It is difficult to see friends and family members suffer. Even if you are a great friend or relative, always lending an ear and your support, there is only so much that you can do. If you have a friend or family member who is suffering from anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns, it may be best to encourage your loved one to seek professional help. Remember that any time that you think your loved one is a danger to him or herself, or to someone else, it is crucial that you seek immediate medical attention to ensure everyone's safety. But in the event that your friend or family member has no intention of harming anyone, but is exhibiting psychological symptoms that are interfering in his/her functioning, the best thing to do is gently encourage the individual to seek psychotherapy.
This can be a very difficult process, as such attempts are sometimes met with resistance or even hostility. To your friend/relative, it may feel like you "think they're crazy," or, "don't know what you're talking about." But in the end, therapy can help your loved one get his/her symptoms under control so s/he can live a fuller, happier life. Although it may take some time, patience, and hard work, the benefits of therapy will certainly outweigh the costs.
When encouraging a friend or family member to seek psychotherapy, here are some important things to keep in mind:
DO begin by emphasizing how much you care and how worried you are. It is not that you are tired of listening, but that you recognize your limits, and are concerned that you are not proiding the appropriate care.
DO NOT confront them or shout at them regarding some of their behavior or choices, as this will only lead to the person feeling ashamed, cornered, and defensive. Instead, keep the emphasis on your concern for them and your desire for them to live a happy life.
DO get the advice of local professionals, and consult their research or pamphlets when considering how to express your concern. Local support groups, psychotherapy clincs, and community centers are almost always willing to help.
DO NOT take this approach for the wrong reasons. Are you genuinely concerned about this person's welfare, and not trying to put him or her down in any way? Are you upset about how this person's behavior is affecting his or her life, or merely your life? Make sure you have sorted out your own motives before attempting to talk to this person. If not, they will likely see through your attempt, and it may damage your relationship.
DO realize that this is not the least-confrontational course of action, and may impact your relationship if the individual does not take the suggestion well. This is a serious solution, however when necessary it is a crucial one. Mentally and emotionally prepare yourself--try going through the different ways that the conversation could play out, and consider your response in each case.
DO NOT be impatient. Even if your friend has a non-negative reaction to your suggestion, he or she may not reach out for help right away. Be supportive, keep listening, and be patient. Continue to encourage your loved one, even if s/he doesn't feel totally ready.
DO offer to help this person seek therapy, whether that means finding a doctor, booking an appointment, or just giving him or her a ride to an appointment. The support of a loved one will encourage the individual to follow through.
If you are in the San Diego area and would like to speak to a professional at CSAM about helping a loved one seek therapy, please contact us.