Statistically, they say that the best predictor of therapy is a therapist's empathy, nothing else. I haven't read those studies, but it's a popular statistic they teach you in psych grad school.
I think different styles work for different people depending on their background, how they think, and what they need. That applies for both therapists and patients.
Personally, I've had a bunch of experience counseling friends and I've decided that people benefit most not from getting answers or creating plans, but from creating a genuine connection to another person. I think most dysfunction comes from people not being settled, mentally and emotionally, and I think bonding helps them do this. Solving problems tends to have a decent intellectual impact, but it's short-lived and can cause a person to become more obsessed with their problem, more high strung, and lead to more dysfunction.
Here's one of my favorite videos. This is a bit like what your friend was talking about. It's akin to reality therapy and existential therapy (also what your friend is describing). Look at how the therapist doesn't pull any punches, but manages to be sincere and kind.