Talking to a Therapist VS. Talking to A Friend

Categories Self Help

During a discussion forum on psychology, was asked to post the question in the title, and it made me stop for a moment. There is a question that I’ve already come across in the past. “Why do we need to go and pay a hundred dollars a psychologist if you can sit with a friend over a beer?” Or the stereotype you often hear –  “Those who go to a psychologist, have no friends to speak to.”

Now, for me personally the answer was pretty obvious, but when it was asked, at the moment I stopped and tried to think about it again, especially to formulate my answer more clearly. I quickly realized that I could not think about it objectively, because I myself am a psychologist. I chose this profession, career and life that I chose for myself, so my opinion probably be biased in favor of therapeutic experience, and maybe there are people who would be subject to other opinions. So I went and asked other people. I received a variety of comments that helped me refine my thoughts on the subject, so I wrapped my mind around this subject and decided to share it with our readers.

So really, what’s the difference between psychotherapy conversation with a friend, and what are the advantages of going to a therapy (if any)?

You may want to start by saying that psychological treatment is not necessarily better than a friendly conversation, actually. The comparison between these two things problematic , because these are two very different situations, each of which serves a different purpose. For me, it’s a bit like asking which is better, a squash or a watermelon. They come from the same family, but they are different and perform in different ways and for different purposes.

Still, why the psychological treatment is worth investing the time and money in? The answers can be divided into four main themes (unrelated, but for that matter the division is convenient).

Professional Tools


Anyway you turn it, psychologists have special training that are very long – at least five to nine years (!) of learning and practical experience. That’s a lot of time and it makes a noticeable difference. If you steal a metaphor given me in one of TED talks about it: anyone can do massage, it is quite simple. But who studied anatomy, physiology and pathology, and then also had experience in providing massage for different people with different problems and different methods of massage – massage becomes an effective therapeutic tool. The same can be said for mental help.

Training and professional certification also gives a certain dimension of power to the shrink, and the authority is an element important to many people, especially when it comes to the treatment of any problems. “It’s like a physical injury. Member will give you a bandage, but did not go to him to analyze you,” was one of the responses I received.

This issue of professionalism is very important to me. Mental work is quite a complex matter, and yet there are many people who think they can deal with it intuitively, without purchasing appropriate training (be it whatever it may be). It is one of the major differences between the eyes of an expert and a professional therapist to whom he does not like, but we are actually talking about the difference between a professional therapist and just friendly conversation. It’s not that people no good intuition and a lot of times friends will be able to say the right thing at the right time, even if it does not come from a place of professional experience – but it’s good for certain situations and not others. Therefore, as mentioned, I think that all functions that do not contradict each other.

Neutrality and independent


As mentioned, it is important to members, and I do not disparage the value of conversation with friends. Sometimes it is not always enough to run a psychologist. But a psychologist can do things that a member can not, or does not have to do.

One of the most notable responses they gave me who is a psychologist, on the other member, comes from

Neutrality and independent

. Several people said that they felt comfortable psychologist say something very private, even with very good friends they could not share. There is a lot of power this psychologist is a third party. He hears things from the patient (and in many cases only from the side of the patient) enabling him to form a point of view that members (for better or worse, admittedly) – but that perspective would be independent of earlier relationships between therapist and patient, simply because there are none.

Very beautiful setting is a psychologist gave me allows the patient to experience contact in

Very specific situation

And observe how he behaves in this interaction and thus understand itself in other relationships. This is a good setup and indeed often we work with the patient to help him understand himself in relation to others. Here you can give an example of professional tools for studying during training: psychologist’s ability to understand processes within the context often does not notice them (transference and countertransference) and his insistence on treating them, even if it’s uncomfortable.
In addition, the psychologist should pay attention to the place he occupies in touch. Like I said: “A friend can project themselves and give bad advice.” Psychologist too can project themselves and catch the wrong patient, but a good psychologist able to identify it, avoid it or learn from it for the benefit of the patient. In addition, because the psychologist is an independent person, it can come from

Nonjudgmental place

I will summarize this point is very beautiful sentence I wrote: “There are friends who are showing us, with point-blindness or there are less treatment distortion. Like a painting as opposed to a photographic portrait.”

Business relations allow more daring


It connects to the previous section, but it is very important to me. When talking with a good friend, you can count on a shoulder or give advice, but ultimately it’s part of a complex relationship lasting and most likely you will not want to hurt her. More than once you can hear cases where a member does not dare to say something that he did not want to offend or annoy. This does not in psychological