Seeing a friend in pain is never easy. It’s even worse when you know that they could get the help they need from a therapist. Your natural reaction might be to try to help them, but there’s only so much you can do on your own.
Sometimes professional help is what’s needed. A kind suggestion to see a mental health professional might be the best thing you can do for your friend. However, this can become a tricky and sensitive subject.
Telling someone they may need therapy isn’t always a fun conversation, but sometimes it needs to be said. Here are some ways to gently encourage your friend to seek therapy.
Start By Finding Therapists In Your Area
You’re planning to approach someone and suggest therapy to them. You care about this person, so naturally, you’re trying to do as much as you can. Doing some research and groundwork before you breach the topic can help you provide meaningful help.
Try looking around your general area. Therapists specialize in various areas, and therapy comes in many different forms. It’s a good idea to look for several different kinds of therapists too, if possible.
For example, if your friend won’t or can’t attend therapy in person, you can suggest they try online therapy. Seeking therapy online is becoming more popular as more businesses migrate to the online format. You can also find region-specific services, like Fettle, which provides some of the top online counselling Ireland has to offer.
At the end of the day, your friend will probably appreciate it when they see how much thought and research you did for them.
Be Prepared For Defensiveness Or Resistance
Encouraging someone to go to therapy isn’t easy. Hearing a close friend tell you that they think you may need a therapist can be even more difficult. It’s a sensitive subject, and even a gentle suggestion could feel like a sharp attack on the receiver. Your friend may resist, especially if they’ve never been before.
You can still encourage them, but you should avoid coming across as forceful. Emphasizing some of their more admirable traits can help ease any tension. You can also point out your relationship and explain that you’re worried about them as friends, partners, siblings, etc.
If you’re able to gently show your friend your concern, they’ll be more likely to listen to what you have to say.
Be Specific With Your Concerns
Perhaps your loved one doesn’t think a therapist would benefit them. It could be that they aren’t aware of any changes in their behavior. There’s also a chance that they know but simply haven’t considered seeking help. Whatever the reason, they might ask for examples.
Be sure you’re ready to respond to this concern. Try to be non-judgmental and non-accusing. Use ‘I’ prompts like:
- ‘I feel concerned about…’
- ‘I’ve noticed…’
- ‘I’m worried when I see you…’
- ‘I feel sad to see you struggling with … and I think this could help…”
Remember that you’re talking about a potentially sensitive subject. It can be easy for your words to lose their impact if you sound like you’re attacking. It’s best to avoid phrases that make the recipient sound like they’re at fault. Things like ‘You need therapy’ and ‘You’re not okay’ can be replaced with ‘I think therapy would benefit you’ and ‘It seems to me that you’re not 100% okay these days.’
Normalize Seeing A Therapist
Sometimes people have a certain stigma surrounding therapy. However, therapy is simply a safe, judgment-free environment where people can discuss and learn about their emotions. Anyone can benefit from seeing a professional, regardless of mental state or possible condition.
Sometimes people have a sore spot that won’t go away. Other times they have an emotion that won’t go away. Seeing a mental health professional is as normal as seeing any other medical professional, and explaining this can help remove the stigma from counselling. It’s a good way to help them feel more comfortable —maybe even more confident—about the topic.
Be Considerate With The Time And Place
Yes, you might want to bring this conversation up as soon as possible, but mental health is a serious topic, and you need to pick the right time and place. So, bringing it up in their sister’s wedding reception surrounded by many other people is almost certainly a bad idea.
Try to choose a time and place to help your friend feel more comfortable. Ideally, it would help if you pick a private time and place where they can feel safe and secure.
Encouraging someone you care about to consider seeing a therapist can be a tricky subject. It’s difficult to watch a loved one struggle, and you’re compelled to act with their best interest in mind. Maybe the stigma around therapy is holding them back, or they just haven’t considered the option.
Find the right time in a safe place, gently approach the subject, be thoughtful about your language, and help them find therapists in the local area. Remember, you’re doing this for them and should have them in mind at every step. If you keep these things in mind, you can help your loved one make the most out of their treatment options.