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  • If your loved one is engaging in troublesome behavior—perhaps they’re drinking a lot or turning into a workaholic—it’s normal to be wholly concerned.
  • And while you might not be able to force them to make a change, you don’t have to sit idly by either; you can take a few actions to get them help and to also take care of yourself during this time.
  • First, if you think they could benefit from working with a mental health professional, subtly recommend their speaking with a counselor or therapist.
  • And if they don’t react well to your suggestion, it’s time to turn the focus inward; focus your time and energy on caring for yourself during this time, and it might even have a subsequent effect on your loved one’s behavior.
  • Additionally, continue to show your loved one your support; chances are, they’ll come around eventually and you can then assist them in getting the help that they need.

Do you feel desperately concerned about a family member? Maybe you’re increasingly worried about their drinking habits; or maybe you’re nervous about their becoming a workaholic. Whatever your concerns may be, this is a scary time. For you, and likely your other family members. Because while you’d like to help, it isn’t always clear how.

“You’d be surprised by how many calls we get from people wanting to make appointments for struggling friends or loved ones. It’s frequent. We totally empathize, but unfortunately, treating someone on behalf of another person is an official no-go,” Psychotherapist Laura Dabney explains. “You’ve heard the phrase, ‘You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.’ It’s the hard truth. But the good news? There are steps you can take to improve your relationships and interactions with those who don’t want professional help.”

That’s right. You don’t have to sit idly by. There are a few steps you can take to show you love and support your family member, push them toward getting help, and also take care of yourself during this tough time. Dabney delves into these steps below:

1) Give them a gentle nudge in the right direction.

First, you can recommend their talking with a therapist. You can even do so subtly. Dabney explains: “To start, if you suspect someone could benefit from a mental health specialist, I recommend asking him or her something like, ‘Have you considered running this by a professional?’ the next time they mention their issue. This keeps you from appearing critical or judgmental.” It’s worth a try, and if the individual doesn’t respond well, it’s time to switch gears. Dabney says it’s time to then turn the focus inward and protect yourself.”

2) Turn the focus inward.

It might be hard for you to surrender your efforts, but you have to see the importance in taking care of yourself. It’s hard to watch a loved one engage in dangerous or troublesome behaviors, and that worry can have ill effects on you. So, again, turn inward. Dabney explains how this helped one of her clients and how the effects trickled down to the family member engaging in the troublesome behaviors: “Here’s an example from one of my coaching clients: like so many, ‘Janis’ called to make an appointment for her mother who she contended was drinking too much, mismanaging their family store, allowing Janis’ dad to abuse her, and spending money they didn’t have. I explained that Janis’ mother would have to make the call to receive treatment, however, I would be willing to see Janis and discuss how to cope with her mother and the situation. She took me up on my offer.

Janis became one of my coaching clients and it didn’t take long for her to realize, through laughter, ‘I guess I can’t change her or anybody.’ This understanding allowed us to focus on and modify Janis’ behavior, the stuff within her control. She began setting boundaries. She walked away when her mother complained about her father. She changed the subject when her mom complained about sadness and anxiety. She started using the highly effective, ‘We can agree to disagree,’ statement anytime her mom made a bad decision about the store. Eventually, consciously or not, her mother began talking more positively when she realized Janis would not be ‘sucked in.’”

3) Put your love on display.

Even though you’ve shifted gears and started taking care of your own needs during this likely difficult time, that doesn’t mean you have to stop loving and supporting your family member. If they come to you and ask for help, it isn’t time to turn them away. It’s time to demonstrate your love and support. You should continuously show them you care for them, and when they’re ready, you’d like to help them. Chances are, they’ll suffer from their unwise decisions and realize that it’s time to make a change. And when that time comes, you can again push them gently in the right direction. You can recommend their talking to a counselor and even help them book their session, if they’re ready to get professional help.

Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett is a staff writer at Thriveworks. She devotes herself to distributing important information about mental health and wellbeing, writing mental health news and self-improvement tips daily. Taylor received her bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism, with minors in professional writing and leadership from Virginia Tech. She has published content on Thought Catalog, Odyssey, and The Traveling Parent.

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