ACA Blog

Stephanie Adams
Nov 02, 2010

Good Counselor, Bad Friend?

A lot of our clients want to be our friends. But are we good friends to those people that aren’t our clients? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as I’ve been working a lot more than usual and therefore have much less energy to interact with my friends and family. I owe an email to my friend Brittany, who faithfully reads my blogs and always brightens my day. My college roommate’s birthday was in April and I still haven’t sent her a card or present. I really would like to catch up with my brother who’s thinking about switching schools, and my brother who’s about to graduate college and is going on tons of job interviews, and my third brother is about to have a major band performance next week…(Why’d my parents have to have all these kids?)

But I’m not interacting with any of them now. Instead I’m hibernating in my living room while my husband studies for a heinous test tomorrow in the bedroom. I’ve drunk four cups of coffee after 8 pm because even though I woke up early this morning, this is my time and I want to stretch it out. I want to catch up on shows on the TiVo and read my new Psychology Today, which came in the mail yesterday. I want to write my blog post. I want to be alone.

Am I neglecting my friends and family – just remembered I need to reply to my pen pal in Ohio – because I am a counselor? Because I give of myself in my work does that mean I am no good as a friend?

I can see both sides of it. On the one hand, if you have a counselor for a friend, you have someone who will automatically listen. And I mean automatically. Seriously, I have to tell myself to turn it off sometimes when people ask about me. You always have someone to go to with your personal problems who has decent advice and knows how to put things in perspective.

But by the same token, we can be a killjoy at parties. Haven’t many of you experienced telling someone your profession at a social gathering and watching them quickly start looking behind you for someone with a less serious line of work? When we first started dating, my husband told me the only thing I had to promise was that I wouldn’t analyze him. That was easy to promise, because I already had. (Do you think a counselor could really date someone they hadn’t already cleared as “reasonably emotionally stable”?) But I do know some of my friends might worry that I will pull them apart and try to put them in a box.

It’s hard on our side too. Sometimes I feel like I can’t be normal around my friends, like I have to have it all together because of my job. Thankfully most of the people in my inner circle are not like that. They’ve known me in the “before” and don’t hold me to an impossible standard. (As the close friend who was the maid of honor at my wedding stated: “We can’t ever stop being friends. We have too much on each other.”)

It’s also hard because with some people we know exactly what they’re doing to cause problems in their lives and we can’t tell them. I know I can’t be a family member or friend’s counselor, but it’s REALLY HARD to know what’s wrong and to have my hands tied.

I guess for everyone being a friend is a combination of pluses and minuses. But again that old ideal self rears its’ head, and my mind thinks, “Well, but I should do a better job. My job is people. I should be better at this.”

Is it just me who holds the impossible standard? Does anyone else ever feel that way? Does anyone else ponder the quality of the friendship they might have to offer and worry about having enough to give to everybody. I know you can “prune” your friends back, but I don’t want to do that. I like them all. I also don’t want to close the door to anyone new. I guess I just have to hope they have some understanding for the requirements of the job, and know I truly do value the huge part they play in my life.

Is it a fair trade? We’re all busy, after all. (Note to self: Don’t forget to call the college girlfriend that just moved to Forth Worth and make time to hang out.) Maybe they don’t have the thoughts I do. Maybe it’s just my own guilt manufacturing these problems. Or maybe they think that I don’t appreciate them. It’s hard to know. But I don’t know that there’s anything I can change right now, so I have to hope they will let me know if there’s a problem. Because I don’t want my job to cost me my friends.

Oh, that reminds me I need to write back to Lindsey and touch base with Diana before our meetup group on Saturday. First thing tomorrow. :) Really.

Stephanie Ann Adams is a counselor-intern who believes in the ability of the mind to understand and change behaviors, and in each person’s power to create the life they want. Her blog, can be found at

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