Why Go To Therapy When I Can Just Get Advice From Family and Friends?
“What’s so great about therapy? I have tons of family and friends I can go to if I need guidance”.
Does this sound like you? If so, you’re not alone. It may take someone months of suffering in silence before they make the decision to engage in therapy.
Some people view therapy as no more than another way of getting solid advice. In order to spare themselves the stigma of mental health treatment, or the financial burden of therapy they choose to turn to their inner circle for wisdom instead.
While it may seem sufficient for a while, there are a few troubles with taking this avenue.
What are the downfalls of using family and friends as therapy? What are the benefits of investing in a mental health professional? Let’s talk about it.
Why Shouldn’t I Get My Advice From Friends?
Our friends serve many roles: they can act as a caretaker when we’re having a bad day. They can serve as a shoulder to cry on during a breakup, or they can serve as your financial savior when you forget your wallet during a coffee run.
One role a friend should never play, however, is a full-time therapist. While it’s certainly not bad to seek advice from friends, if you’re constantly running to them every time you need solid, impartial guidance, you may be hindering yourself from truly growing.
#1: Friends and Family Are Biased
Any good friend wants to see you happy. Some friends and family may take this too far - telling you whatever it is they think you want to hear. In some cases, your friends and family may be biased toward the situation.
For example, if your parents have never liked your boyfriend, they may give you advice that encourages leaving him, even if you have no reason to. On the contrary, if you’re struggling with a toxic friendship and turn to your family for advice, they may sugarcoat their response as to not hurt your feelings.
In addition, your family members have known you all their lives. In some cases, they may give you advice based on who you were in the past, rather than the person you are now. Your mom or dad may not fully see all the work you’ve put in to overcome your anxious attachment styles or heal from old wounds.
While these people mean well, their advice is tainted the longer they know you. They might give you advice based on decisions you’ve made previously, or based on what they want for your life, rather than looking at what makes you happy.
#2: Friends and Family Are Not Trained In Mental Health
Your family and friends can certainly give you their opinion, but a therapist does much more than that. A therapist can guide you in learning new ways to cope with past trauma, teach you skills for emotional regulation, and allow you to engage in your own healing and treatment.
Unless you have a friend specifically practicing as a therapist, they aren’t able to give you anything beneficial besides an outlet to vent to. In some cases, this can be incredibly helpful and even therapeutic, but it’s not a long-term solution.
While therapy does focus on resolving current issues you may be facing, it also encourages you to develop healthier behaviors, learn more about yourself, and equip you with a range of life-long coping skills.
This is especially true if you’re dealing with bigger issues that lie down below the surface. PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues can all affect the way we see the world. Your therapist can help you discover areas that may be holding you back.
#3: Friends and Family May Need Therapy, Too:
Someone that has never been to therapy, or addressed their own issues can have a distorted perception of the world. Not everyone you meet will see the value in therapy and this can greatly influence their point of view.
Let’s say your sister is your best friend. She knows you better than anyone else on this planet does. However, you both grew up in an incredibly toxic household. While you’ve begun to do the work in healing your past trauma, overcoming your anger issues, and working through resentment held towards your father, she has chosen to ignore it.
So, when you run to her for advice, she holds a tainted perception of the world. She is still a hurt, traumatized young little girl on the inside that pushes everyone away. While she means well, her advice always ends up being some sort of negative, cynical answer that isn’t often helpful.
See how someone that hasn’t done the work themselves can give bad advice? It’s certainly okay to vent and talk with your loved ones, but be wary of accepting advice from anyone that hasn’t worked through their own issues yet.
Why Therapy Is Better Than Talking With Friends and Family:
Now that we’ve discussed a few reasons why talking to your friends and family may not be the best option, let’s talk a bit about why seeing a therapist is so incredibly insightful.
#1: Your Therapist Can Give a Fresh Perspective
Have you ever heard the same piece of advice over and over again from your parents, only to have a random store clerk tell you the exact same thing, and it finally clicked?
This is because an outsider's perspective can be incredibly powerful when we seek advice or guidance. Your therapist is outside your inner circle and can take a look at your situation with fresh eyes.
Instead of knowing you as you used to be, your therapist meets you as you are now. Flaws and all. They take their knowledge and education and combine it with what they know about you to give unbiased advice, encouragement, and support.
Not only can your therapist give you a fresh perspective, they can teach you more about how to cope with your problem at hand, rather than just simply telling you what you should do.
#2: Your Therapist Is Private
Have you ever told your parents a story and intentionally left out certain tidbits of information?
Unless you have an incredibly close relationship with your family, you might feel the need to alter your situation to avoid judgment or harsh criticism. With a therapist, this is quite the opposite. It may take some time to fully open up, but leaving no stone unturned is highly encouraged to make the most of your treatment.
Your therapist is there to listen and help. They aren’t there to judge you or look down on you. The main goal of therapy is to help you understand yourself better while learning new ways to cope with past and present issues.
Counselors everywhere are required to follow a strict code of silence. Unless you’re speaking of harming yourself or others, your therapist isn’t allowed to speak to anyone about what’s said during your session, meaning you can spill to your heart's content.
#3: Your Therapist Is Trained:
As we discussed previously, your therapist isn’t there to simply listen and give advice. While it does take up a large portion of what they do, they’re also trained to help with emotional regulation, identifying negative thoughts, teaching coping skills for stress, and assisting you with any mental illness support you may need.
In addition, a therapist has the background knowledge and education to assist you in looking for additional treatment outside of their own practice if you need more support.
A therapist is trained to see and identify your patterns of thinking and behavior. These problematic patterns may be completely invisible to you, and anyone close to you. It takes a trained eye to see what the average person can’t.
Therapy can help not only you but any relationship struggles you may have. They can help repair broken homes, enhance communication, and teach better ways of connecting with one another.
Therapy Gives You What Your Friends Can’t:
While our friends and family can certainly share with us what they think is best, your therapist is the only one who is not only unbiased but has studied ways to help individuals in situations just like yours.
While friends can help you determine which path to take, your therapist can help you discover the root cause of some of your issues as well as lead you on your way to becoming a healthier individual in every area of your life.
Your therapist won’t be there forever. Eventually, treatment will stop, and any educated counselor will teach you the skills you need to be successful on your own.
If you feel as though your family and friends just aren’t cutting it anymore, it might be time to reach out for help. It just might be the best decision you ever make - not only for yourself right now, but for the person, you’ll be in the future.