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The Best Friend You'll Never Have

I once heard it said that a good counsellor is the best friend you'll never have. I wish I could remember who said/wrote it, but alas, I can't. You'll have to Google it yourself, I guess ;)

I also once heard that if you have good friends, you'll never need counselling. Not sure where I heard that one either (my memory is not what it used to be).

I agree with one of those two sentiments. You'll know which one pretty quickly.

The first one.

Here's why:

1) Think about your best friend. How did you develop your friendship with this person? Likely, a good chunk of your relational development was spent conversing about things that matter to you. The more time you spend with another human being you trust, the closer you become to one another. The closer you become, the more you trust this person.

It is similar with a counsellor. You spend time together. Dedicated time for your counsellor to hear you out. To listen, to help you hash through the really hard, uncomfortable stuff, to not judge, and not go anywhere. You feel unburdened, because you are vocalizing the stuff of life that normally stays hidden. If you are in a position where you have a small support structure in your life, a counsellor can fill an important void.

On the other hand, if we believe the second idea, then the number of friends shouldn't matter, as long as they're good. The problem is, even good friends get tired. Even good friends run out of ability to help. Even good friends sometimes won't tell you what you need to hear if it is not what you want to hear.

2) Part of a best friend's job is to be honest with you, even if it uncomfortable. Your counsellor should be able to do this with you. Even if you have great friends who always tell you the truth, sometimes their delivery options leave a little to be desired. A counsellor should be trained to tell you uncomfortable things in such a way that you believe it is in your best interest, even if you don't believe it right away.

It also makes a difference that your counsellor doesn't know you from any other walks of your life. What a counsellor says to you isn't loaded with the baggage of what he or she said last year at the New Year's party. You should be convinced that what your counsellor says to you is entirely unselfish and solely for your own benefit.

No matter how good your friends are, there is history with each and every one of them, and that history affects how you hear what they say. It affects your interpretation of their meaning. The lack of history with your counsellor (and, as you progress in counselling, the type of history) makes difficult and uncomfortable conversations less so.

3) No matter how close you and your counsellor get in a counselling, therapeutic, working relationship, you will never be friends. It is precisely this seemingly harsh lack of a future that allows such an honest relationship. Your counsellor should not be in any way concerned about his or her own fulfillment in this relationship - it is a one way affair, solely for your benefit. This lack of looking out for one's own interests on the behalf of the counsellor allows him or her to be honest with you about where you are, allows the counsellor to say, with empathic concern, hard truths.

No matter how good your friends are, within any "traditional" relationship, there will always be an element of looking out for one's self. This can prevent complete honesty in a relationship. There is also a real possibility of your very good friend lying to you to protect your feelings. If you are in counselling, generally speaking, your feelings, emotions, and functioning levels are already hurt. They don't need to be protected, they need to be healed. Sometimes that takes a surgery that a friend simply cannot do, no matter how good the friend.

Overall, no matter how many friends you have, or how good they are, or how honest they are with you, there may be an occasion for you to seek out professional help. Find someone that you feel comfortable with, that has a similar worldview to yours, and that you can be honest with because there is a chance you will feel uncomfortable and need to be uncomfortably honest with at some point within the journey.

But that's okay - you've got the best friend you'll never have along for the ride.

Why You Need Therapy

You think you have things pretty well figured out, and the things that do bother you are pretty small in comparison to the rest of the world. Or, perhaps you think that all couples feel that way about one another. Maybe you think that it does not really matter in the end if you are happy or just...existing.'re right. Sort of. Chances are, you do have things pretty well figured out. And, it's actually fairly likely that most couples feel that way about one another once in a while. But it does matter in the end that you are doing more than just existing. 

See, here's the thing: you may need therapy. You need someone to talk to. Whether it is a counsellor or a friend, you need to have someone that can listen and help you figure this out for real. Not just to feel better for now, but really, truly understand exactly what it is you feel and why. 

As a counsellor, I have the distinct advantage of not being involved anywhere else in your life. I don't know your group of friends. I don't know your parents, and I'm not your kid's baseball coach (mostly because I am no good at baseball). I get to look in as far as you let me and help you see the patterns that you are so accustomed to that you never put it together as a pattern. You live inside your life. I don't. I get to see it from the outside and help you gain a different perspective. As you gain that extra perspective, you begin to see emotions rising within you faster. You feel with more accuracy. You communicate more clearly. Little things don't bother you anymore. 

It's not far off of looking at a road map. Some people look at a map because they have no earthly idea where their destination is, let alone how to get there. Others have a general idea, but need some specific help. Still others are pretty sure they know how to get there, and they simply want confirmation it's the best way. 

Therapy (or counselling, or professional help) benefits you directly as you learn about yourself. Scads of people who are paid to do research have figured out that if you voice your concerns, they automatically seem less concerning. Of course, this varies for everyone and you may feel only a little bit better to start. Or you may feel worse at the start. The therapeutic experience is a living thing - it changes, even with the same counsellor over a number of years, it will be a little bit different each time. 

So, here's what I think: if you have the sense that things could be better for you; if you feel like maybe you aren't functioning with the emotional intelligence you thought you had; if you have heard yourself repeat "I can do this myself" more than once; if you feel like there's got to be more, you're not crazy. You're not a failure. You want to live a better life. 

And that, dear reader, is why you need therapy.

What Counselling is (or isn't) About...

    Over the last few years, I have seen hundreds of new clients step foot through my doors and sit on the couches and chairs of my various offices. Each of those people have taught me something about what counselling is and what it isn't. Clients carry their own perceptions and misconceptions about what they can expect from a counselling session. I thought it may be nice for you to have an idea of what you can expect out of a counselling session with me. 
    Of course, a session changes and moves with you as we spend time together. Aside from the first appointment, there is no rote script to follow. There is no checklist. No musts. The first appointment is about me getting to know you, where you've come from, and why you're sitting in my office. It is the only time you'll see me take notes. It is the only time I'll be working off a script (and even then, I tend to stray where you take me). It is the preliminary get-used-to-talking-about-things-you-don't-tell-anyone-else session for you and it is the get-to-know-you-and-what-you're-about session for me. You get used to talking about yourself, and I get used to how you talk about yourself. It is how we set up how we will work together (because we do therapy together) for the rest of our time, however long that may be (we'll cover that in the first session, too). 
    As we work together, you need to understand that this may be the only place in the world where you can speak without being judged for it. You will know that you are understood and that I will not tell you not to feel something you know you feel. That is not what therapy is about.
    Therapy is about you being able to unload without judgement or fear. It is about being safe. It is about giving yourself the time and consideration to think through and explore all the facets of your life that you have left unattended for whatever reasons, be it trauma, busyness, or just plain old neglect of yourself.
    Coming to therapy does not mean you are crazy, nor it is an admission of weakness. Even very good drivers consult road maps at times. For some, that is what therapy is: consulting life's maps. Am I on a good trajectory? Could I be taking a better route? 
    For others, counselling is like figuring out a puzzle. The challenge is that you have no picture of what the put-together puzzle is supposed to look like. You're not sure you have all the pieces. You're not even sure the pieces you have are from the same puzzle. All you have is a bag of puzzle pieces, and life is telling you to put it together. That's where counselling comes in. 
    Together, we dump out the bag of puzzle pieces. Together, we take the time to turn over each and every piece and examine it to see how, and if, it fits. Through this difficult, and sometimes quite emotional process, you begin to understand yourself. You gain an awareness of who you are, of why you make the choices you do, of why you think the way you do about yourself and others. In learning about yourself, you begin to recognize the areas of your life where you can take back some of the self-control you seem to have lost. You also begin to see how you have made good decisions. When I reflect what I am hearing back to you, it is your chance to say, "Yes, that sounds right!", or, even better, to say, "Actually, no, I don't always do it that way." 
    What a wonderful feeling to be able to understand yourself more clearly. To be aware of how you are feeling as you feel it. To be able to connect to everything that is going on inside you at the moment in which it happens, rather than have it (whatever "it" is for you) sit and fester and rot and eat away at you. 
    The hard part is being willing to come and talk and explore and actively participate in delving into the hard things to understand how the base of your life can be changed. It is a long process. It is hard, emotional work. It takes a toll on your emotions, but it is worth every tear. 
    The hardest part for some, is the realization that they have been living life for so long in a way that suddenly feels "wrong". It isn't wrong; it may be ineffective, unproductive, or painful, but that is very different than wrong. But, there are more things about therapy that are hard. Therapy isn't easy. Baring your soul to a stranger, while easier at first perhaps, gets more difficult the longer you come.
    I'll tell you this now, and it may seem silly to read it here first, but trust me - it will make things easier later. Your counsellor will be the best friend you can never have. Read that sentence again, please.
    This is not a friendly chat over coffee (although, I have been known to have coffee while in session). This is not a band-aid solution, this is not homework, this is not Googling "how to not be angry". Your whole life has been going in a certain trajectory and now you want to change that trajectory. You have built a life on certain assumptions. You have developed a base. Now you want to change that base. It will take a long time. It will take a lot of work. It will take times of me confronting you and you confronting me. 
    Sometimes it may feel like you are going nowhere. Sometimes it may feel overwhelming. Overall and over time, it will feel like you are changing. And that is what counselling is (and isn't) about. At least, it is with me.


Copyright 2019 Base Counselling Services

Ashley Hanson Theravive Therapist