Counselor VS. Friend

When you’re contemplating seeing a counselor, you may wonder… “How is seeing a counselor any different than talking to a good friend?” That is a great question. Talking to a good friend about whatever is going on your life is often really helpful. They already know you and likely may be able to offer helpful insight and support. Healthy support is wonderful and needed. However, seeing a counselor has unique benefits as well. Here are a few that come to mind that I’d like to submit for your consideration.

Counseling provides confidentiality – When you see a counselor, you can say anything without fear of judgment or concern that it will be repeated. There are only a few reasons a counselor can legally break this confidentiality (read more here about reasons counselors may break confidentiality). Counselors won’t even confirm or deny you’re their client if asked and if you see them in public they won’t approach you! You are free to express, explore, and ask questions in a safe place where your privacy is a top priority.

Your counselor is a trained mental health professional. Licensed counselors have gone through extensive training to be able to help clients navigate difficult questions like, “Am I just sad a lot, or is this depression?” or “How do I quit yelling at my kids?” or “Should I talk to my doctor about my anxiety?” This is an area where friends are often limited to well-meaning advice. Counselors can help clients assess how they’re feeling and explore options in an effective and efficient way.

Counseling is a unique relationship – Counseling is different than friendship in that friendship (at least healthy friendship) is a two-way street, give and take. The counseling space is just for you. In difficult times it’s common to feel like you may be overwhelming your support system and need more time and space to process what’s happening to you. Counseling in a great place to do that. Sometimes a whole family or support system may go through a crisis together thereby being limited in being able to offer support to one another; this is another situation where counseling can be helpful. You never have to worry about taking care of your counselor or overwhelming them with your problems, their job in that hour is to create a safe place just for you.

Counseling is different than friendships in many ways. These are just a few examples Healthy friendships are wonderful, and counseling in no way replaces these. A healthy support system is made up of a variety of relationships and counseling is one of those. The hope is that all clients also have a thriving and ever-growing support system of friends and family. (Sidenote: counseling can be a great place to work on how to create and sustain healthy friendships, which is difficult for many people.) Counseling is a unique relationship, and sometimes people aren’t sure what to expect. The best way to find out is to give it a try.

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