holding space or participating in your exploration of what's important to you.
When we think of friendships, we may feel the pressure of "doing" something to support you when in all honesty you were needed as an ear to listen. As a therapist, we know the power of silence and holding space. We are active listeners that do not make the session about us. You ever had a friend that as you talked about your experience, made it about them? Yeaaaaa we don't do that.
WE REALLY KEEP OUR MOUTHS SHUT
Let's be real here. Some of your friends suck at talking to for many reasons. One of them is due to their inability to keep their mouth shut. Plainly put, keeping a secret may be difficult to a friend, who may have friends or no people impacted by your shared secret. In order to be a good friend to everyone, sometimes confidentiality may be breached. This also occurs because your friends may not want to have anything to do with your secret. That is a responsibility that they do not want. And that's where a therapist can be of service.
You do not have to worry about gossip or anything said being used against you.
What you say in the room, stays in the room. We allow you a place to leave your baggage when it gets a little heavy. We have room for it. It is great to have a friend to confide in but you may be putting pressure and an expectation on them that they may not be aware of.
Heads Up: Sometimes the people you share your personal matters with love drama. They may do nothing for you other than find ways to keep the drama going in your life; because it gives them tea to talk about with others. Stay woke. Some relationships serve as entertainment and not healing but that's a talk for another day.
WE HAVE A TON OF TRICKS UP OUR SLEEVES
Therapists have a slew of resources to help you cope, explore, and grow as a person. We have gone to school for this, been trained in how to manage specific issues and experiences that may be daunting to your friends.
KNOW WHAT AN ACTUAL FRIEND IS
You don't need to expect anything from us therefore there is no need to feel like you are being needy with us. A friendship should be reciprocal and it can become tiring if the person is always talking to you about things going on wrong in their life. There is no space for reciprocity and often makes people feel that friendship is one-sided or you're being used.
You can have a friend that possesses the ability to be patient, reflective, and challenging. We all need those types of friends, but it is ok to have those as your support AND that of a therapist. Do not feel that it has to be one or the other if it will help you grow as a person.
Giancarlo Simpson, MS
Song to bump to
"Friends" by The Carters
Video to watch
"Therapy" by Mary J. Blige