NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Psychotherapy Blog: How Talking to a Psychotherapist is Different From Talking to a Friend

As a psychotherapist, I often hear people, who have never been in therapy, ask the question, "How is talking to a therapist different from talking to a friend?"  This comes up often enough for people considering going to therapy that I think it's worth discussing in this article.

How Talking to a Psychotherapist is Different From Talking to a Friend

Many people, who have never been to therapy, think that there's no difference between speaking with a  licensed mental health practitioner and speaking with a friend.  They feel that the only difference is that they have to pay a therapist and they don't have to pay a friend, but working on your issues with a licensed psychotherapist is very different from talking to a friend.

Let's take a closer look at the differences:

Licensed Psychotherapists are Trained Mental Health Professionals
To be a licensed psychotherapist in New York, you have to get special training.  Aside from getting a graduate degree, a therapist must have of several years of experience in the field before she can call herself a licensed therapist.

Aside from taking mental health courses in graduate school, this also includes two internships as well as a fair amount of clinical supervision.

How Talking to a Psychotherapist is Different From Talking to a Friend

Psychotherapists who want more in-depth clinical training attend four more years of advanced training beyond graduate school as I did when I attended postgraduate mental health training.

Psychotherapists in New York also have to continue to develop professionally by attending continuing education courses to continue developing their clinical skills.

By the time a therapist is licensed in New York, she has already worked in the field for a while and has seen many clients.

An experienced therapist knows how to be attuned to clients (see my article:  A Psychotherapist's Attunement Can Be Emotionally Reparative to Clients).

Licensed Psychotherapists Are Objective
Whereas your friends are caring and compassionate, they're usually not objective.  They might automatically take your side without being objective enough to see your situation in all of its complexity.  They might tell you what you want to hear or they might have some stake in the situation that you're dealing with at the time.

In addition, they might allow their personal feelings to get in the way of hearing what you have to say, especially if they're dealing with similar problems.

How Talking to a Psychotherapist is Different From Talking to a Friend

Psychotherapists are trained to be objective.  They're also trained to help you look at your problems from many different angles, possibly angles that you haven't considered before.  They can help you to develop new insights into yourself so that you can grow as a person.

In addition, they can help you to understand how your current problem might be related to your history.  This is often difficult for most people to do if they're not trained as a psychotherapist.

Licensed Psychotherapists Must Keep Your Sessions Confidential
Except under a few circumstances that involve either suicide, homicide or child or elder abuse, your psychotherapy sessions are confidential.

While your friend might inadvertently reveal your personal problems to someone else, your therapist is bound by confidentiality.

Also, therapists are trained to create a safe and emotionally supportive environment for clients without judging them (see my article: The Creation of a "Holding Environment" in Therapy).

In addition, many people, who are concerned about a friend or a family member being judgmental, prefer to talk to a therapist about their problems.

Licensed Psychotherapists Are Trained to Maintain Appropriate Boundaries in Therapy Sessions
Along with maintaining confidentiality, psychotherapists get training to maintain professional ethics.

An experienced therapist knows how to develop a rapport with clients while maintaining appropriate boundaries.

How Talking to a Psychotherapist is Different From Talking to a Friend

Licensed Psychotherapists Keep the Focus on You
Whereas your friend might want to also talk about her problems when you already feel overwhelmed by your own, a therapist focuses on you.

The therapy session is a time and place that is dedicated to only you.  The therapist isn't going to be talking about her problems.

The Importance of Having an Emotional Support System Outside of Therapy
As I've written in a prior article, it's important to have an emotional support system outside of therapy (see my article: Emotional Support From Your Family of Choice).

It's not a matter of choosing friends or choosing to be in therapy.  Both are important and have different roles in your life.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you've never attended therapy before, you might find it helpful to read my article, How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

There are times when we all need help.  If you haven't been able work out your problems on your own, you could benefit from seeing a licensed mental health professional who can help you work through your problems so you can lead a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.