Everyone needs a BFF to help us out of tight jams; to laugh with us, cry with us and listen to us. Although, there are similarities between your BFF and a psychotherapist there are also major differences.
Objectivity - A therapist will be unbiased free of a personal agenda because she does not have a personal relationship with you the way a friend does. A therapist is focused on your emotional growth and therapeutic goals.
Education/Clinical experience - A friend gives advice; a therapist gives options and insight. A good therapist will not tell you what to do but is skilled is an asking the "right" questions to point you in the right direction. A therapist knows how to guide you towards your therapeutic goal. A good therapist will see your strengths long before you do and understands what you may see as your weaknesses are your “super powers” and she is skilled at helping you utilize your powers for good.
Accountability - A therapist, in part, in an accountability partner. Knowing that you will meet with your therapist at a certain time/day, paying for a service and having "homework" outside of sessions creates accountability. Working with a therapist also provides containment for overwhelming thoughts and feelings. Understanding that you can leave your concerns in the therapist's office in between sessions and pick up where you left off can provide relief and a sense of control.
Boundaries - A friend is emotionally attached to your life, your friends and often our family. A friend’s perspective is often heavily influenced by his or her personal history with you. It is the “therapeutic separation/professional relationship” that enables a therapist to confront non-growth behaviors and to encourage you to grow in ways a personal friend cannot. Family members cannot interact with your therapist without your permission and you don’t have to worry about hurting your therapist’s feelings, making her angry or alienating her. Your therapist is able to handle your feelings.
In summary, best friends are who we turn to when our spirits need a lift. They have our backs, fill our lives with memories and makes the world we live in a better and happier place.
Psychotherapy is about giving voice to difficult thoughts, reclaiming the narrative of your life, tasing about your feelings, crying without judgment, letting go of what's no longer working, embracing new ways of thinking, doing and being, and being present with yourself.
Norma McCarthy, LPC