7 Ways Seeing A Therapist Works, And Is Better Than Talking To A Friend

Ditch the notion that therapy sucks.

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I'm a bit biased about the positive effects of seeing a therapist, but I often have a new client come to me and say, "I was so scared to come here today," or, "Well, that wasn't really so bad. I thought it was going to suck!" The truth is, seeing a therapist doesn't have to suck, and if going to therapy does suck for you, find a new therapist.

There are so many people to choose from, so continue looking until you find someone who resonates with you, someone you respect and would want to have as a friend. Being very clear though, this person can never be considered a friend in any social settings, outside of the therapy office.


It's a boundary violation and an ethical issue, but if you like him or her, as you would a friend, you'll be more willing to talk and trust, to open up as a whole. Find someone you like and respect, and then start talking!

RELATED: Should I See A Therapist? 10 Questions To Determine If Therapy Is Right For You


And why should you turn to therapy instead of your friends? Here are 7 reasons why, despite misconceptions, seeing a therapist is actually wonderful for you and your mental health.

1. You get one full hour (sometimes two, if you ask nicely) to talk about yourself.

Not to mention, you get to do so without worrying about judgment or having to see your therapist in the drop-off line at your kid's school after a session. The best part, though? You don't have to worry if you're giving your therapist enough time to discuss herself, because she won't talk about herself.

You don't have to worry if you sound crazy, selfish or even if you go into a full-blown "ugly cry." Go for it! This is your time. Therapists always have plenty of tissue on hand to mop up your tears. It's exactly the place to feel and experience all of your emotions.

You can get mad, storm out, and the therapist will still be there the next week, wanting to talk about your experience. Where else can you get that kind of dedication and attention?


2. You can go to your dark places and remain safe.

A good therapist won't react to your "dark places" or "hard things" with discomfort. And, unlike a friend might, they wouldn't dare say, "Um, you're just too dark for this 'friendship' to work."

Therapists provide a container for you to bounce around in. In a good therapeutic relationship, the therapist allows you to go to the edge of your fear or darkness and, at times, sanity, without actually going over.

The therapist helps guide you and allows you to become more enlightened along your path to self-discovery and/or recovery. The therapist will not let you crash, but walk with you right up to the crash scene and emotionally hold your hand; they will facilitate your arrival on the other end, through the dark places.

RELATED: How To Find The Kind Of Therapist You Truly Need


3. You get someone who actually keeps your secrets.

In fact, the law requires therapists to hold secrets and not divulge them to anyone. Unless you're going to hurt yourself or someone else — then, okay, they legally have to tell.

But that's a good thing, right? Otherwise, secretly jealous of your best friend? Secretly resentful of your brother? Secretly worried whether you should or shouldn't marry your partner? Your therapist keeps those secrets and, even better, provides space for you to explore what's really going on behind those feelings you feel uncomfortable admitting or sharing elsewhere.

4. Therapy can be fun... at times.

A good therapist is able to help you laugh at some of your issues, in a loving and productive way. We all take ourselves and our lives so seriously, but sometimes, it's truly helpful to have someone in your life who helps you find the levity in an otherwise ridiculous or challenging situation.

5. Therapy provides unbiased insights into your behavior.

Most everybody else in the world gives you their opinion about your life, your choices, or your challenges, based on their own experiences. However, a therapist's experience doesn't really matter, because he or she is not your BFF.


A therapist shows you the pros and cons of a situation, helping you make the best decision for yourself.

6. Therapy provides structure and a touch point.

That regular, weekly appointment becomes a place of refuge and relief when everything else in your world seems like it's coming unhinged. Hopefully, your therapist's office is the one place where things make sense and you feel safe.

7. A good therapist plays many roles for you along the way.

Sometimes you might need a good swift kick in the pants, other times you need a steadfast cheerleader, other times you'll require (if nothing else) a good, strong, silent shoulder to cry on. Your therapist, if you see them for a period of time — truly allowing yourself to trust and be vulnerable — becomes all of those things to you as your unique journey of self-exploration warrants.


So go to therapy! With so many different kinds of therapeutic interventions, techniques, theories, and practices, "going to therapy" seems stressful and confusing. But actually, much of that stuff doesn't really matter.

In fact, studies on the outcomes of a positive therapeutic relationship found that the true test of success in therapy is if you have a positive, trusting and friendly therapeutic relationship with your therapist. Find a fun therapist you trust. Then, therapy becomes an awesome to support and enhance your life.

RELATED: 5 Things Your Therapist Thinks (But Doesn't Tell You)

Jennifer Maddox, LCSW, MASM is a resiliency expert. For the past decade, she has been working with families and individuals who have experienced significant trauma.