Not Sure How to Handle Your Friends’ Troubles?

Why you shouldn’t play the therapist.

Edele Deneke

It’s common nowadays to give labels to each person in your friend group: the “mom”; “the clown”; “the wild card;” what about “the therapist”?

In each friend group, one person can fulfill this role, constantly giving advice, reassurance, or an ear to vent to. However, this practice is quite flawed, hurting both the proverbial person on the couch and their confidante.

One anonymous B-CC student described their role somewhat uncomfortably: “Most of the time, they just say what dilemma they faced…it kinda feels like it’s something I’m supposed to do.”

When asked about the effect on their mental well-being, they emphasized that they didn’t mind helping their friends. Yet the enormity of this task weighed on them. In their words, “I have things going on in my own life. I want to express how I’m feeling and what I’m going through. But I don’t, since I’m like, “They might think I am making it about me.’”

On the other side, an anonymous B-CC senior recalled a former friend whom she had trusted: “My friend would just invalidate my feelings when I told her about them. She would make it seem like it’s not a big deal and try to make decisions for me even though that wasn’t what I wanted.”

To give both parties the benefit of the doubt, teenagers may have the best intentions but may not be equipped to handle the serious situations and issues shared with them. Ms. Lindenfeld, the school psychologist for B-CC and Somerset Elementary, advises students to “speak to adults, especially a teacher, counselor, school psychologist, or administrator if they are worried.” She continued, “There are many supports that students may need access to which cannot be replaced by friends alone.”

If a friend keeps coming to you with their troubles, it’s okay to feel burdened or in over your head. Tell them, from a place of love, that you don’t feel equipped to give them the care and guidance they deserve and urge them to find professional support.

That’s being a good friend.