August 21, 2018 Daniel Olavarria, LCSW

Why Your Friends Can’t Replace A Good Therapist

“Why should I go to therapy when I have great friends to talk to?” I hear this all the time from smart, dynamic people, here in New York City and beyond, who have a line-up of friends with whom they love to commiserate. On the surface, it seems reasonable enough: why pay for expert support when you have plenty of willing listeners at your disposal?

The answer?

Because your friends can’t give you the completely open space that you deserve to work through your issues productively.

I’m talking about the kind of dedicated, one-sided space and time that allow you to constructively sort through your problems and move forward in a meaningful way for long-term success.

That doesn’t mean that your friends don’t want to provide that for you. Sometimes they may even give you some great advice, support, and encouragement.

But most often, these solutions are short-term fixes that are great for making you feel better in the moment. That is, until the next time that you’re confronted with the same issues and feelings.

You know what I’m talking about; those same patterns that leave you…

  • Still feeling overwhelmed.
  • Still encountering the same issues in your relationships.
  • Still…unsatisfied and disappointed.

If you’re looking for lasting growth, healing, and change, you’re going to need to get honest with yourself. I mean, REALLY honest.

Therapy is one of the only places in your life where you’ll be able to be completely honest without having to consider the feelings (or patience) of the person you’re speaking with.

  • No need to self-edit because you’re worried about hurting someone’s feelings or being judged.
  • No feeling concerned that you’re being a “downer” around those you love.
  • No worrying that you’ve hit your “quota” for talking about a certain topic with your friends.

In therapy, you get the benefit of talking with someone who is objective and able to provide you with expert support for the issues that are affecting you most. Yes, you’ll talk about your problems – but more importantly, you will chart a path towards solutions and relief.

Research has shown therapy to be incredibly effective. The American Psychological Association reports that a review of these research studies has shown that about 75% of people who start therapy experience some benefits and that the average person in therapy is better off than 80% of people who are not in therapy. This means being happier with their life, relationships, and careers.

Putting the Puzzle Together

The process of personal healing and growth is a lot like trying to put a giant 1,000-piece puzzle together. Each of those pieces represents a lifetime of experiences that are full of such a wide range of loaded emotions – joy, pain, excitement, disappointment, and so many more. Often, people and their friends have so much stress and emotional baggage on their “floor” (aka, their minds) that they’re left trying to pick out each puzzle piece from the box one at a time because there’s no room for them to lay all of the pieces out at once.

Well, if you’ve ever done a puzzle before, you know that’s NO WAY to try to put one of them together. You’re left staring at one piece without any clue as to where it goes and what pieces are connected to it.

When therapy is done right, your therapist’s “floor” is clear. You’ll finally be able to empty those pieces out and look through them…together. You’ll share what you see and your therapist, who comes with a fresh perspective and expert training, will give feedback and support based on what they find.

You will finally have a real shot at putting that puzzle together; things will finally make more sense. You will get to feel better and enjoy your life more fully…including time with your friends.

Friends are great for beach days, happy hours, board games, and, yes, for being there when you need them. But if you’re really ready to disrupt those same patterns that keep you feeling “stuck,” it’s time to invest in therapy.

Daniel Olavarria, LCSW

Daniel is a licensed therapist who works with adults and couples in his private practice, The City Psychotherapy. Based in New York City, he regularly presents on issues related to mental health and diversity across the country.

In addition to writing on health, relationships, pursuing passions, and work-life balance, Daniel is also a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and an emerging coffee aficionado. He lives with his husband in Manhattan.