Thinking about things is like driving a car, whereas saying them is like walking. Much of the scenery is inaccessible to a person in a car—details that may seem trivial, but cannot be when your goal is to understand the land you are traveling through. The act of talking—the main activity in therapy—promotes insight in the first place simply because it slows us down, and this slowing down improves our exploration.
Given that talking is important, it is also important whom you are talking to. There are major difference between talking to ourselves, a friend, or a professional. I’ll walk through these below:
Talking to oneself. The purpose of language is the ability to communicate with others. This is precisely why talking to oneself, while helpful, is ultimately a bit thin.
Talking to a friend. Friends can be extremely helpful. They are usually the people that have helped us through tough times in the past. However, there are three downsides to relying solely on your friends. The first is that if your issues keep cropping up again and again, or persist over a period of several months, you might be afraid that your friends are growing tired of listening to you. The second is that there is bound to be material you do not want to share—e.g., complaints you have about that friend. Finally, your friends are not helping professionals. While they may have a knack for helping, they have not been trained in the same way as a professional.
Talking to a professional. So what does this training amount to? Why go to a professional when you have a host of friends? Because professionals are trained specifically in the art of understanding how to help you. This involves, first, understanding you. And then it involves, secondly, helping you.
People who are not trained in these two steps fall into bad habits of understanding and helping. A bad habit of understanding is presuming that if you have had a similar experience, you know exactly what the other person is going through. A bad habit of helping is giving advice (another article to come on that). Professionals stay away from these bad habits and can therefore understand you better and help you more.
Talking to yourself, or talking to your friends, are excellent options for most of the normal, daily stresses. If you find yourself bothered by something for a longer period of time—if there is something you just cannot seem to shake—then it is worth trying a professional.