Have you heard of “friendship counseling?” My first thought was “I do that all the time with my friends! We unload on each other or talk shit over drinks.” And while that may be helpful — nay, necessary – among besties, that’s not what actual friend therapy is.
What Is “Friend Therapy,” AKA Friendship Counseling?
Is friendship therapy a thing? Why do couples get all the attention
— Dr. Seema Yasmin (@DoctorYasmin) April 22, 2021
Though it’s similar to relationship therapy, which mainly focuses on couples or families, friendship counseling is when people seek outside help to navigate a troubled or strained friendship.
Have I let a close friendship disintegrate due to an argument or falling out? Absolutely, and more than one. Had I known that we could have gone to a professional to help us wade through and possibly resolve our issues, would I have gone? I’m not sure.
I’d like to think I would, if I’d known it existed, but it takes courage and a vulnerability that I’m not sure I possess to ask a person you’re on the outs with to visit a therapist. According to psychotherapist Katherine S.T. Jackson, LPC, my knee-jerk response is common. “It does take a lot of vulnerability to ask a friend to do this with you,” Jackson said. “It’s hard to broach the subject, especially if it’s been a long time and you have to reconnect to ask.”
Jackson thinks friendship counseling is a great tool that should be used by more people. “I think it’s cool that people are learning about it and I hope it becomes more common,” she said. “It’s not common but I think it should be.”
Couples therapy should extend to friendships I’m really sick of the norms
— immediately not this. (@nandini_godara) July 31, 2021
Jackson feels like it’s an emerging interest in a developing field that will be more widely talked about in the near future. “Any kind of relationship is able to access therapy — any time that you are emotionally engaged with someone and they are with you, and you both want to work on the relationship, that is an appropriate time to reach out to a professional if you need it. Especially in this period when we are valuing emotional intelligence more than ever. If you need extra tools, they are available.”
Why Friendship Counseling Is Beneficial
There are a myriad of reasons why friendships deteriorate or dissolve. It can happen slowly over time or even in the space of a few hours. Maybe it was an argument, a miscommunication or hurt feelings, or one friend may feel neglected — I could go on and on.
This is so beautifully put. I often hear a version of this echoed from clients in the context of friendship therapy when describing the pain and loneliness that comes with a friendship breakup… https://t.co/bqHI5N1HmS
— Dr. Miriam Kirmayer (@MiriamKirmayer) July 24, 2021
But if you value that friendship and feel it can be repaired, going to a qualified therapist with your ex-BFF could help.
According to Jackson, friend therapy can:
Improve communication skills
Friendship counseling is beneficial for both people, as there is an unbiased referee who serves as a soundboard and can mediate the discussion if it gets heated or goes further south. It puts both parties on equal footing so they can be heard in a safe space to share their feelings, whatever they may be.
And some of those feelings aren’t easy to say or to hear. The key to this is being in a setting where you can both listen and be heard.
Why Friendships Fade
In 2015, a study published in The Social Science Journal notes that as people age, obligations such as family or work curb the time (not to mention the effort) people have to concentrate on their friendships.
fuck a breakup have you ever realised your closest friend is turning into a complete stranger
— nancy (@imnotnan) July 30, 2021
I think of friendships like tending a garden — if there isn’t proper upkeep, weeds can pop up in the cracks and kill the plants. Disclaimer: I’m not a great gardener all of the time.
Jackson says that even if your friendship isn’t at DEFCON 1, going to therapy is a great way to maintain it and keep it healthy. “Friends may find it helpful to seek therapy just to check in and get a tune up,” she said. “Everyone needs that at some point. And even if it’s only slightly fraying, friends may need help taking a step back and having someone help you see what’s going on instead of the emotional response you’d resort to without a therapist present.”
A professional can help you see outside of your emotional framework, which can be tough for some to do. Friendship counseling can also be a great tool for trying to reconnect with a friend you’ve lost touch with, if the other party is receptive to the idea.
Potential Outcomes Of Friend Therapy
Do people ever go to counseling for friendships? A friendship is still a relationship in my eyes and there’s no handbook on being a good friend
— Cedric Humphrey (@cedric_humphrey) July 30, 2021
Even the best of friends can have conflict, and friend therapy sounds like a great way to head off issues before you reach a point of no return. I cannot imagine my life without my friends, and I miss the ones who are no longer in my life. If I’d been aware this existed, maybe they’d still be around.
But maybe not, which brings me to an important question:
What if you’re terrified of rejection, reach out to a lost friend and they don’t respond or, even worse (at least to me), straight up say no?
Jackson says that can be helpful as well. “That rejection is information that can help you manage the issue of what was not working in the first place,” she said. “And maybe the friendship wasn’t worth repairing.”
A trait of human nature is wanting to put a period at the end of a story instead of a question mark — forever seeking “closure” in areas where things feel unresolved. Important friendships land at the top of those tales, at least for me, and it’s difficult to let go of a pivotal relationship when it’s not working out.
We had close friends that turned into closures.
— Rex Saberson (@rexsaberson) July 30, 2021
Now that friend therapy is in the picture, there is hope of bringing a close friend, at the very least, back into your orbit, and, at best, back to the place they previously held — a close confidante you hold dear to your heart.
Instead of a period or a question mark, you could very well get to put an exclamation point at the end of your narrative — friendship counseling can be your best friend.
Have you been to friend therapy? Would you go? Share your thoughts with us below.
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