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Guest post by: Tammy M. Bolles, LCSW
If you connect the theme song of a popular tv show, Friends , “So no one told you life was gonna be this way, your job’s a joke, your broke, your love life’s DOA” with some minimal knowledge of the show it gets you thinking; all you need to survive your life, “stuck in second gear” is loyal friends. My daughter was watching this show pretty religiously and one day I paused to listen to the words and asked, “do you think a group of friends, that loyal exists?” She pondered for a moment and then gave me a smirk realizing all at once that the show and its theme song deliver a false sense of security in our peers. I was once told by a dear friend, “You know a therapist is nothing more than a paid friend”…fast forward 12 years and as a therapist myself I can confidently say, a therapist is neither a friend, nor is a friend someone you want to confide in with all of life’s struggles. The more insightful notion may be to see the therapist to help you wade through the sea of emotions instigated by “friends”.
In today’s world there are mixed thoughts on seeing a therapist as well as conflicting ideas on what a therapist is. So many options… LMHC, LCSW, LMFT, psychologist, psychiatrist what do all those letters stand for anyhow? The letters tell you the individual has not only completed coursework beyond a master’s degree, but also passed a state board exam and worked under supervision for more than two years. A Psychologist holds a degree in Psychology and typically utilizes talk therapy with a theoretical undertone. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor that assesses both physical and psychological problems and has the ability to prescribe medication for things like depression, anxiety and other diagnosable mental health concerns.
Seeing a therapist does not mean you are “crazy”, nor that you need medication. In fact many people seek a counselor or therapist to enhance their already seemingly successful lives. A therapist can serve as a sounding board on ways to explore your abilities by nudging you out of your comfort zone and trying new things. Therapists typically have a plethora of tools both abstract and concrete readily available for sharing and practicing. Many feel more comfortable exploring out of their comfort zone with the protection of their confidential session and may find themselves more confident when leaving their session after having practiced and received honest and confidential feedback.
Therapy sometimes consists of only a few sessions to simply vent your frustration with a boss or co-worker, with confidence of confidentiality and the ability to spare your friends and family of hearing your daily burdens. Some sessions continue for years and a client may become so comfortable with their therapist that they feel they cannot go an extended period of time without speaking to them as the therapist provides them with support and encouragement to face their days ahead.
Like many things, therapists are a diverse group and no two alike. Some therapists utilize art to empower an individual to explore their feelings which can allow them to identify feelings they have had and were unable to identify prior. Other therapists utilize a more mindful approach and teach and encourage meditation techniques to allow an individual to become comfortable in calming themselves during anxious or distressful times in their lives.
When thinking of seeing a therapist one should not choose lightly as the therapist-client relationship is a vital one to receiving good therapy. The client should not only identify a therapist that will be covered by insurance or an employee assistance program but also one that will enhance their unique learning style as well as line up with their moral and spiritual beliefs.
As humans we become comfortable with our lives and even when we want to change find it difficult to take steps toward change, because change inevitably involves some form of discomfort. We tend to want to seek out friends to talk to rather than a therapist because, consciously or subconsciously we know they have a personal interest in us and will typically tell us what we want to hear or encourage our comfort rather than encourage our change. We all have those friends that we think we can talk to and get “honest” advice from and undoubtedly they try to be “honest”, as “honest” as a friend can be and still remain your friend.
Sometimes making the decision to seek counseling is that first step toward a true change and can therefore be the most challenging decision to make. The good news is that you can take that first step with minimal effort, usually as simple as an online search followed by a phone call. Therapists are not friends and will encourage and empower you toward change while identifying ways to soothe your discomfort along the way. Therapists do so by attempting to enhance your own unique strengths, which in turn will boost your self-confidence as well as overall moral.
Therapists serve in many ways…listening as you pour out your frustrations and offer you a tissue if that frustration emerges further emotion. They stand on the side line cheering you on through offering you “honest” encouragement while providing abstract tools you can practice along the way. If you feel your job, marriage or friendship has hit a lull, a couple of sessions with a therapist can assist you in seeing your situation in a new light. If you find yourself feeling down and not sure why; a therapist can help you identify where the emotion is coming from and then assist you towards healing. Having difficulty sleeping, struggling with keeping your mind on one thing at a time, or feel just plain out of energy? A counseling session to refresh your mind could be all that is needed. Confused about what your spiritual beliefs are and concerned they conflict with those around you? Sharing this in therapy and exploring your beliefs could help you identify the right path for you. If you are feeling alone or suffer from social anxiety and unable to make new connections a therapist can assist you in learning and practicing new ways of meeting people and feeling more confident in public places, as well as facilitating and recommending local support groups. Find yourself as a single parent or parenting your aging parents and you too could benefit from a therapist for encouragement and learning to reframe your situation. Maybe your plagued with guilt over something you’ve done or someone you hurt and simply need to get it off your chest in a confidential setting, your therapist can assist you in letting go of that guilt and replacing it with positivity.
You see…seeking out therapy goes far beyond what some might think. Society has plagued us into believing that only those suffering from a severe mental illness need counsel and it just isn’t so. Most therapists also see therapists to ensure they are adequately supported and encouraged and hold the notion it is as necessary as your annual physical. Once you make the call, it doesn’t mean you give up power, or succumb to whatever is bothering you, it means you now go on the adventure of helping the therapist identify what your sessions will look like and empowering yourself towards a new life. Your therapist will follow your lead and cater toward your unique desire for counseling. Therapists are trained to seek out your innate strengths and highlight them while empowering you toward further strength and healing without judgment or breach of confidentiality. So the next time you feel like “it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month or even your year”, as the Friends theme song goes, you may consider taking that next step toward healing.
Friends Theme Song Lyrics, (n.d.), Retrieved March 31, 2017, from
What is Psychiatry?(n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2017, from