How to Set Boundaries With a Friend Who Treats You Like Their Therapist

One of the benefits of being friends is to have someone you can trust, share your news (good and bad), and seek support. But sometimes he may feel that the friend thinks of you not only as his friend, but also as his therapist, constantly turning to you to listen to his problems, and in some cases offer advice or solutions.

While it may seem like you are doing the right thing, in the end it’s not ideal for either of you. In an article for Well + Good, Minaa B. , a therapist and mental health educator based in New York, discusses why a friend cannot substitute for a therapist and how to set boundaries in your friendship if necessary. Here’s what you need to know.

You are not your friend’s therapist

If a coworker or acquaintance you have seen often starts talking to you / you on a regular basis, expecting you to listen, process what they say, and give advice, you will probably let them know right away. that the arrangement doesn’t work for you. But when your friend is struggling, saying no is much (much) harder.

As Minaa B. points out, we live in a time when we are encouraged to talk openly about our mental health, including our failures. “While this is great, it’s also important to remember that not everyone is psychologically prepared to take on and manage our personal emotional issues, ” she writes .

It is possible to deeply care for your friend, but not have the energy or emotional ability to give him the support they want or need.

How to set healthy boundaries in friendships

Here are three tips from Minaa B. for setting the necessary boundaries with a friend who treats you as their therapist:

Let them know you have restrictions

If you don’t tell your friend that you have limits on how much emotional labor you can handle in a friendship – and that you’ve achieved them – he probably won’t know you feel that way. “Sometimes we wait for other people to figure out information that we can share,” writes Minaa B. “Be prepared to communicate what your boundaries are.”

Direct them to resources

Even though you can’t be your friend’s therapist, that doesn’t mean you can’t point him to information he might find useful. If you do come across a resource that you think will be of use to your friend, Minaa B. advises using supportive vocabulary to reinforce the boundaries you set when proposing.

“For example:“ I understand that I have no understanding to help or give advice, and I really want to support you. I know a resource called x and I think it would be great for you to consider turning to them for additional support, ”she writes.

Be honest with your friend (and with yourself)

Unless you are a trained therapist yourself (in which case you won’t take a friend as a client anyway), however much you want, there is always the possibility that your advice could steer your friend in the wrong direction, or put them in a situation without it. the support they need. For this reason, Minaa B. emphasizes that it is important to be honest with both your friend and yourself about these limitations – it is in the common interest.


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