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How Can I Help a Loved One Seek Therapy?

Meg Mulroy, LPC 

When someone you know and love is struggling with a mental health issue, it can often feel helpless and scary. There is a lot of pain in our own lives that comes from watching others that we love struggle and hurt. If you’ve been in therapy or work in the mental health field, you are probably drawn to suggest therapy to this person in your life. It makes sense that you would want to help this person seek therapy- but how can you best encourage them to get help?  

Timing is Everything: Make sure to choose the right time for your loved one to suggest therapy. Try and find a time where they aren’t rushed, overwhelmed, or otherwise occupied. Try and refrain from catching them off guard and plan a time where you can grab a coffee, go for a walk, or be in an environment that feels safe for this person. 

Lead with Care, Not Judgement: It’s very important to emphasize your care for this person. If bringing this up feels out of your comfort zone, it may even model to your friend that you’re willing to take chances to get them the care they need, and it may give them the courage to do the same. Be cognizant that your suggestion for therapy is not from a place of anger or judgment. Saying “when you’re sad all the time, it makes it really hard for me live with you,” comes from a place of resentment whereas, “I’ve noticed the past few months have been really hard on you, and because I care about you and your health, I think seeing a therapist might be helpful.” Lead with your heart. 

Woman talking to her family memberBe Open with Your Experiences: If you have been in therapy or are currently in therapy, let your loved one in on what you get out of it, and what you wished you had known before starting. Be explicit with how therapy has helped you. Being open with your own mental health journey can help destigmatize mental health issues and can encourage your friend to ask for the help they need. 

Be Prepared for Push Back: Asking for help is one of the hardest things humans can do, so don’t immediately expect your loved one to be 100% on board just because you expressed your concern and encouraged them to get help. Be prepared for common refusals around therapy like, “it’s too expensive,” “They wouldn’t understand my career- how could they possibly help?”, “I don’t have the time,” or “I can just talk to my friends.” Listen to and validate their fears without judgment and do your best to debunk these therapy myths.   For example, if a friend is worried about the cost of therapy or doesn’t have the insurance, have information available on sliding scale therapists or local Universities with training programs. Master’s and Doctoral level interns often do not charge for their services and can be extremely helpful for folks without insurance. (If you’re based in Chicago, I highly recommend reaching out to DePaul University’s Counseling Program here).  

Offer to Help: Not knowing where to start can be so overwhelming that people will often give up the search before beginning it. If you work with a therapist you trust, ask them for referrals. If you don’t have access to a therapist with referrals, offer to scroll with them or google search local practices. It’s important to offer them help, but be respectful of your partner’s wishes if that is something they want to do alone. 

It’s important to note that you can do your best to encourage the person you love to get the help they need, but they also need to want to change themselves. Know when to respect their boundaries if they are not receptive to your concerns, and know that you can only do so much. Symmetry Counseling is currently accepting new clients, so please feel free to recommend our practice to your loved ones by calling 312-578-9990 or scheduling an appointment here.  


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