VOS: Why Is Talking To a Therapist Different From Talking To a Friend?

Why Is Talking To a Therapist Different From Talking To a Friend?

Psychology explained

June 2021

Why Is Talking To a Therapist Different From Talking To a Friend?

Why would someone pay so much money to talk to a stranger about their problems when they can just go to a supportive friend for free? This is one of the most asked questions by people who might not have a solid idea of what therapy is about. If you too are asking this question, then be sure to read the following.

1) There are goals in therapy

When you are in therapy, there have been usually a goal or multiple of them, which both the therapist and the client agree to work on together: a treatment plan. For example, you might want to consult your therapist on how to cope with your stress and anxiety. As a client, you expect to get something out of the sessions from your therapist, an answer, explanation or a solution.

However, that’s often not the case when you are talking with your friend. Even when you are asking your friends the same questions on how to cope with stress and anxiety, your friend might not know exactly how to help you. Most of the time, talking to a friend about your problems really is just to have someone to listen to your problems, often without a goal to meet.

2) Your therapist is obligated by law to maintain your confidentiality

Whatever you say to your therapist should be kept private and confidential by your therapist. You do not have to worry about your therapist telling your stories and information to someone else that you know. On the other hand, you can never guarantee that with your friends.

3) Your relationship with your therapist is one-sided

Your therapist is not your family, friend, partner or anyone else other than just your therapist. Aside from the financial aspect, you are not expected to give anything else to your therapist. You do not have to worry about talking too much all the time, or being a burden by dropping the weight of your problems on them.

Your therapist is there to listen and attend to your problems, but never the other way round. As a client, you are not expected to listen to your therapist’s problems. On the other hand, healthy friendships usually happen both ways, where you give and receive simultaneously.

4) Your therapist is objective

Since your therapist is not your friend, partner or a family member, they are not actually directly involved in your social life. Therefore, you can trust that they are able to provide more objective insights about your presenting issues from a third-person point of view, not influenced by being in any kind of personal relationship with you.

5) Your therapist has the necessary knowledge and is trained to help you

Oftentimes, when you tell your friends about a problem that you are facing, they usually give you advices based on how it had personally worked for them. While they can be helpful from time to time, bear in mind that these advices are also heavily influenced by their own values and beliefs which might not be the same as yours.

As a result, sometimes these advices can be really harmful to you, just because this might lead to outcomes not wanted by you. Your therapist has the necessary knowledge and they are trained to deal with your problems. In therapy, your therapist rarely gives you advices based on what they think is right. Instead, they might ask questions to guide you in order to arrive at a conclusion which resonates with your values and beliefs.

6) Set and limited time in therapy

This last one might be an obvious one. While you can spend the whole evening ranting to your best friend about your problems without thinking too much of the time passing. On the contrary, you have to schedule appointments with your therapist and keep them within the time limit of usually fifty to sixty minutes per session every week.


This is not to say that talking about your problems with your friends is completely useless if not damaging, and that you should avoid doing so. Having supportive friends around when you need a pair of listening ears is undoubtedly beneficial and essential in your life. However, it is necessary to be aware of these distinctions before deciding when to go to a friend and when to go to a therapist, as well as what to expect from both of them.

Original source: Why Is Talking To a Therapist Different From Talking To a Friend?

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