Counselling, Therapy, and Friendship
“Counselling is considered an exchange of opinions and ideas to effectively problem solve an individual’s daily living issues associated with his or her emotional, cognitive, or behavioural problems” (Clinical Solutions, 2006). This is usually time defined, and includes psychoeducation, providing resources, helping with weighing the pros and cons of change, and goal setting. It is supportive and skill building, and often occurs at a time of personal crisis. There is an inevitable power difference between the individual seeking counselling and the counsellor. The counselling environment provides safety in which to be vulnerable and share secrets, knowing there will be no judgment.
“Psychotherapy is a form of treatment for emotional problems in which a therapist establishes a relationship with an individual for the purpose of modifying self-defeating patterns of behavior and promoting positive personality growth and development. Psychotherapy is generally undertaken to gain self-knowledge. Most people come to therapy because defenses which have served them in the past are no longer working or useful” (Clinical Solutions, 2006). This process, usually time defined, may include: exploration of core beliefs and value systems; identifying and changing thought patterns; child of origin issues; addressing and treating phobias; relief from trauma. Psychotherapy is about healing through insight, change, and self-reflection. Again there is an inevitable power difference and non-judgmental environment.
“Friendship” can range in scope from acquaintances e.g. neighbours, through casual friends e.g. co-workers, to deep, intimate friendships e.g. best friends. What differentiates them is the depth of sharing, support, affection, caring, and attachment, and the potential for distancing “personal agendas”. Friendships are about give and take, a sort of “I’ll show you my wound, and you show me yours – if you want to”. In contrast to counselling or therapy there are no power differences, perceived or real, or they are minimal and insignificant. Friendships are more dynamic, broader, last longer than a relationship with a counsellor/therapist, and often include eating, playing together, and other socializing as well as talking. As a generalization, gender differences result in friendships between men and men, and women and women, being qualitatively different. Men still tend to achieve their identity by what they do, and as a result are more likely to have acquaintances and casual friends with other men. Women still tend to be identified by their relationships, are more comfortable and fluid in relationships, and often have more intimate friendships with other women than men do.
Ultimately perhaps friendship is about people you choose to be with, through both good times and bad, whereas counsellors and therapists are professionals you seek out when you are out of your depth and need more experienced help to navigate life’s more turbulent waters.
Wiggins, S. (2009). Counselling. Retrieved September 7, 2009, from http://www.fulwoodtherapy.co.uk/2.html
Clinical Solutions, LLC. (2006). Counselling vs psychotherapy. Retrieved September 7, 2009, from http://www.clinicalsolutions.org/Counseling_vs_Psychotherapy.html
William Stokeld, M.A.