Have you ever heard people joke that their best friend should get paid for being their therapist? Or their mother should? Many feel that if they have a good support system they should not need to pay for someone to listen to their problems. However, they may be missing out on some very real benefits of therapy!
Therapists provide an outside perspective that cannot be provided by friends or family. They see you just as you are in this moment and time. Your parents, best friend, or spouse all have views of you developed by experiences throughout your lifespan. Your parent may give you relationship advice from the perspective that you are still their “little boy or girl” and need protecting. Your partner may dislike how much time your new career path takes away from the time you previously put into housework or planning date nights. Your best friend may really hope that you date their partner’s best friend, because “double dates can be so fun”! Your sibling’s discomfort with seeing you sad might inspire them to distract you from your emotions rather than allowing you to process them.
It is not that your support system has a secret vendetta. It’s simply that they are human and have their own preferences, needs, and hopes for you! Even therapists are taught not to provide services to those they have existing or previous relationships with, as these outside relationships naturally blur the unbiased perspective that makes room for your own hopes and needs.
It may also be difficult to openly talk about issues without worrying about how family or friends may react to what you say. Have you ever noticed how differently you talk about the exact same issue with your partner compared to a parent? What played into this shift? Perhaps you worried that including certain details might change your loved one’s perception of you…and not for the better! Therapy provides a space for you to process things openly without fear of judgment. This is the beauty of therapy – your therapist wants to understand how YOU see the issue. Processing so freely, openly and honestly in a space without judgment can open up a lot of possibilities and solutions.
Speaking of openly and freely talking through issues in therapy…how many times have you had an hour uninterrupted to talk about yourself? A good therapist will not pick up their phone or change the subject to something about themselves. Therapists are passionate about hearing your story, and having this kind of uninterrupted focus on what is going on for you is part of what makes therapy…well, therapeutic!
Lastly, your therapist has had extensive education in all kinds of issues that may bring you to therapy. Your therapist not only obtained an undergraduate college degree, but also a master’s or doctoral degree in their field of study. They are able to provide feedback, ideas, and knowledge that your social support system may not have. Your therapist will not jump into telling you what to do but will provide feedback based on what you are telling them. They are well trained in helping you make connections to solutions that work in your life, and are passionate about doing so!
So the next time you are eating the cookies your awesome Aunt Silvia baked you to help with your relationship or career anxiety, consider therapy as well. While your therapist might not have cookies, they can provide a nonjudgmental, open space as you work through any issue that may be causing concern in your life. Then again… maybe your therapist does have cookies. You’ll have to find out!