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    So I’ve been in therapy for the past 6 years at this point, and I’ve been healing slowly from various traumas and adverse childhood experiences. A large part of my journey has been about learning to shift my beliefs and reclaim parts of myself etc. I bH have good friends who have been supportive of me and who I’ve been supportive of in their journeys. I have one friend who has a very complicated family life and suffered tremendously with various traumas that she has disclosed to me. I’ve been supportive, and strongly encouraged she seek therapy. On multiple occasions she had tried seeking help but at the end of the day she never followed through. I feel frustrated every time she brings up her issues, or when she gets depressed again etc because I feel like I kind of have to fall into the role of her therapist all over again. I’ve completely lost sight of what my role as a friend is vs my role as a makeshift therapist who pulls her out of her dark sides. I’ve recently realized that may be enabling her to not actually get help so I’ve distanced myself from her. I’m worried about hurting her, but I also can’t take on that role any more. I don’t think I can be helpful to her when I’m Secretly so annoyed at her for not seeing a therapist and almost forcing me to be hers (i.e. she calls me mid panic attack, tells me deepest darkest etc and expects me to just sit there and process things with her).

    Can anyone please help clarify my role here? Any advice?

    Thank you!

    Hi CleverAngel (love your name, btw:)

    aaaagh….this is so difficult. And so common. Because if you like people, are on your own healing journey, and known to be a caring person, there’s a good chance that you’ll be the person that people turn to when they’re feeling really down or need someone to hold space for them while they are going through their stuff. And that can be both gratifying AND  a lot to deal with.

    We all need deep, supportive friendships, and it sounds from your post like you’re that person for your friend. But you are becoming aware that you feel burned out and/or overwhelmed, and resentment has crept up, always a red flag in relationships.

    What to do? Well, for starters, you’ve already done it – you’ve recognized that an unhealthy relationship dynamic exists. It’s incredibly important to listen to your own feelings here, which provide information for you to process around this relationship dynamic. I’m glad that you’re talking about it and processing it on this forum, and please continue to seek support for yourself around this.

    Being a good friend and a supportive person in someone else’s life means listening, being present, holding space, and offering help. However, there’s an important caveat here: only to the extent that you don’t get burnt out.

    Another way to look at this is through the lens of personal boundaries. The most effective way to change the dynamics of a relationship gone awry is to change the boundaries around the situation. Listen to your feelings. What are your deepest wishes around this relationship? What do you hope for? How can you make this happen for yourself? Knowing your anger and your wishes can help you create healthy boundaries with this friend. It can help you understand boundary violations that you may be experiencing and map out for yourself what type of support you feel comfortable giving and how much time you are willing to spend on this friendship.

    Lastly, think about how friends and therapists are different. Friends need mutual, beneficial support. It’s can be hard to offer objective advice because our lives are often entangled with our friends and we have a history together that makes it hard to sometimes see things clearly. Therapists, on the other hand, are trained to offer support and feedback within a highly controlled, boundaried setting. The relationship is much more structured, with a clear understanding that the purpose of session is only for the benefit of the client. When working with trauma, or difficult situations, people need both – good friends and good therapists. Both complement the other and both support the person – just in different ways.

    I hope this is helpful to you. For more information, a great resource is a book called “Whole Again”, which talks a lot about this type of dynamics.


    Zipa Leah Scheinberg, LCSW

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    In response to Zipa Leah Scheinberg, LCSW's post #13882:

    @Zipa Leah, can I bother you to give us a teeny tiny summary on the book you recommended, Whole Again? Can’t seem to find much online, and find many of these books redundant, so curious to know about this one before I purchase it.

    In response to Climber's post #13919:

    Sure! I have so many books in my office and in my home, but this one I find myself recommending the most to clients and friends because a. The author is not a therapist, and if you’ve been in therapy for a while, you can really find yourself relating to his struggles as he comes into therapy and documents in the book his initial disbelief around finding his own inner wisdom, and then his growing awareness of his changing internal landscape, and b. He presents the advice and exercises in the chapters as things he has done for himself to heal. In this way, it’s a therapy autobiography and a self-help book, wrapped into one.

    He divides the book into two basic parts. The first part is about his own struggles and his journey in therapy. He talks about relationship trauma without using jargon-y words or phrases. He describes his tumultuous feelings as relationships changed or ended. He talks about his pain, which lasted for a very, very long time. He makes no bones about being vulnerable and human. He also talks about how he reclaimed his own life, where he feels light and free and ready to love.

    The second part is becoming aware of what he calls “the false, protective self” and the walls (defenses) that keep them propped up. He talks in a very real way, about what it feels like to have difficult or toxic people in your life. He gives helpful tips and ideas and exercises to use – ones that are atypical of anything else I’ve read, condensed into one book. He gives a lot of guidances around what core wounding is like, what toxic shame is and how to heal from it, and how to release old wounds.

    I’ve played it on Audible in my car as I’m driving, and listened to chapters multiple times. I never fail to gain something. He is humble, unassuming, and his advice is wise.

    Hope this is helpful. Good Shabbos!

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    In response to Zipa Leah Scheinberg, LCSW's post #13935:

    Thank you!!!!

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