Professional Help vs. Talking to Friends: Why Seeking Mental Health Support Matters
Last updated October 31, 2023
Mental health challenges among U.S. youth are growing each year, so it's important to recognize when you might need to speak to a family member or teacher about getting connected with professional help. If you find yourself dealing with depression or anxiety, if you are struggling to go to school or complete your work, or if you think about harming yourself, we recommend speaking with a professional about your mental health rather than a friend.
Here are 10 reasons to consider the benefits of seeking mental health support versus talking to a friend.
Your friends may not be equipped with the experience or skills to help you through mental health challenges or crisis.
Most therapists, counselors, and mental health aids are trained and often licensed professionals who have the necessary skills to support you. Your friends may not understand your challenges or the resources that could be beneficial to you and provide relief.
Sometimes you need support, not solutions
Most often, friends will try to solve your problem to help you. But a solution isn't always what is needed, and the thing you're struggling with might not always have an easy or straightforward solution.
Friends can be biased
An amazing thing about close friends is that they will always try to uplift and protect you. Sometimes that protection can look like avoiding telling you the truth or giving an honest opinion out of fear of hurting you. Seeking mental health support from a counselor or therapist can give you a neutral, unbiased space to seek advice.
Will you be able to return the support?
Reciprocation is a cornerstone of many healthy friendships. If you lean on your friend for support, it's safe to assume they expect you to do the same for them when they need support. If this doesn't follow through, sometimes it can cause strain on the friendship down the line. It's important to recognize your own capabilities and limits in giving support, and consider the expectations others might hold with the return of support. This type of reciprocation is not expected with a therapist.
Confidentiality and privacy
Mental health professionals such as therapists are legally and ethically obligated to keep your information and anything you discuss confidential. Confiding in a friend can sometimes be risky if that person isn't as trustworthy.
A good therapist is non-judgmental
Being non-judgmental is a core practice among people who provide mental health support. You don't have the added stress of worrying about being judged in a professional setting. Friends at times, may hold long standing opinions about you or situations.
There are clear boundaries
A huge benefit of seeking professional help is that boundaries are set at the start of sessions and focused on you and your needs at that time. With friends you might not be able to control when they bring up a topic you discussed in private. In formal settings, the space and time is dedicated for these conversations.
Mental health supportive spaces are places where you'll learn more about yourself
Professional healing and therapy spaces are designed to empower you to take action and help you make connections that result in relief or healing. A counselor might offer guidance or recommendations that are tailored to your needs and challenges. This is something you might not find when seeking help from a friend.
Therapy can help you identify and achieve your goals
Professional sessions can help you identify personal goals and develop realistic steps to meet them. Depending on your needs, you can attend sessions on a weekly, monthly, or semi-monthly basis, where your counselor will develop check-ins with you to measure how you’re progressing toward your goals.
Seeking professional help can lead to improvements in all areas of your life
If you feel like you are struggling, like something is holding you back from living your life to the fullest, therapy can often help address these issues. The link between mind and body wellness is widely supported across mental health research. Unaddressed mental health issues will ultimately impact your physical wellness. Regardless of how big or small your mental health challenges are, it's a good idea to seek professional support to help build a good foundation of emotional health and get equipped with coping strategies.
As great as it is to be able to talk to a friend about your problems, there are times when professional mental health support might be more appropriate. If you're feeling nervous about seeking professional help or committing to regularly-scheduled sessions, many therapists and counselors offer a free first session or phone consolation to introduce the space they hold and talk through what you're dealing with. Check out these free mental health resources for more information.