• Resolving Problems

Guest Post – Friendship Woes: Whom can you turn to for help?

Published: April 27, 2011 | Last Updated: January 21, 2023 By | Reply Continue Reading
Looking for friendship? On the differences between a life coach and therapist

By Linda Ligenza, MSW

Friends provide us with comfort and joy: They listen, give advice, and offer emotional support. They are “there” for us when we need them. Connecting with friends is one of the most effective ways of coping with life’s challenges and joys. It can actually help us become more resilient and bounce back more quickly from distressing or traumatic experiences.

For example, going through a divorce is considered to be one of the most stressful events one can experience. Even when a divorce isn’t contentious and no children are involved, it represents the disintegration of what one thought of as a family and a commitment that was expected to last a lifetime. It is a major disappointment and loss, typically followed by a period of grief.

If you have a friend you trust and feel close to, you can cope more effectively by being able to confide in this person, share your feelings about the experience you are going through, and speak candidly about how you feel and how you are managing. Being able to share thoughts, feelings, and experiences helps relieve stress, can help someone plan next steps, and may even minimize or prevent distressing reactions such as anxiety and depression.

Friendships are, therefore, not just “nice to have” but can actually contribute to our sense of well-being—-that is, when they are healthy and pleasurable. There are times when friendships are unhealthy or cause us to feel unhappy. For some, making or maintaining friendships may not come easy and for others, the challenge may be knowing when and how to end a friendship or how to cope with a bad breakup.

Seeking help from a therapist or life coach

When friendships go awry and you want help in improving your relationships with friends, it’s important to understand your options. Some issues can be resolved by reading; others by talking to a trusted individual, such as a family member, spirtual advisor, or another friend. But any of the challenges described above, especially if they are persistent and interfere with a person’s well-being and happiness, may be reason enough to seek help from a trained therapist or a life coach. How do you decide whom to talk to if you need more help?


A therapist is a trained and licensed professional who may be credentialed as a psychiatrist (M.D.), psychologist, social worker, counselor, nurse, or marriage and family therapist. Their education, training, and experience prepares them to help people in distress develop insights into why they are feeling, behaving, or coping in a certain way, and can teach them new and improved skills and behaviors. People typically see a therapist in a face-to-face situation.

A therapist can be helpful to individuals experiencing:

Intense emotional reactions that are bothersome or interfere with daily functioning

For example, you may have experienced a recent break-up with a friend and now find yourself thinking about it all the time to the point where it is interfering with your ability to sleep or eat or engage in pleasurable activities. This may be a sign of depression or you may just be experiencing depressed feelings. In either case, therapy or counseling can be very helpful.

Persistent conflicts with friends

If you find yourself feeling angry, sad, agitated, hurt over and over again either with the same friend or with multiple friends or colleagues, you may be struggling with depression, anxiety or a personality disorder or unresolved issues from past experiences may be at play. These issues can be addressed and resolved through therapy.

Pattern of choosing the “wrong” friends

If you notice you consistently choose or end up with so-called friends who are unkind to you, hurtful, or mean, you should seek the professional help of a therapist. No one deserves to be mistreated. Allowing this behavior may be related to low self-esteem or a history of being abused.

Issues that are longstanding or repetitive

Making major changes in behaviors requires gaining insight into behavior patterns, motivation to change, and investment of time and effort to change unhealthy behaviors.

Personal or life coaches

Personal coaches may or may not have received training and certification to practice, although most are certified through an accredited six-month to one year training program. Some coaches are both professional therapists and certified coaches. People seeking help from a coach are typically not in distress but rather are “ready” for a change; motivated to identify and achieve new goals. Coaching is generally done by telephone but can be done in person as well.

People should see a personal life coach if they:

Need or want new friends due to situational changes

Re-location, job changes, change in life circumstances such as pregnancy or motherhood may result in the need to seek out new friends. This isn’t easy for anyone. Even knowing where to go to meet new people may be challenging. Finding enough time in your day or week may be difficult; therefore targeting your efforts toward the groups of people you have something in common with would be most advantageous. Identifying these groups, figuring out where to find them, and preparing oneself for emersion into this new world can be addressed through coaching.

Are engaged in friendships that change due to loss of common interests and bonds

While this challenge can affect anyone at any age, it is particularly common during young adulthood when your college or grad school friends begin to get married and have families. The changes in lifestyles are sometimes so divergent that the friendship naturally suffers. One friend is changing diapers and doesn’t get a free moment while the other friend wants to socialize after work and on the weekends. Similarly, starting a relationship with a love interest can be a hurtful and frustrating experience when that friend suddenly has no time for you anymore. If these friendships are important to you, you can learn to create new expectations and maintain the relationship but in a different way.

Want to overcome shyness or become more assertive

Sometimes these factors may be stumbling blocks to making and keeping friends. Through coaching, one can learn to take risks, improve self-confidence, and change behaviors.

Want to avoid occasionally choosing the “wrong” friends

A coach can help you identify an unwanted pattern of behavior and assist you with knowing the qualities you do want in a friend and how to attain this type of friendship.

Want to know when and how to get out of a bad friendship

This is more common than you think. Coaching can help you listen to that “voice” within that tells you that something isn’t right and help you gain the confidence and skills needed to end a bad relationship.

Need help recovering from the loss of a friend through death or a break-up where you are experiencing typical reactions

These reactions may include sadness, hurt, and anxiety. A coach can help you accept that these are normal reactions, assist you with managing your feelings, learn from your experiences, and help you emerge healthier and happier.

Summary Comparison of Coaching vs. Therapy

A therapist has the credentials and training to treat and address diagnosable conditions such as depression, bi-polar disorder, social anxiety, and is viewed as the expert.

  • A coach, although trained and knowledgeable is viewed as a facilitator, a partner assisting you with your discovery, goals and achievements. Therapy is typically insight oriented, solution or problem-focused and usually involves healing, recovery, and resolution of past or current issues.
  • Coaching typically deals with the present, is focused on strengths, and on the client’s motivation and willingness to identify and achieve new goals. People who seek out therapy are often at a point where they are distressed or in crisis.
  • People who seek out the services of a coach are motivated by the desire to make some kind of a lifestyle change.

Whenever you are seeking help or counseling, it is always important to do your homework: Find out about the individual’s experience and training, heed recommendations from people you trust, and see if there is a “good fit” between you and your therapist or coach.

About the author: Linda Ligenza is a licensed social worker, who is also trained and certified as a personal coach. She specializes in working with individuals who are seeking to improve and expand their friendships and/or other relationships and offers consultations, either by phone or in-person at one of her offices in the Charleston, South Carolina area.

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