Words from a Mental Health Counselor: Why I Appreciate your Close Friends

 Photo by  rawpixel.com  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

Friendships through the good and the bad

As I read and re-read Karen’s last post about self-care, what struck me the most is how much she and Emma have been there for each other. Their friendship spans almost half her lifetime and they’ve laughed through the sheer joy and silliness of being in each others’ presence, and they’ve cried through painful breakups and difficult medical diagnoses. Do you have a friend like that in your life? If so, they’re making my life as a therapist easier.

Let me tell you how.

Feeling disconnected in your friendships

Clients sometimes come into my office because, “I can’t talk to my friends about this.” Now, these are really close friends. Granted, like Karen has mentioned, some conversations are best left for the therapy office. However, the stuff that my clients bring up shows that they can really use some support in their community. My clients talk about feeling lonely, like they’re the only ones going through ABC when I know their experience is all too common. Or, worse yet, when they’ve finally mustered up the courage to say something to their tribe, it’s minimized, like, “Why is that such a big deal?! You should keep doing XYZ!”

It’s during those moments where you might feel both connected to yet disconnected from your tribe. Your friendships look close on the outside: you post lots of selfies on social media and you laugh like you’re having a grand old time, yet you leave these meetups feeling alone because you never talked about what really mattered.

Friendships that go deep

It’s easy in our Seattle freeze culture to keep to ourselves. And, when you try to get to know someone, it’s hard to go deep when you see each other only once a quarter. But, when you do talk about deeper issues, and you share about your struggle as a parent, your troubled marriage, or your difficulties at work, can you find some commonality in what you all are going through? Your circumstances might be different but those feelings of frustration, loneliness, or inadequacy are often a shared experience, if you’d only share them.

Your friendships are protective

My clients who have friends they can talk to have better outcomes in treatment. In moments of crisis, they have friends they can lean on and can call upon as a support person. During really difficult times, they know that they’re not alone in their suffering because they remember that Sarah had a miscarriage, Taylor was laid off, Eric is a single dad, and John and Becky are dealing with an affair. Their tribe knows suffering, and they’re doing life together.

Here’s the best part: when my clients learn new skills in sessions, some share with their friends and develop accountability for practicing those skills outside of therapy. If that doesn’t help with the therapeutic process, I don’t know what does.

Sharing in your friendships

Now I’m not asking you to go from shooting the breeze to sharing your deepest, darkest secrets. But the next time you’re hanging out with people you’d consider your close friends and you hesitate to share something, say something like this: “So, I’ve been meaning to say something but I didn’t know where to start. I don’t need any advice (unless you do), but I really need for you to take me seriously...” You might be surprised at how your sharing opens up more sharing and hopefully, closer friendships.

If you’re having trouble opening up in your friendships or you’re not sure how to best support your friend, you know where to find me.

Emma, if you’re reading this, I want to thank you for being in Karen’s life. I’m not her therapist but I can imagine she’s a better worker because of you and your influence on her life. For that I’m grateful.


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Ada Pang is the proud owner of People Bloom Counseling, a Redmond psychotherapy practice in WA. She helps unhappy couples find safety and connection in their relationship. She also helps cancer thrivers and their caregivers integrate cancer into their life stories. She has a business idea to provide counseling services to friend groups so she can help build stronger, more resilient communities. More to come on that new endeavor.