What’s the Difference Between a Therapist and a Friend?
There’s no better feeling than sitting with your best friend at a coffee shop - only to realize you’ve been talking for hours and it’s about to close.
Our friendships can be some of the most meaningful relationships in our lives. Our friends usually understand us in a way nobody else can.
With such great friends, why would you need to talk to a therapist?
Here at KMA Therapy, we know you want to understand the ins and outs of therapy and see what you’re getting into before investing your time, energy, and money.
For the past 14 years, we’ve been educating our community on the therapy process and the real benefits of therapy.
After reading this article, you’ll understand the differences between a friend and a therapist.
Why is talking to a therapist different from talking to a friend?
The main difference between a therapist and a friend is that a therapist has professional training, an objective point of view, and the time to prioritize your feelings and your problems.
The five ways a therapist is different from a friend are:
- A therapist has professional training
- A therapist has objectivity and confidentiality
- A therapist has firm professional boundaries
- A therapist can prioritize you and your feelings
- You don’t have to feel guilty about taking up a therapist’s time
Your friends can be a wonderful part of your support system - but they shouldn’t be your only source of support, especially if you’re dealing with mental health issues.
1. Professional Training
A therapist has the education, experience, and tools to help you navigate the challenges you’re facing.
Your friends probably give great advice and a shoulder to cry on when you need it, but won’t always know how to help you build the skills to lead a more fulfilling life.
Therapists have the training to help you grow and develop as a person, and the perspective to know when you might need to make a change in your life.
Therapists also have access to a network of resources to support you. If there’s a book you need to read, a referral to a specialist, or a workbook that’ll change your life, your therapist can connect you with it.
2. Objectivity and Confidentiality
Even if your best friend is a licensed therapist, you shouldn’t be going to them for therapy.
Speaking to a therapist will help you explore past and present experiences from a non-judgemental and understanding place. They can help you get an outside perspective which your friends don’t have.
This is a good thing - if your ex is truly a horrible person, you want your friends to be on your side, hyping you up.
But a therapist will be able to help you examine the situation and learn from the experience so you can choose better partners in the future.
Confidentiality is another important factor when speaking with a therapist.
You’ve probably had that moment with a friend where someone brings up a secretive subject, and you can’t make eye contact with each other because you know you’ll laugh. These situations can be funny - but they can be stressful if you’re worried something serious will be exposed.
Speaking with a therapist ensures a level of confidentiality that not even late-night-life-chats can permeate.
3. Professional Boundaries
Therapists have professional boundaries in place to keep both of you at a healthy level of communication. A therapist is not your friend - and that means you can disagree with them freely and be truthful about your feelings.
This doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly with your therapist! When you’re with the right therapist you’ll feel a sense of ease and comfort during your sessions.
But you’ll also feel free to be honest without worrying about hurting their feelings.
4. A Focus on You and Your Feelings
A good friendship is a balance of give and take.
If you’re venting to your friends all the time, you’re probably taking the time to listen to their problems, too.
This is a sign of a healthy friendship - but sometimes, you just want to talk about yourself.
A therapist is there to listen to you with their full, undivided attention.
We can’t expect our friends to only worry about you and your problems - but this is your therapist’s job.
It can feel nice to speak with someone when you know their number one concern is to hear, validate, and support you.
5. A Therapist’s Time is Dedicated to You
Our friends have full lives outside of us - they have their own concerns and responsibilities to consider, even when they’re spending time with you.
You might really need to talk to someone, but your friend has to take their kids to soccer practice or complete an assignment before a looming midnight deadline.
When you’re with a therapist, it's their job to dedicate their time to you and only you.
You don’t have to feel guilty for monopolizing their time or only talking about yourself.
A therapist is there to give their time and attention to you - which can feel amazing.
Next Steps for Finding a Therapist
After reading this article, you understand the five ways a therapist is different from a friend - and why speaking to a therapist can be a great way to get the support you deserve.
Here at KMA Therapy, we’re here to be that supportive and validating presence in your life. For over 14 years, we’ve supported our clients in feeling seen, cared for, and understood.
If you’re not yet ready to book an appointment, read these articles to learn more about the therapy process: