Opening up to a stranger can seem scary but when you have things that you really need to work through, it is absolutely the best option. While your friends and family might be easy to talk to, there are some distinct disadvantages to talking to people in your life who don’t have counseling experience. Here are my two big problems with using your friends or family as counselors:
First, sometimes people aren’t really listening to you. They might be simply waiting for their turn to speak. They hear what you say and then want to reassure you that you’re OK by relating a similar situation that they went through. And maybe that’s helpful to you and maybe it isn’t, but regardless—they have suddenly made it about them instead of you. You want to talk about something that is bothering you and instead you have to sit and listento how it happened to your grandfatheror what great thing your friend’s boyfriend did last week. What you wanted to talk about gets forgotten or lost in the shuffle, and you are too afraid or embarrassed to bring it up again.
Second, because they aren’t trained professionals, they are not necessarily equipped to deal with what you’re telling them. They want to help and they feel like they have to say something to be supportive, but they may say the wrong thing. Sure, they say it with good intentions and in the right spirit, but when you are reaching out for help, the last thing you want is a pat on the back and a simple, “there, there, it’ll get better.” You may feel like your feelings are invalid, that you are being trivialized, or that you are overreacting. It might discourage you from getting more help. And sometimes choosing the wrong person to confide in can do more harm than good. I know that once or twice, I have talked about the trauma I have experienced and it was very upsetting to the person I told. I ended up consoling them instead of the other way around. People can get a sort of secondary PTSD from hearing the stories of those who suffer from it. I know that experience made me never want to talk about my trauma again, and that is the absolute last thing you want.
Talking to a professional alleviates these concerns. They set aside a time for you and then that time is devoted to listen to what YOU have to say. Maybe they steer the conversation a certain way but they may not. They can guide you toward insights you would not have gotten talking to someone who hasn’t been trained in the mental health field. They may be able to teach you techniques or strategies to help you minimize your reactions to triggers. And, because the relationship between you and your therapist is a professional one, they are better equipped to handle any trauma you want to discuss. They don’t have a personal investment in you the way your family or friends do. They can be objective in a way those who know you outside of therapy cannot.
It can be hard to find someone that you are comfortable enough with to talk to. You may have to try more than one person. But don’t get discouraged. The important thing is that you keep going and continue working toward getting well. Have faith that you will find the right therapist and you will. Just keep going!