Why You Need a Therapist Even if You Have Great Friends

By Kacie Mitterando, LMSW

This past week I came across a post on Instagram regarding friendships and therapists that led me to do some thinking about my practice with clients, friendships and psychotherapy in general. In this specific post, an individual was asking what the difference is between a friendship and a therapist but more specifically they were wondering if we have healthy friendships in which we feel open talking with them about our emotions, is seeing a therapist necessary?

This question got me thinking…

Healthy friendships are undeniably important and having friends that we feel like we can reach out to during good times along with the bad can make a huge difference in our well being. Research has consistently shown that healthy relationships with those around you can be an indicator in longevity as well as overall health. More recently, studies have shown that older individuals who haven’t maintained friendships are more likely to develop chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and depression (1).

Seeing a therapist is also important and can help increase our overall wellbeing and feelings of support as well! A relationship with a therapist can even seem similar to a friendship in some ways but also has some major differences. For example, therapists disclose much less about themselves and the therapeutic relationship does not extend into one’s personal life, such as celebrating an event like a birthday together. However, while we have conversations with our friends, therapy often isn’t a conversation and rather, can feel a lot like learning. This learning isn’t the typical learning such as sitting in a science class but rather, learning about yourself as well as tools you may use to help conquer some of your current concerns (2).

Despite this, there are many parts of friendships that can feel therapeutic. In fact, there’s an activity I’ve been using with my clients lately that I wanted to share as an activity that can definitely be done between trusted and caring friends.

For your next wine night, TGIT Shondaland date, or just a typical-hang out, use the “Miracle Question” with your BFF to help think about your goals and ways in which you may want to tailor your life to reach these goals.

Begin with this prompt:

"Suppose tonight, while you slept, a miracle occurred. When you awake tomorrow, you notice that a miracle has happened and your most positive dreams for the future have come true. Remember, a miracle has occurred and you have just woken up to your life as you would ideally like it to be.”

After this prompt, some things may come up for us: we might be thinking about a beautiful home we would have purchased or having the fastest car on the recent market. However, it can be more difficult to plan what our day to day would actually look like. I like to start by asking:

1. “How do you feel when you wake up?”

After allowing them to respond I normally repeat what they said, “So you wake up, you feel content and then…”

2. “What is the first thing you will do?”

3. “Afterwards, your best friend comes over. As soon as they arrive they noticed that something in your life has drastically improved. What is this improvement they have noticed?”

4. “Your best friend leaves, what is it that you do next?”

5. “What does the rest of this day look like?”

6. “What day of the week is this?”

7. If it is a weekend: “What does a weekday look like?” If it is a weekday: “What does a weekend look like?”

The Miracle Question is an example of an activity from a model of psychotherapy called Solution Focused Therapy. This therapy is centered on each person’s goals and the steps needed to take to reach these goals (3).

I hope you enjoy spending some time bonding with your most trusted friends. If you feel ready to add a therapeutic relationship into your life and complete more activities such as The Miracle Question, reach out to us to schedule a phone consultation.

Why Do We Need Friends? Six Benefits of Healthy Friendships. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/happiness-is-state-mind/201710/why-do-we-need-friends-six-benefits-healthy-friendships

Are Therapists Just Rent-a-Friends? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/supersurvivors/201705/are-therapists-just-rent-friends

Cool Intervention #10: The Miracle Question. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-therapy/201001/cool-intervention-10-the-miracle-question