Many people think having a friend that is a therapist is a blessing because they can have someone to confide in and hash out some issues. While it may sound amazing, for therapists it can be overwhelming. Most people see therapists as strong individuals who can help the world, but at the end of the day we are humans with needs. Our needs include rest, laughter, and support, and to not have to carry the weight of other people’s problems on our minds. Let me set some ground rules on having a friend as a therapist.
- We are not a 24/7 crisis hotline! When we are off the clock, we are off the clock! If a friend of yours is going through a hard time or even thinking about harming themselves please do not call your therapist friend! Most times, we are tending to our human duties: our families, school, sleeping so we may not answer the phone! It is best to call 911 if someone is in danger or the crisis hotline as another helpful tool. We can’t talk to your friend who is having problems as it can harm our license; there are legal and ethical guidelines we must follow.
- We have to protect our mental health. We can’t be in every place, every problem in the world! Some situations especially mentioned above and put us in more emotional distress. I have had friends who have texted me “Please call me back, my friend is thinking about suicide” and I was sleep and didn’t see the message until after I woke up hours later. Now I am up wondering if this person is okay and I am in distress! So please use other resources when having a problem. If you want to talk about your experience with your therapist friend that is completely understandable but do not use them as the first point of contact!
- We need friends too! We need people to be that listening ear that shoulder to cry on or even a person to just hang with. Never assume that we don’t have moments of weakness or don’t need someone to support us. Don’t just call us to talk about your problems; ask us “How are you feeling today?” “How is work going?” “Do you need to talk?”
- We can’t be your therapist! I know it seems like a win-win to get unofficial therapy from a therapist but that is not what we are here for! For starters, it is unethical for us to counsel or treat our loved ones so please don’t guilt us into being your therapist! We are more than happy to give you a referral and support you in the process.