How To Talk To A Loved One About Seeing A Therapist
It’s not easy to talk about therapy with a loved one. Sometimes you don’t know what to expect. Will they be angry or relieved? Will they reject the idea or welcome it? You simply don’t know. There are many reasons why you are thinking about suggesting therapy to a loved one. It’s an action that comes from a place of love with the intention of supporting a friend or family member through a tough time. In this article, we talk about how to start a conversation about mental health with a loved one, recommend therapy, and even support them through therapy.
Start The Conversation About Mental Health
Every year, millions of people are affected by mental health conditions. It’s important to point out how common mental health problems are to show that no one is alone. Statistics show that 1 in 5 US adults experience mental illness each year. In 2020 alone, 46.2% of US adults received treatment for mental illness.
Mental health conditions can manifest in significant emotional, social, and physical changes such as sadness, anger, isolation, self-criticism, and changes in sleep and self-care. It’s entirely normal to have no idea where to start when talking about therapy with a loved one. While more and more people seek therapy to address mental health issues, there is still some stigma, and making the leap is difficult for many people.
Tips For Talking About Difficult Topics With A Loved One
- Create A Safe Space For Hard Conversations
Think about where and when to have the conversation. Talking about difficult topics is challenging enough; it’s a good idea to try and catch someone at the best time possible. For example, it’s not the right time if they’re stressed from a tight work deadline or in the middle of a family gathering. A safe space is comfortable and private. Ask them if they have time to talk and remain calm and patient.
- Do Your Research
It’s important to come from an informed place. If you choose to bring up therapy, you’re likely worried about your loved one. Maybe they are showing symptoms of anxiety or depression. Do your research about mental health and therapy to stick to the facts.
- Be Gentle
Avoid making any judgments and approach the conversation with compassion. Stay patient and calm, but also take the conversation seriously. No matter what, don’t suggest therapy off the back of an argument or disagreement, as it could feel like an attack. The aim of the conversation is to recommend therapy in a safe environment. There are many reasons why someone may not think therapy is right for them, and that’s why it’s useful to come to the conversation feeling prepared. You can offer to help with the logistics and also be a sounding board to support a loved one through a hard time.
- Clarify Your Motives
Nobody wants to feel like you’re talking about them behind their back or ganging up on an individual in a group setting. Show the person that your motives are pure and come from a place of love and support, not judgment or anger. You’re not just going to leave them to it, but you are also not a replacement for a therapist. You can support them on the entire journey, but you can’t offer the kind of help a therapist can.
- Expect Some Push Back
There may be some resistance, anger, and defensive behavior during the conversation. It may even take a few attempts to have the conversation. Try not to take any negative response personally. If the person in question is your partner, you could suggest going to couples therapy together to help take a step closer to individual therapy. You may need to give your loved one time to process the conversation. Let them know you are there to support and help them whenever they are ready.
Helping Your Loved One Find The Right Therapist
Sometimes it can feel like there is a barrier to therapy. Knowing where to start and who to talk to is difficult. It’s down to the individual to decide whether they want to go to therapy. As much as you can recommend and suggest therapy, you can’t force someone to go. If your friend or family member is open to the idea, helping them to find the right therapist can help to take some of the pressure off.
There are different types of therapy and mental health professionals with various specialties and approaches, such as:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
A Google search for a “therapist near me” will come back with thousands of results, which is overwhelming. At Thriving Center of Psychology, you can narrow down potential therapists using our Therapist Matchmaker. By answering a few simple questions, we can match you with the most suitable mental health professional. No hours of research are necessary.
As you assess your therapist to help narrow down the choice, it’s important to look at their credentials, experience, and level of education. As well as these things, think about gender identity, cultural background, and specializations. The right therapist is a combination of elements that allow a person to feel comfortable, listened to, and understood. When searching for a therapist for a loved one, you can help them to consider all these factors.
You have the option to speak to a therapist online or in person. Sometimes, online therapy means you can easily talk to a therapist from the comfort of your own home. In some cases, this makes someone feel more at ease and open. In other situations, in-person therapy could be a better option for treatment.
Another good source for therapist search advice is the American Psychological Association (APA), with resources to support yourself or those around you. The other ways to find a therapist are by asking a friend for a suggestion or getting a referral from your physician. If you need help more urgently, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) lists helplines for mental health crisis services.
Supporting Your Loved One Through Therapy
If a loved one is struggling with their mental health or going through a tough time, support can make a positive impact. Navigating how to offer that support can be tricky. In some cases, offering practical support can be useful. This could look like bringing groceries over or offering to run errands if they need it. As a friend or family member, your main role is to be a sounding board and listen without judgment.
Depending on your situation, supporting a loved one through therapy and mental health issues can be hard. Make sure that you look after your well-being too. If you feel overwhelmed, take a break and set aside time to recharge. It’s essential to be realistic about the type of help you can offer. While your support is valuable, it’s up to the individual person to attend therapy and put the work in. You just being there is likely helping.
If you’re concerned about a loved one, the caring team at Thriving Center of Psychology can guide you in the right direction so you can get the help you need. Book an appointment online or in person by contacting one of our offices in New York, California, Florida, New Jersey, Oregon, Minnesota, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington.