There are always those who think you should pull yourself up by your bootstraps and snap out of it, whether “it” is anxiety, depression, or any kind of emotional distress. Many think these issues can be overcome with enough willpower, which is a concept that lays the fault squarely on you if you are the sufferer, and only exacerbates your suffering.


Others prescribe self-care, which is always a good idea, but it may not be enough to overcome what’s bothering you. You can learn to meditate, take a walk, do yoga. And those are great things to do. But they don’t take the place of talk therapy.

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Talk Therapy, Not Chats with Friends


Common wisdom is that if you feel troubled, talking it out will help. And if you have a friend with whom you feel safe, this may be a great idea. But no matter how close your friend, if he is not a trained professional, you may come away from your chat unsatisfied. Here’s why:

  • If you’re truly distressed, and you bring it up over lunch, say, you’re really on a timetable, with interruptions from your server. You don’t have time to go into any particular thought in depth and you have distractions that may prevent you from getting to the heart of your issue. Even if you’re not in a restaurant, sometimes friends have a tendency to talk past one another.
  • A good empathic friend will be eager to comfort you, probably before you have a chance to voice your concerns in full. To show solidarity, an empathic friend may tell you of an experience she feels is comparable to yours, which is nice, but probably doesn’t help you solve your problem.
  • Or a friend can join you in your misery, helping you ruminate endlessly about some misfortune you’ve encountered. This may put you into a downward spiral of distress, with your friend aiding and abetting you on the way, giving you ideas you’ve never thought of as to why you’re justified in your distress. You wallow together, which may bond your friendship, but not help you otherwise.


Talk Therapy as a Journey to Discovery


Look for a good therapist or a good friend with whom you are simpatico, and with whom you can explore into deep levels. That is, someone with whom you can feel safe to penetrate deep below the surface. Someone who is in tune with you. This may take a while to find, but it is worth pursuing. You want to remain open to discovering new truths about yourself and the ideal person to talk to will help you on your way.

  • The key is to get to the core of your fears and hopes and needs, and it is usually an emotional journey. A therapist can guide you to explore into uncharted territory that you may be reluctant to go to on your own. Further, she can keep you from getting sidetracked and gently get you back to where you need to go.
  • Once you’ve done the hard work of exploring, you need to identify what you’re feeling. When you put words to your inner experience, your experience becomes something concrete. And that helps you to understand your situation and give you direction. It gives you language to express your feelings and that, in itself, can free you from distress. Finding your emotional reality can calm you.


The right friend or therapist can help you risk this adventure that ultimately brings you peace.




Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: