Are Friends the Same as Therapists?

3 mins read
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I’ve been around people who have said that they’ve never done therapy before but that they have really good friends who they process with and they feel it’s the same thing.

As with everything in life, it is more nuanced than a “yes” or “no” to the question if friends are like therapists. So, I’ll share a few thoughts.

First off, friends are fantastic. And processing things with our friends and talking through things with them is a beautiful and necessary outlet. The friends we share the most with provide a sense of safety and security that can help us heal and work through so many things.

But, a friend doesn’t listen to you with the same ear that a therapist does.

When I’m in a session, I certainly care for my clients, but I’m listening with an ear in several directions. I am always looking for patterns. Emotional, interpersonal, thought, and action patterns are some I’m always looking out for. Patterns often originate out of necessity, but almost always overstay their usefulness. So, I work with clients to help them become aware of patterns, regain control over them, and have more say in their engagement in them.

Processing these patterns frequently leads us to significant life events, often in childhood. Whether traumatic or not, they usually have unresolved emotions that we need to dig into and unpack. Usually, clients can name some emotions present, but I help explore underlying emotions that provide a well-rounded processing experience to these events.

Through this digging and unpacking, we also often come across narratives that underly much that we do. Perhaps we believe we are unlovable, not good enough, unworthy, failures, or too much for others. Naming these narratives also gives you more say in how they play out for you and allows us to work on rewriting these narratives.

Sometimes these patterns are noticed in how you share or sometimes I catch on to them because of common emotional responses I have. But, in each session, I always have space for the present to hold what you are saying, while also having an ear out for these patterns to present themselves and allow us to explore and process.

So, yes, friends listen to you. And it is likely beautiful and incredibly helpful. But, their listening and processing are not the same as what a therapist does. If you find talking to your friends is helpful but you aren’t quite finding lasting change like you want, I encourage you to reach out to a therapist and explore therapy.


Kylie Larson, MA, LPC

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Outside of the therapy room, Kylie enjoys spending time with her family, exploring the world through the eyes of her son, adventuring with her husband, running around with her dogs, cheering on our Kansas City teams, gardening, being active, reading and exploring new recipes.

Professional Background
Bachelors in Elementary Education from Kansas State University, 2015
Master of Arts in Counseling from MidAmerica Nazarene University, 2020

Kansas Counseling Association
American Counseling Association

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