Friday 19 November 2021

What is friendship therapy and how could it help my friendships?

Taylor walks us through friendship therapy and gives some advice on how to deal with issues within a friendship.

Taylor Machuca-Koniw 

Friends enhance the quality of our lives. Yet when these friendships break down, it can really start to impact our mental and physical health.   You might have had a falling out with a childhood friend, or your bestie might be going through a hard time and consequently built up a wall between you.  Friendships, just like any relationship, come and go throughout our lives. Sometimes it’s only natural to go your separate ways - especially if you’re dealing with a toxic friendship. But if your friendship is worth salvaging, perhaps consider giving friendship therapy a try.  

What is friendship therapy?  

Traditionally, couples therapy has focused on romantic couples, married couples, or family members.  Nowadays, couples therapy has extended to include our friendships. Since our friends are - more often than not - a longstanding and integral relationship in our lives, it makes sense that if for whatever reason there’s a breakdown in that relationship, therapy may be a positive way of intervening and repairing it. 

Friendship therapy is essentially couples therapy for friends. Those in platonic relationships can seek counselling to address common relationship issues such as lack of communication, conflict resolution, and feelings of betrayal or neglect.  

Why friendship therapy?  

Strong relationships enhance the quality of our lives. Having the social support of our friends can quickly turn a bad day into a good one, help us to feel a sense of purpose, and make us feel less alone in the world. Since the pandemic, many of us have faced a whole new host of friendship challenges, making it even harder to stay connected and maintain healthy relationships.  

For friends who are finding it hard to communicate or have difficulty supporting each other through difficult times, friendship therapy may help. It offers a safe space for friends to air out their dirty laundry and let more meaningful conversations happen.   Like all relationships, friendships require work to maintain them.  A trained counsellor can help friends restore their bond and build a better understanding of each other’s needs.   

When should you seek friendship therapy? 

 If your friendship has been suffering during the pandemic or you’re finding it hard to stay connected with friends, you might want to consider friendship therapy.  

You might also seek friendship therapy if you or your friend are struggling with the following issues in your friendship:  

  • One-sided communication 
  • Extreme jealousy or competitive behaviours 
  • Lack of support or compassion 
  • Constant blaming or shaming 
  • Controlling behaviours  
  • Drama or attention-seeking behaviours 
  • Disrespecting each other’s boundaries 
  • Mental health or substance abuse issues 

If you are finding your friendship is causing you undue stress in your life, then it’s a good idea to seek professional help. If you are concerned for your friend’s wellbeing and it’s affecting your relationship, then suggest friendship therapy as a way to help solve these issues, together,  with a trusted professional.  

Tips on helping a friend through a hard time  

If you’re interested in broaching the subject of friendship therapy with your friend, make sure to do so in an empathetic manner. Show your friend some sympathy, and give them space to listen to them without judgment. 

You can try a statement such as, “I’m sad that you’re in a tough situation right now. I want to be able to help”, or, “I recognise we’re both hurting and I want us to be closer again. What do you think about trying out friendship therapy as a way to get our friendship back to a healthy place?”.  

Ask them if there’s anything you can do to help support them. You may find honest, non-judgmental discussions like this will be what it takes to fix any issue within your friendship. If, however, things aren’t going the way you hoped or if you both struggle with expressing your concerns, a friendship therapist can be exactly what you need to steer your friendship out of the tough place it’s currently in. 

Rebuilding your friendship  

Finding the right therapist can be all it takes to mend your friendship. When it comes to finding a friendship therapist, look for someone who is trained in couples counselling since relationship-building will be their expertise. Cost concerns should also be brought up so you both know exactly how much you’ll be investing in counselling. When you bring up the idea of friendship therapy with your friend, be careful to do so in a compassionate way. Make it clear to your friend that your intention is to rebuild your relationship and give it the attention it deserves.

If you or your friends are currently struggling within your relationship, help can always be found here

Taylor Machuca-Koniw is a freelance writer with a passion for yoga, bubble baths, and baking. She and her American husband have been in a long-distance relationship for 7 years, and are pros at how to make long-distance work. Taylor is a language enthusiast - she speaks Russian and Ukrainian and is currently learning Spanish.

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