Talking with friends is vital to well-being; Therapy guides personal growth and change
Hairdressers can be very wise and caring. They may hear as many stories about people’s lives as therapists do. A good stylist can see the same clients for years and earn great respect and trust. And some are even trained to spot domestic abuse and suggest ways to get help.
A healthy social network is made of many types of relationships; from close confidantes to pleasant people we don’t know well. New research shows that people with a supportive network live longer, healthier lives than people who are lonely or alone.
And a 2015 Brigham Young University study finds loneliness is as deadly as obesity or smoking: “Loneliness increased a person’s risk of death by 26 percent, social isolation by 29 percent, and living alone by 32 percent,” reports Medical Daily. (Obesity is linked with about one in 5 deaths, as is smoking, say other reports.) The good news: The more people in our social network, the more we thrive.
So why does anyone need a therapist? Why shouldn’t I just tell all of my problems to my hairdresser?
3 Differences Between Talking with a Stylist and a Therapist
As wonderful as this person is, your hairdresser may not want the responsibility of your burdens. They are not trained for that! Their job is to make you look good.
And then there’s the issue of privacy. If you’re going to talk about some of the more sensitive things in your life, it probably shouldn’t be in public. What if you said things you thought were confidential, but your stylist did not?
Also, there is the matter of time. Therapy is usually 45 minutes once a week. Haircuts are usually 30 to 40 minutes once every five or six weeks. Even if your hairdresser really listens well and “gets you,” meeting every other month does not give most people the support needed to get through rough times.
How Therapists Are Trained to Help People Heal
Therapists must take up to four years of professional training and two years of field experience before they become licensed. They study how to understand people and help them understand themselves. They bring specialized experience, knowledge, techniques and insights to help people process what happens in their lives.
Therapists also are expected to undergo their own therapy and supervision. They learn about their own biases and judgments, and how to keep them from getting in the way of open understanding with their clients.
A therapist’s training helps people assess what is truly bothering them, understand their own experience, and make plans for personal change.
Therapy usually isn’t about getting advice. It starts with creating a sense of safety. You and the therapist create a place where you can be transparent and open, without feeling judged; where you can let someone see your inner world and find new ways to make sense of it. It is not a friendship with equal exchange.
Your Hairdresser Can’t Do Everything…
Many problems involve family relationships. Getting counseling sometimes means having other people in the room — your partner, your children, or your parents. Your hairdresser is not going to be able to handle that and do a good job cutting your hair. Good thing there are therapists for that.
What Is a Good Therapeutic Relationship?
A healthy therapeutic relationship is different from having a best friend or a trusted stylist — even one who is great at keeping secrets for years. A healthy friendship has to work both ways. Good friends take turns leaning on each other, listening, and being there for each other. Over time, the give-and-take balances out. A healthy friendship feels equally good to both.
In a relationship with a therapist, the client is not supposed to take care of the therapist! A therapist’s role is to help clients notice their inner world and understand their own needs. The relationship is supposed to be one way. It’s also designed to end. It can be short term, it can be long term, but it is not meant to be life-long.
The Value of Emotional Acceptance
Therapists bring a non-judgmental approach. Their job is to help people see what they are doing and why. To do this, it is vital to avoid finding fault or criticizing clients. They need to feel positive toward helping their clients, no matter what.
It takes a lot of training for a therapist to be guided wisely by their feelings. If they sense anger, fear, or judgment, they need to look deeply when that happens. Therapists have to work through their own feelings with their own professional support system. They need to resolve their own issues so they can be effective with the client.
To make sense out of your own conflicts, having someone to hear you without judging you is so important. Your growth depends on it. Often, even well-meaning family and friends may not react to your problem in the most helpful way. They often want you to “get over” painful feelings, or give you advice, or get you jumpstarted in a new direction. That’s because it is painful for friends and family to see you suffering. However, true healing sometimes means having someone help you learn from these feelings.
Making Room for All Your Feelings
When struggling with emotions that seesaw back and forth, a person can get really lost in their own inner conflict. The therapeutic relationship is about embracing whatever is going on for you — accepting you wherever you are in life. A therapist is able to witness the many feelings you may have about your experiences, and make room for all of them. With empathy and proven approaches, you can begin to see yourself and your world in healthier ways.
Just because a hairdresser doesn’t really do the things that a therapist can do, it doesn’t mean that they are not important in your life. It is wonderful to fill your life with people you value — from wonderful hair stylists to intimate friends.
Just remember that a therapist can be that wonderful too, for working with whatever is getting in your hair.