On many occasions I have been asked, “What’s the difference between talking to a professional rather than just talking to my best friend or my family?”
The biggest difference is when one utilizes the services of a licensed therapist, with the exception of a few communications, everything the individual tells the therapist is confidential. While friends and family members may have the best intent and may be great secret keepers, the difference is the therapist has a legal obligation to keep your information confidential.
Another vital feature of seeing a professional is that therapists are trained to be objective, without judgment of you or your situation. When engaging with friends and family, there already exists an emotional connection in which the two of you negotiate your relationship. It is this existing connection that may interfere with you getting the changes you want and need in your life. Sometimes, the people closest to us are the hardest to talk to, which may lead to feelings of anxiety and depression. Sometimes, the people closest to us may be the ones with whom we are having difficulty. Therapy provides a safe place to discuss the ones we love the most without having to hide one’s true feelings, thus, in many cases, improving current and future relationships.
Many people are inclined to believe that therapists just “chit-chat” with people who choose to make use of their services. Nothing could be more inaccurate. While it may be difficult to immediately understand the process, your therapist can provide you with what the process of therapy entails in the first few sessions. So often, the therapeutic setting and workings are a mystery to a client and that can be terrifying. Therapists have specialized training for assessing the situation and developing goals, then helping the client to implement changes in their life.
Finally, the idea that therapy takes years and years is a myth. The therapy goals that you set in conjunction with your therapist help establish a beginning, gauges throughout, and closure to therapy.
© 2016 Patricia D. Johnson, Psy.D., LMFT
This is intended to offer general and educational information only and does not provide a prognosis or diagnosis. Individual issues may differ from these broad guidelines. Personal issues should be addressed with a professional within a therapeutic context.