When we are going through a tough time, our natural instinct might be to speak to one of our closest friends. They might often be able to provide the comfort and support we might need and can even offer some helpful advice. So the question that arises then is – why see a therapist at all?

Well, the truth is that while a friend can help you get through difficulties in life, at times, we might benefit from a professional perspective. Here are a few reasons why talking to a therapist is different from talking to a friend, and why, in some situations, therapist support might even be the better alternative.

1. Therapists are experienced professionals

Therapists usually have years of training and experience in human behaviour, thought and emotions. They understand the complexities of emotions and interpersonal relationships and are trained in effective ways to deal with various problems. Your friend might want to help you but could lack the training and background to completely understand what you are experiencing.

2. Therapists remain objective

Your friend might come with their own views and perceptions of the world, which could colour the advice they give or opinions they share. A therapist, on the other hand, while having their unique opinions, is trained to put them aside in order to support and help you in the way you require. They are taught to keep aside any biases related to gender, age, sexuality and more – which could otherwise interfere with a helping relationship – and focus on what’s best for your well-being.

3. Therapists are non-judgmental

At times, you might feel worried about sharing something with a friend, for fear that they would feel upset or disappointed with you. A therapist will listen to you and respond with empathy, care and concern. This creates the space for a relationship in which you feel comfortable sharing information without the fear of being shamed or judged.

4. A client-therapist relationship is strictly confidential

Therapists maintain and uphold a strict confidentiality agreement. This means that they do not share the intricacies of your life with anyone else. As a result, you can be more open and honest in therapy, without having to worry that other people might learn about your problems.

5. Therapy is goal-oriented 

A therapist will usually work with you to set goals for your recovery. As part of this professional relationship, your therapist will regularly check-in during sessions to ensure that both of you are on track. While talking to a friend might be cathartic, and could make you feel loved and cared for, it might not provide you with insights on how to bring about change.

6. Therapy provides you with lifelong learnings

A friend’s advice might be perfect for the time being and can make you feel better temporarily. However, their support might not be consistent or even applicable to a range of scenarios. Therapy is intended to equip you with the skills and techniques you can apply to a number of concerns in order to feel better and in control.

Going to therapy does not mean that you’re weak or that you’ve given up. Instead, it means that you have the courage to work on becoming the best version of yourself. When life gets tough, remember that you don’t have to shoulder all the burden yourself – instead, you can reach out to a professional for support. You might not notice a difference in how you feel immediately, but eventually – and with the right professional by your side – your hard work will pay off.