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Ways to Encourage a Loved One to See a Therapist

Updated on March 31, 2013
Is your loved one struggling with something in his or her life? Encourage them to see a therapist.
Is your loved one struggling with something in his or her life? Encourage them to see a therapist. | Source

Talking to a Family Member or Friend About Mental Health

Mental health is a touchy subject--despite statistics that show one in ten American adults suffer from depression, mental illness still has a stigma. Many people too embarrassed to admit they need or want help, while others may just not be aware that there are resources to help them through emotionally difficult times.

That's where a therapist comes in--an objective third party who can act as a confidante, listening to your problems and situation, and then return back unbiased, calm advice. Therapists can also guide patients in making their own emotional discoveries by leading them through memories, feelings, and logical reasoning. Therapists can also work with patients experiencing a range of issues, from shopping addiction to depression.

If you're worried that a loved one might need to see a therapist, it can be difficult to broach the topic. Read on for gentle, positive ways to encourage a friend or family member to see a therapist.

What are your thoughts on therapy?

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Bringing Up the Topic of a Therapist to a Loved One

Perhaps your friend or family member is going through a divorce, struggling with death, or is out of work. Whatever the problem, you've noticed that they're not their usual, happy self--and it seems they need more than advice sessions on the phone or over coffee. In fact, you think a therapist could help them.

If you know personally that your loved one would be open to the idea of therapy, and perhaps just hasn't thought of it themselves, then the task will be an easy one--the suggestion might be enough to prompt them to make an appointment.

However, if the loved one is against the idea of therapy, the conversation might be a little more fraught. Have the conversation in a private place, and start by affirming that you love the person and are invested in their happiness. Keep your voice calm and your tone smooth. Then, ask if they've considered therapy. If they say no, gently respond with some of the benefits of therapy. Use a personal anecdote about how therapy has benefited you or someone you know, if possible.

If the person becomes angry or defensive, don't continue to press the issue--back off and change the subject. You may have planted a seed, but if you continue to push the person may cut you out as a confidante and further hurt themselves.

Subtly Addressing Therapy in a Conversation

If you're not ready to outright suggest therapy to a friend or family member, you can still hint around the issue and see if it opens up a dialogue. Share a personal story about how therapy has helped you or another person, or bring up an instance of mental health/illness in the news and start a discussion.

Gently feel out the other person's attitude toward therapy, and tailor your own approach accordingly.

Being Prepared for a Positive Response

If your friend or family member is receptive toward visiting a therapist, be prepared! Before you initiate conversation, gather a short list of therapists in the area who specialize in the issue your loved one is dealing with. There's a therapist for almost every problem you can imagine!

Also be prepared to offer your time to your friend or family member--going to therapy can be very scary for someone who's never been. They don't know what to expect, and they may be afraid to open up emotionally to a stranger. Offer to drive your loved one to their appointment, either to drop them off or sit in the waiting room--whatever makes them feel most comfortable.

It may take several times for a person to make an appointment and then actually attend--so have patience.

Choosing a Therapist

Remaining Sensitive About Therapy

If your loved one does decide to attend therapy, don't hassle them about how it's going. Ask how it's going once or twice, just to check in on them emotionally, and then let them bring it up in the future.

More importantly, don't share your loved one's decision to attend therapy with anyone else--therapy is a private, personal decision, and it's not your choice to share with others. If your loved one wants others to know, they will tell them.

Therapy can provide its patients with coping skills, hope for the future, and so much more. Many insurance plans cover a set number of visits, so your friend or family member really has nothing to lose! Make your suggestion, stay supportive, and hope that they make the right decision.

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