In the Summer of 2017, seemingly before friendship counselling existed, I wrote an article called Forever Friends? Within it I explored ending a friendship, and suggested an attitude of peaceful acceptance. After all, I wrote “Not all friendships are meant to last forever.”
Four years on, and now I’m aware that friendship counselling exists, I disagree with my old self. Friendships require hard work, commitment and flexibility. If the friendship is to be strong and long, then both partners need to adapt to new life phases. Demanding careers, romantic relationships, births and deaths all take their toll. But these challenges can be overcome, with willingness and communication.
Nowadays, I believe a solid, caring friendship is no less important than a romantic relationship. So I look back at my article and wonder if I’d be so laid back about a struggling marriage? Good friends are worth fighting for. If you’re worried you’re entering into mate hate territory then friendship counselling can help.
Why friendship counselling?
Traditionally, women have always been viewed as communicative, open and empathic. Always ready to express their emotions and share their honest feelings. But as Psychotherapist Susie Orbach writes in Between Women,
“Although many women are extremely practiced at talking about how their partners, their children, their mothers, their fathers, their bosses have annoyed or hurt them, they are novices when it comes to talking directly with a friend about an upset or a hurt between them. The mere idea of mentioning a hurt, expressing a grievance, showing a friend that she has made one angry or perhaps asking for something from a woman friend in a straight forward manner, can make a woman very nervous.”
A quick poll of my friends and colleagues proves this to be true. Even as mental health professionals we shy away, from direct conversations with our friends about how their actions or comments have made us feel. And none of us had considered friendship counselling before now.
How to find out more
If the idea of friendship counselling interests you, and you want to find out more, then a great place to start is with the book Big Friendship. Written by best friends, and podcast presenters Aminatou Sow and Anne Friedman.
Not only do they write about the actual friendship counselling sessions they attended, but they openly explore the issues in their friendship that led them to therapy. They reflect on the way they dealt with challenges in the friendship and the impact this had on their feelings towards each other and their own emotional wellbeing.
Friendship counselling amid fragile mental health is also touched on in one of 2021’s new releases, Adults by Emma Jane Unsworth. The novel follows magazine journalist Jenny, as circumstances force her look at both her social media relationships and her real life relationships. Throughout the novel she she decides which are worth repairing and which are better released.
The actual mention of friendship counselling within this novel is fleeting. But the continued demands Jenny makes on her friend, and her friends reluctance to discuss them with her, sums up why friendship counselling is needed. Also, I found it a really good read, so enjoy.
How do I access friendship counselling?
If you’re both ready for the next step then contact Relate and they’ll put you in touch with a therapist. Relate are clear their counselling support is for any type of relationship, not just the romantic. So if that was your assumption, please don’t be put off. They’ll be willing to help.
I’m really interested in your experiences of repairing or relinquishing friendships, and your thoughts on friendship counselling. So, if you’d like to share then I’d love to hear. Please do comment.