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Do you really need a therapist?

I was talking to this mom recently and we were exchanging life stories. She and I commiserated on a lot of different topics. During the conversation, she said, “people tell me that they see a therapist and I say, I don’t need a therapist. That’s what I have friends for.” In my mind, I thought it was a good point but I see the value in therapy since I’ve been in it for half of my life. I juggled with the idea in my mind of trying to show her the value of therapy. I wondered if that was something I needed or was obligated to do.

I casually mentioned that I do have a therapist and I like her a lot. The mom was accepting of this and we each saw each other’s side. It was actually kind of a nice interaction where I didn’t feel judged and I don’t think she did either.

This conversation got me thinking: can you be your own therapist? What if you had the ability to work through your problems without the help of a professional to guide you? There is a form of therapy called Client-Centered Therapy or Person-Centered Therapy where the person on the couch leads the session. It’s kind of interesting and in some ways you are your own therapist. The therapist is taking your initiative and encouraging you to help yourself.

I guess it is possible to help yourself without a therapist too. You could journal, lean on the support of your friends and family and things. But when you have legitimate mental health concerns, generally I would recommend working with a therapist rather than doing it on your own. It’s sort of like climbing a mountain; you could do it by yourself, but wouldn’t it be easier with someone who knew the trail to guide you?

That’s how I look at therapists. They are trailblazers of the mind; helping people to help themselves. When you get stuck on something they help you to get unstuck.

But the question remains: can you be your own therapist? Do you really need one? I don’t know. I’ve heard people talk about becoming dependent on their therapist, which to me seems possible. But if you recognize that the purpose of going to therapy is to find the tools to help yourself, then you’re less likely to fall into this pattern.

I guess the idea is that we can’t determine what is going to work best for one person. All we know is what works for us. We can be there to support our friends in time of need, but that’s not about being their therapist, that’s about being a friend. Having genuine empathy for your friends is important. It still doesn’t take the place of a therapist.

Actually, a pet peeve of mine is when a friend starts to act like my therapist. Be my friend, not my clinician.

What do you think? Do you think that your friends can take the place of a therapist or not?