We can all think of at least one person in our lives who can benefit from going to therapy. Seeing a loved one struggle with mental health issues can be scary or overwhelming. It’s natural to want to help them by bringing in a professional but you can’t force a person to change. Instead, you can provide support and information.
Here are 4 ways to help a loved one pursue therapy:
1. Choose the right time.
- Pick a time when the person is likely to be the most receptive. Avoid talking to someone when
they are in a bad mood, tired, have deadlines at work or if they are doing something important.
Try to keep the conversation friendly, private, and relaxed as much as possible.
2. Approach the conversation with care, not judgment.
- Begin by expressing that you want to help them because you care about them. Be descriptive
about what you have observed, ask questions, and listen to their answers carefully and patiently.
Avoid judgment or anger, both in tone and content. Use non-stigmatizing language when talking
to them about their mental health and assure them that you will support them through the therapy
3. Be aware of common fears and misconceptions.
- There are several common reasons why someone may refuse to see a therapist, including: “It costs
too much.” “I don’t have time.” “I saw a therapist once and it didn’t help.” “Therapists don’t say
anything; they just sit there and judge you.” Don’t shut their fears down. Validate their concerns
before addressing them. Do some research ahead of time so that you can respond effectively. For
example, if they are concerned about the cost of treatment, let them know there are providers that
offer sliding scale fees or payment plan options.
4. Share your own experiences.
- Show, don’t tell. Rather than lecture the person about the value of therapy, share how it has
helped you. This helps to destigmatize therapy by moving the focus away from something being
“wrong” to an experience that is normal, natural and that others have navigated.
5. Know when to stop.
- You can’t force someone to go to therapy—and it probably won’t be effective if the person
doesn’t want to change. If someone rejects the suggestion, what comes next will depend on your
connection and the context. If the relationship is too damaging for you to continue, it may be
helpful to set some boundaries or end it altogether. If the person will continue to be in your life,
recognize when it’s time to set the suggestion aside and offer encouragement and support in the
meantime. Being opposed to therapy now doesn’t necessarily mean being opposed to it forever.
Sometimes a transition or stressor shifts a person’s perspective. You may have to throw a series
of breadcrumbs and just see where it takes you.
About Grace Kim:
Grace Kim is a Resident in Counseling providing services at the Woodbridge location. She is a Qualified Mental Health Professional for Children (QMHP-C) and a National Certified Counselor (NCC). Grace has extensive experience in providing outpatient counseling services to children, adolescents, and young adults. She also has sufficient experience working with adult clients with longstanding substance abuse issues. She is an individual who has had her own share of mental health challenges and, with the help of those around her, has been able to overcome obstacles and barriers in her life. To learn more about Grace, visit HERE.