Are you worried about a loved one? Maybe they show signs of depression, are having trouble coping with a recent loss, or simply appear to be stressed out of their mind. Whatever the case, you think they could benefit from talking with a mental health professional and want to encourage them to seek therapy—but you hope to do so without stepping on their toes or eliciting a negative response. While this can be a difficult road to navigate, you can talk with your loved one about your concerns and encourage them to seek professional help in a respectful and effective manner. Just follow Dr. Shalonda Crawford’s five tips below and read on for an example of how you can approach this conversation:
1) Consider the timing.
First, you should pick the appropriate time and place to have this conversation, to ensure it goes as well as possible: “Make a conscious effort to select a good time and place to express your concerns,” says Crawford. “Avoid presenting your observations and suggestions during times when your loved one is most likely to respond defensively, such as during an argument, family gathering, or in a public place.”
2) Ready yourself for their response.
Crawford says it’s also important you prepare yourself for how they might respond—as they may take offense to your concerns: “Prepare yourself as much as possible for a wide range of emotions and responses to your request. Keep in mind that the last thing you want to be is defensive.”
3) Encourage further action.
If your loved one welcomes your concerns then it’s safe to offer further information and encourage action. “If things go your way, your loved one is open and willing to seek therapy to address the concern,” Crawford explains. “Be prepared with possible options for counselors/therapists that are available. The more the merrier. Your friend or family’s input and choice in the matter may be invaluable.”
4) Offer to help in any way you can.
You should also show your support by offering to help however you can. “It’s one thing to point out and discuss your observations and concerns. It’s another to step up in full support,” says Crawford. “If at all possible, make yourself available to take them to the appointment or pay if necessary. This also eliminates typical excuses for not being able to afford it or adequate means to get there.”
5) Be prepared to take drastic measures.
And finally, assess the severity of the situation and, “If you believe that your friend or loved one is in a more serious or harmful mental state/condition, be prepared to take equivalent measures,” says Crawford. “It may be necessary to call authorities or head to the ER for an immediate check-up or professional evaluation.”
Talking with your loved one about any concerns you may have isn’t an easy feat—in fact, it can be very difficult. Therefore, it’s important you take care of yourself as you move forward with this mission as well. Now, as recommended by Crawford, “encourage your loved one to seek and participate in professional treatment without trying to take on the role of a trained counselor or therapist yourself.” If you need further guidance or could simply use an example of handling this conversation effectively, consider Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Elisabeth Goldberg’s model:
“How are you feeling these days? You seem a little sad or overwhelmed. Sometimes it helps to talk these things out. There are people that are trained to listen and offer support and guidance, the kind you need but may not be able to give yourself or get from the people around you. I’m sorry you’re going through a hard time. It helps me when I talk things out. It doesn’t mean you’re crazy or weak or there’s anything major wrong with you. Everyone needs help sometimes.I’ve heard of people talking to a therapist and it really helped them feel more in control of their life. Is there anything I can do to help support you in your search for a therapist?
Many of them accept insurance. There are difference specialties too, like if you’re having difficulty in your relationship or with coworkers or getting motivated to eat healthy or manage your stress better. Just know that there are resources out there and not all therapists are the same. They are very caring and sensitive people and do this work because they want to help people like you enjoy their lives and not be burdened by worry or hopelessness. What do you have to lose? What will happen if things don’t change? I wish I could make you feel better because I care about you and don’t want to see you sad or overwhelmed. Every day is a new day, an opportunity for a fresh start, a chance to learn and grow.”