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A therapist is not a paid friend

"You PAY someone to talk to you and be your friend?" How lame, right?

You've probably heard these jokes - they're scattered among movies and shows, and our society thinks so negatively about us seeking help for our mental health needs.

This is changing though, thank goodness!

But seeing a therapist is definitely not the same as paying someone to be your friend, and I'm here to explain why. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist and I can guarantee that being my friend is nothing like being around me when I'm in session. My closest friends probably wonder if I'm ever using my therapy skills with them, but trust me I'm not. That's work to me!

Talking to your friends about your stressors is a great support to use, but it's not the same as talking with a licensed therapist - or at least it shouldn't feel the same.

If seeing your therapist feels no different from seeing your best friend, you may want to find a different provider, and here's why:

A therapist shouldn't share information about themselves equally as often as you share about yourself. Yes, you may know some things about your therapist's personal life, but it shouldn't feel as though you two are best buddies.

You're there to focus on you, so the session should be focused on you.

In fact, I would even say that sometimes your therapist will feel, well, not like a friend at all. What I mean by this is your therapist will sometimes piss you off - and that's a normal, good thing. It means change is happening and it means your therapist is challenging you.

You didn't go to therapy to stay the same did you? A good therapist will challenge you to make changes to achieve the goals you asked for when you started therapy.

So yes, therapy is work. And it is a professional healthcare service your insurance company probably covers.

But DON'T WORRY - therapy is fun too!

There are some similarities about seeing a therapist and seeing a friend. You should laugh and be able to make jokes with your therapist. You should feel comfortable being with your therapist.

Did you know that most change that happens in therapy is related to your relationship with your therapist? That is why it is so important for you to find a good fit.

Yes, a therapist is a licensed professional, but we are just normal people too! We make jokes and mistakes just like anyone else. However, it's important to validate the professional process of therapy, and know that the service your therapist provides for you is not just that of a friend.


Hallie Henely, LMFT

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Mental health advocate

Holding Hands Family Therapy, PLLC

West Des Moines, Iowa

Don't be shy, email me!

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