Your Friends Are Not Your Therapists
At what point is the boundary being crossed?
By: Rachael Dionisio
Think of your relationship with your best friend. All of the laugh attacks that convince you you’re getting a core workout in, the spontaneous adventures that become an entertaining story to tell, and the pep talks you give each other before taking an exam that seems impossible. Even the vent sessions, cry fests, and heartbreaks you share become a core part of your friendship. Through thick and thin, the pretty and ugly.
But what happens when the ugly gets too ugly, and even your best friend can’t fix it? The simple answer? Stop expecting them to be able to fix it.
It is safe to assume that your best friend admires you. They most likely talk highly about you behind your back and pride you on your accomplishments and best personal qualities to your face. They know you like the back of their hand, which is exactly why your friends are not your therapist. They simply don’t have the credentials to advise you, let alone the responsibility. Viewing your friend as a substitute for a therapist can foster an unhealthy relationship dynamic, eroding essential boundaries, and imposing a sense of obligation and guilt. They are biased toward you and lack objectivity and neutrality, two important traits of a professional therapist.
However, just because your friends are proved to not be the most productive option for professional mental guidance doesn’t mean that they are automatically deemed useless in terms of support for personal struggles. It is absolutely vital to have a support system in times of need and to establish trust with your loved ones. You should feel comfortable having open communication with your friends about whatever is on your mind. Instead of burdening your friends into thinking that your life depends on their unsolicited advice, refocus your perception of their role in your life.
Practice viewing your friends as a safe space–someone you feel comfortable having an open conservation with. Someone who you’re confident won’t judge you on how you define the magnitude of your problems. Someone who is reciprocal in terms of establishing boundaries, so the chance of triggering each other with your trauma is diminished. When consulting your friends, expect the potential to be told what you don’t want to hear, out of their best interest for you. Conversely, when your friends open up to you about their struggles, strive to give them the same energy. Transparency is key for a space for conversation to be safe and for friendship boundaries to be healthy. An honest, true friend would tell you to seek professional help when your problems are out of their expertise.
Your best friend is an absolute necessity in your life. They provide companionship and will cheer you on through your best and worst moments. Your friends wanting what is best for you makes them your best friend. They root for you no matter what because they understand you. However, next time you catch yourself running to your friends’ aid to guide you through your deepest problems, try a different technique. Instead of putting all your eggs in one basket and expecting to experience an epiphone on how to move forward, expect love, compassion, and most importantly, to be heard.