How to Encourage a Loved One to See a Therapist
It’s painful and scary to watch a loved one struggle with their emotional well-being. Maybe you’ve had concerns for a while, or perhaps you’re only noticing specific symptoms now. Either way, you might feel stuck- you want to help them, but you aren’t sure how.
Regardless of the circumstances, knowing how to encourage a loved one to see a therapist comes down to empathy, support, and patience. Here are some tips to consider during your conversation.
Choose The Right Time and Place (and Have Referrals Ready)
Mental health is a sensitive issue, and you want to be mindful of how this discussion might embarrass your loved one. First, make sure that you two can speak privately- nothing will go over well if you confront them in front of others (unless you are planning a staged intervention).
Aim for the conversation to happen when the issue occurs- or just after it settles. You don’t want to do it when things are overly tense, as emotions may run hot.
In the best-case scenario, they hear your concerns and oblige with your request to seek help. If this happens, you should ideally have therapist or psychiatrist referrals readily available. It’s also helpful to have any relevant insurance and fee information on hand. Of course, if they want to choose a therapist independently, it’s important that you support their autonomy.
List Your Specific Concerns
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed X, Y, and Z.
I’m worried about A, B, and C.
I felt sad when I saw you were ____.
It’s important to list your emotions and observations explicitly. Rather than blame them for certain behaviors, try to model assuming personal responsibility for your reflections.
If you have worked with a therapist in the past, you might also want to share highlights about your experience. For example, you might say, Therapy has helped me understand my anger better. I used to get so reactive, but now I know how to pause and practice different coping skills. I really think it could be beneficial for you as well.
Confront Gently and Lovingly
Knowing how to encourage a loved one to see a therapist also means acknowledging and trying to understand their pain. You might want to practice gentle confrontation before your discussion.
Here are some lines that can help you plan what you want to say.
As your friend, I’m always going to support you. I’m so glad you felt safe sharing ___ with me. I’m just not an expert on this issue, but I can help you find a therapist who can support you.
I care about you so much, and I can see that you’re having a hard time. I’ve looked into therapists who treat ___ (the specific issue), and I’d love to give you their contact information.
I’m worried that your ____ (specific issue) is affecting ___ (another issue). I think professional help could really make a difference. Can we look at some providers together tonight?
Offer to Go Together
If you’re concerned about your child or spouse, family or couples therapy can benefit everyone. You might (unknowingly) be enabling or perpetuating specific issues without realizing the impact.
Systemic therapies encourage everyone to examine their own roles within the relationship. Subsequently, altering just one part of the dynamic can lead to greater change.
Finally, being involved in therapy may also encourage your loved one to seek individual support. Even if they aren’t receptive to your suggestions, they might be more apt to listen to a professional.
Anticipate Resistance or Defensiveness
Even if you’ve attempted to say and do everything right, your loved one may feel attacked or shamed by your concerns. It’s important to prepare for this possibility ahead of time.
Remember that any change can feel frightening, and confronting such vulnerabilities isn’t easy. Sometimes, people don’t recognize the severity of their situation. They may rationalize or deny the problem, especially if they have been struggling with it for a long time.
If resistance happens, try to remain calm and supportive. If you get upset, they may become even more combative. Let them know that you are worried and stay objective in listing your specific concerns.
Keep in mind that empty threats are rarely effective in the long term. You should avoid giving absolute ultimatums unless you are completely willing to uphold all indicated boundaries.
Final Thoughts on How to Encourage a Loved One to See a Therapist
It’s challenging to know that someone you love is in such emotional pain. But as a family member or friend, you can be a tremendous ally in supporting their healing.
At Willow Counseling, we are here for you and your loved ones. We understand that entering therapy can be a scary decision. But, we also believe it’s an immense act of courage- even if you’re still a bit on the fence about it. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.
Willow Counseling, PLLC – Nashville, TN
Willow Counseling, PLLC exists to provide quality trauma-informed mental health counseling to the Nashville community, recognizing the interconnectedness of our emotional, spiritual and physical selves. We work together to alleviate symptoms, learn better coping skills, relieve burdens, remove the pain of trauma, and so much more. However, our greatest desire is for you to know what it means to feel purpose and joy again and to recognize the strength and worth you have to offer the world.