On Being The ‘Therapist’ Friend
Come on in, don’t be shy! I’m Rachy, welcome to my office and I can assume the fact that you’re here today means a couple of things: you need to vent, analyse your current situation and take a deep dive into the dilemmas of your complex messy mind.
Here we go, let’s get right to it… but before that, why don’t I tell you how I got here in the first place (cause that’s exactly what a real therapist would say)?
The first time I noticed I was somewhat of a ‘therapist’ friend involved a super early morning, an empty classroom, a then random acquaintance and a lot of tears I couldn’t explain.
Those days I used to be the early bird to school (oh, how things change). 7.30 am sharp I was already there to watch the lights turn on and buy whatever I wanted from the old vending machines before the rest of the flock arrived and emptied it before noon. Frankly, being there so early was a pain, but, seeing I had no choice, I sure as hell took advantage of it!
That particular day, however, I wasn’t the only early bird in the classroom. Just a few minutes after I did, someone else walked in and immediately I could feel something wasn’t right. She was usually the life of the party: the one to make the first joke while the lecture was in session, the one that got along with literally everyone and would gladly spend hours roaming through the corridors to skip class. She was a sunny person who could stand out anywhere: sunny, blinding, bright.
Early that morning there were no smiles coming from her, no funny jokes or antidotes. It was just me and her in that room and then it all came tumbling down.
She opened up about her life and boyfriend problems and although now as I think back at it they weren’t really that big of a deal, to us, they were.
She cried. I cried.
I’m not sure why I cried; it had nothing to do with me, and I definitely couldn’t relate to her boy problems at the time. I mean we were two fourteen-year-olds talking about life and pretending like our issues were ‘real’ problems or like we knew a thing about love. It felt like we had been friends for ages and like that moment was meant to happen just the way it did.
That was probably the only morning I was okay with the early morning.
I love dilemmas. It’s a weird thing to say in a way and I definitely hate seeing people in pain. That said, a part of me loves to solve problems, not mathematical ones – I know better than to go near those ever again, but problems about life. The chaotic feeling of having to weigh options and make choices knowing that each one could land you in different places, or who knows, maybe even the same one after all kind of turns me on somehow.
I love dilemmas until they’re
That instance was the first of many others that led me to believe there must be something about my face that says ‘Hey, you can talk to me about anything’ or maybe it’s just my excessive nature to laugh at every given moment, especially the most inappropriate ones, that makes people feel that they can talk and lay out all their burdens.
At the end of the day, being the ‘therapist’ friend is a lot more than crying with a stranger in an empty room. It’s about being a good friend, a voice of reason and knowing how to lend an ear to a person in crisis.
I’m not one to give unsolicited advice (except on the internet, duh?) and I sometimes can’t stand people that do, but when I’m asked for my take, let’s just say it’s unfiltered and most times bittersweet to hear.
So, here’s how to be a great ‘therapist’ friend:
Listen. Listen. Listen.
Mainly your friends aren’t looking to you to solve their problems or come up with some magical spell to make them go away. As people, we often just want to vent, lay all our cards out on the table; out for even us to see.
Be the friend that actually listens, the kind that takes mental notes of the little details and doesn’t interrupt unnecessarily or find a way to make the situation about them somehow. Being able to listen is the first and most vital step in being a great friend or just a great human in general.
The hard questions are the best questions.
This is a tactic I developed really early on.
Instead of point-blank calling them out on certain things, which can be counterproductive sometimes, I preferer to ease my way into it. Might be a softer approach, but it works each and every time.
I like to ask questions. The serious kind. The ones that might not be on the forefront of their minds, the ones that force them to come face to face with different realities, different ways the cards could turn or change.
“What are the reasons why you would get back with him?” “Why do you think you can’t do it?”
This way, you are both exploring scenarios and solutions without having to necessarily try to change their minds on a subject. You probably won’t be able to anyway.
Say your piece.
At least once, say it out loud. That thought that has been bugging you since the conversation began. Usually, your friend already knows your viewpoint and they can predict what you’re going to say even before you walked through the door. Chances are they came to you with the issue just because they wanted to hear you say it out loud. Stay true to who you are, be authentic and real.
They will know you said so, you’ll never really need to point it out yourself.
Whether it be champagne or a shoulder, be ready with one.
Humans are just human at the end of the day and chances are your friend already unconsciously made their decision before coming to you for your opinion. Their next step might have been made long before it was made and as a friend that’s a reality you learn to live with.
Your opinion is not a religion and the quicker that reality hits, the easier it will be for you. It’s not that they don’t value your opinion, it’s just that… that’s what it is: YOUR opinion.
Your restless romantic roamer