There is a fine line that exists between treating your close friends as your companions and as your therapist.
Therapy is often assumed to be an additional facet of friendship. Little do we know that there’s only a certain amount of pain that can be healed through companionship.
One of the most common unpopular opinions is that therapists are for those who do not have a group of honest and stable friends, who might be there to hear out their feelings. Thus, they pay for the same. It is extremely important for us to understand that friends can’t always be our therapists. Additionally, just because an individual goes for therapy does not mean he or she does not have a supportive group of friends.
Often, we forget that a shoulder to cry on can also belong to someone who may need one them-self. A friend might be able to comfort us, listen to us, help us out and even manage to bring us mental peace, but that does not mean that we dump all our mental health issues on that person.
In this world and generation of being self-absorbed, we often forget to look around and see what the other person might be going through, the kind of battles they may be dealing within their own mental space. Our friends are not our therapists and we need to be extremely mindful and gentle while sharing our innermost troubles with them.
Sometimes, they may be able to provide support. However, we forget that many a time our issues can become burdensome to another person’s mental health if it is thrown at them. In this scenario, seeking help from a professional is certainly the better way out. Facing similar struggles and talking about them to each other is supporting each other but it’s not the same as seeking therapy from a professional!
There are a lot of differences in talking about your deepest troubles to your best friend and talking about them to a therapist. We often feel like discussing these issues; all we require is trust, faith, zero judgment, and the feeling that we are being heard.
However, one major aspect that distinguishes therapy from friendship is that in this relationship, the focus is solely on you! A friendship is a two-way street, interdependent. Friendship requires both of you sharing each of your issues and both of you being equally supportive of one another. Whereas in therapy, only your issues are looked at and heard.
A therapist also does not let his or her own feelings get in the way of decision making and hence the suggestions would be entirely objective of the understanding of whatever is being conveyed to him/her. A good friend will definitely be supportive; however, a therapist will also be able to provide an individual with meaningful insight, something which not every “good friend” may be able to do.
In friendship, each individual is responsible for his or her growth and it is mutually beneficial. However, it isn’t the same case when it comes to therapists. A therapist’s main aim will be only the individual seeking therapy’s issues and solving those issues. A therapist also dives deep into the root cause of one’s problems understanding deeply personal issues and a friend will base his/her judgment only on the information that is given to them on a first-hand basis.
Sometimes, understanding another person’s mental health issues might require a lot of time and patience which not every friend might be willing to offer. This does not mean that the person is a bad friend; it only shows the person might not be in a mental state or might not have the mental capacity to do so. A lot of the time, our friends want to help us out with our issues but don’t know what may be the right thing to say or do and hence end up only listening to us.
This is where we feel that the friendship is not good enough or the friend doesn’t care enough about our well-being. This is where we need to realise how essential the role of a therapist is. A therapist’s sole purpose is to hear us out and help us simultaneously with our deep-rooted issues. A therapist would never be too preoccupied because of his or her own mental state and hence would be able to provide with the extensive care one needs.
It is beautiful to be surrounded by people with whom you may feel you can open your heart and pour out all your problems. However, when those very people are not available, and you feel like everything is falling apart you may doubt the very foundation of your friendship. It is situations like these which should lead us to introspect and realise that the person we may want to solve all our problems for us is going through a hard time themselves.
A lot of individuals tend to suppress their emotions and don’t let the people around them know what they are going through. They are fighting battles inside their heads. They need some support themselves. At this point, if we burden them with our issues we might just disrupt some boundaries as well as another individual’s mental health!
Which is why it is extremely necessary to be able to distinguish between problems that can be talked about with peers and friends, and problems that require a professional, objective person who has the proper and requisite skills to help one out with these issues. It is okay to hurt, it is okay to cry, it is also okay to lean on a friend for help but what is not okay is to lean so much that both end up falling.
Going to therapy doesn’t make you weak. You don’t have to have society defined issues to seek therapy, but seeking help from the right place is extremely important. Often we choose the wrong path for situations and issues which may require seeking a professional and end up in a ditch. Your mental health is your business and you should be the one to take the bold decision of seeking professional help and not treating your friend as a therapist!
Additionally, one of the main factors behind venting out to your friends is consent. We can’t unload on them just because we want to, without asking what their headspace is first.
“But what do I do when I need to urgently pour my feelings out?”
For situations like these, when all you want to do is talk it out and you don’t have immediate access to a professional, forums like Now&Me can be of great help.
We have an entire community of likeminded people on our platform, who are always ready to listen to your problems and provide immediate solutions and support.