Suggesting Counseling to Someone You Love

Our thanks to Andrew Lester and Emily Tetelman of River City Comprehensive Counseling Services for sharing this post.

There are times in all of our lives when someone close to us suffers emotionally. It could be as a result of depression from the loss of someone close to them, or from a period of long-term unemployment; it may even be from physical or emotional abuse they endured as a child. As much as we may try, we are not always in the best position to provide what is needed in helping them to deal with these emotions properly.

It certainly isn’t the easiest thing to look a loved one in the eye and tell them you think that they should seek therapy, or get professional help. Often, the events and conversations leading up to this suggestion are emotional enough, and it can become difficult to discuss the topic without feeling awkward. We asked our staff what their recommendations would be when trying to get someone to seek/agree to counsel, and came up with the following suggestions.

Remember to take care of yourself.
You are part of the support structure. It is important that you keep this in mind as you allow someone else to undertake the role of counselor. Becoming too emotionally involved can sometimes have a negative impact on the process of their healing, and can also damage relationships. It is important to be supportive, and to encourage them while letting a counselor or therapist take on the heavier aspects of their emotional challenges.

Talk with your loved one about the changes you have noticed and ask if they have noticed changes in their mood, behavior, etc.
Self-realization can be of great assistance in trying to urge counsel. When people begin to understand what has been impacted as a result of the distress they are in, it can help to motivate their decision to seek the support they need. It also lets them know that you care enough about them to have noticed the recent changes. Feeling like you’re alone can make things much more difficult, and discussing these things with them shows them that you are invested in them enough to have seen and become concerned with the changes.

Offer to assist in locating a counselor. Offer to give them a ride if necessary.
Taking this position after the topic has initially been breached serves to support your loved one. It allows them to see that you care about what they need, and that you want to help them to get headed in the right direction. If they have children, perhaps you can offer to watch them while they attend so that they don’t feel pressured by outside circumstances not to seek counseling.

Remind your loved one that change takes time.
This is an important one. Patience isn’t always in great supply at a time like this. Encourage them to realize that they didn’t get to the point where they are overnight – and it may take some time to get back to where they need to be. Assuring them you will be with them as they endure their struggle to heal is also helpful.

Understand that your loved one may not be ready to accept help. If this is the case, gently remind him/her about the benefits of counseling, but know that they still hold the right to decline counseling at this time.
Sometimes even the best suggestion isn’t taken. Let’s face it – it isn’t easy for some people to admit they can’t handle something on their own. That’s ok – but you should always try to make your case – give them examples of positives that would come out of them seeking help.

Validate your family member’s feelings and thoughts even if they seem irrational.
Admit it – you’ve had a day that didn’t go right for you and you’ve rambled on to a friend or relative who may have just sat there and nodded their head at you as you unloaded on just what happened that wasn’t in your favor. They listen because it lets us “vent” our frustrations and/or anger. We don’t need to explain ourselves further – right then at that time, there’s a reason why we feel like we do, and no one can convince us otherwise. Sometimes, those close to us who are in distress can be in a similar boat. We don’t have to agree, but sometimes it’s best if we just sit and listen to why they feel how they feel.

Asking your loved one about suicide will not increase the likelihood of him/her contemplating or attempting suicide.
This is another important suggestion to note. Many people would assume that by breaching this topic, that it opens the door to those thoughts. If your loved one were contemplating suicide – raising the question of whether they’ve ever considered it probably didn’t plant the thought in their head. You want to be able to eliminate any likelihood for physical harm to ensure their safety. Finding out if this is something they are considering is the first step in preventing it. Discussing this subject with them is also important because it shows them that there is genuine concern on your behalf. Knowing that someone would miss them if they were gone can act as an emotional boost for those who often already feel isolated to feel accepted.

Know how to contact emergency services in the event of a life-threatening mental health crisis.
One of the best options is always to take the person immediately to the nearest emergency room, and let medical professionals know about the crisis. Having this knowledge prior to a crisis or a life-threatening situation can help you to feel prepared. If someone is having an issue with their mental state, you don’t always know how they may react to a given situation, so being able to access these resources on an immediate basis is extremely helpful.

Encourage your loved one to continue routine activities (eating healthy, exercising, bathing, etc.)
Helping someone whom you suspect may need counseling to maintain a sense of routine can be one of the best things that you can do to help. It shows them that there are still reasons why they wake up every day – whether to work or to raise a family – it can help to show them that they have purpose and that they are needed.

Remind your loved one that you love him/her.
This may be one of the most crucial elements of all. We all know it’s easier to get through a time of trial when we are insulated by the people close to us. When you continually show your loved one that you love and believe in them, it allows them to draw strength in their time of struggle that they may not have had otherwise.

These are suggestions from River City Comprehensive Counseling Services, and may or may not apply in your situation.  It is important to seek the advice of a competent and trusted professional if you believe that you of a loved one are in need of counseling.

Should you or a loved one ever feel in danger of self harm, please go immediately to your local emergency room, or call 1-800-273-8255.

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  1. Jacklyn Johnson said on August 8, 2012 at 12:06 pm ... #

    I am currently grieving on the loss of my grandfather. I miss him so much. Thanks for the heads up on the Evertalk page Christina. I will definitely make use of the application to create a memorial page for my beloved grandfather.

  2. Andrew said on September 9, 2012 at 4:21 pm ... #

    I am so mad at the world and the people around me. My partner was recently diagnosed with liver and lymph node cancer (stage 4). The doctor told us to get my partners things in order. My partner has 6 to 12 months remaining. I can not seem to feel like a failure because I cannot do anything right. We are constantly fighting. My partner did not take the news very well, although at this point he has accepted it. I do not want to talk to anyone because I am so full of hatred. I used to think that I was strong and brave but I just want to wake up and think that this is just a horrible nightmare. My partner is 47 and I am 49, we have been together for 24+ years. I try very hard to mask the hurt and the scary feelings but I am about to loose my mind. I have alienated everyone around me. I have no idea what is about to happen or what will happen when the time comes for me to say goodbye to him.

    Could someone please share some type of advice or comments as what I should be doing?

    Thank you!


  3. Amanda said on September 24, 2012 at 2:39 am ... #

    Hi Andrew

    I feel for you…what a deeply challenging and shocking time! I have not ever been in that situation before, and am not a counsellor or any thing but have experienced shock, trauma a grief in other situations.

    It sounds like you have been thrown into what fells like a parallel universe of confusion and pain…full of anger grief and fear. My suggestions are just ideas so take them or leave them…here they are…

    Choose 1 or 2 people you feel alienated from who you would like to connect to and write them a latter that you may or may not ever send. Do your best to put all your true feelings, hatred, weakness and love into it. Tell them why you have disconnected. Tell them why you love them, and why you need them right now.

    Spend some time just silently holding hands with your partner and looking into his eyes. No words, just eye contact. Keep breathing and let any feeling that come up flow though.

    Find a piece of nature you love and hang out there. You Might get a new idea of what to do next…

    Contact a hospice service that connects with your faith. If you don’t have one, or your faith doesn’t feel right, try a Bhuddist one…they are very cluey on death and change. They usually have counsellors there who are experts at supporting people in your position.

    Know that you are doing your best. You will never get it all perfect. Make room for all your feelings. Your current feelings are the right ones for now so there’s no need to censor them from yourself or push them down.

    Find services that are respectful of your relationship. You don’t need the added pressure of crappy prejudice at this time.

    Please, if you can. Find a counsellor or guide who is skilled in this part of the life cycle. Its not a sign of weakness to connect with someone who will work with you as a team to stay centred at this items. The are all sorts out there, but one who can work with you respectfully, will allow you to be the best support you can be for your dying partner. I think that’s the most important thing. You need support to be a support. No one can stan d alone and strong for long in this life. And a counsellor is the only person sometimes that you can offload all that rage and “unacceptable” emotion to. If they are professional it does not change the relationship so you are free to let go.

    Blah blah ok I’m done.

    Hope I’m not too preachy…I don’t know you at all, but these things just came to me as ideas!

    If none of these appeal, at least know that my heart is with you and your partner and hope the right path forward for you reveals itself somehow 🙂


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  5. Tracy said on June 8, 2013 at 12:30 pm ... #


    I feel for you and have very strong suggestions. My husband passed away 2 years ago from kidney cancer, he fought with all he had and i loved him with all that i had,I like you had some very similar feelings. I too alienated and let me tell you that for to past two years because of my alienation, I have lost all. I think that i felt that no one could possibly understand my pain, my anger, my thoughts. Anger took over my life and I felt that counseling did me no good i had no desire to talk to anyone about how I felt before or after. Before he passed away, I felt almost guilty for my feelings, I felt that it was his time, that I shouldn’t ever complain or speak of my thoughts, pains, anger. I was wrong. It is sooooo important to accept your loved ones, to seek counseling now. The inevitable will come and you will be left In a much worst place. Once you go down into the hole, coming out seems an impossibility. I am just now coming out of the hole. 2 years later. I have started an anti depressant and trying to answer my phone emails and text. Please seek help now. If you are feeling like this now, imagine adding the grief of losing your partner to it. I know it is unimaginable, but you must understand that being the strongest person in the world can not conquer this, talking and sharing the anger, the pain, will help you prepare for the worst day of your life. In the end as bad as this sounds, you will have to go on. And you can fall into this horrible hell that I fail into because of my anger and complete denial of help from those around me. I am so sorry for you and I hope that you will be able to share your anger and pain with someone, good luck to you and your partner.

  6. Russell Browne said on November 7, 2013 at 7:52 pm ... #


    I worked with a young women who lost her older sister to a brain hemorrhage that was a result of a toxicity problem.

    She was grieving for 3 years when I saw her and she was not coping very well with life when she came to see me.

    We were able to help her stop the grieving process using a simple procedure that helped her to “end the process of grieving itself”. Dealing with a loss is always related to time because as soon as the loss happens, it is time stamped in our mind as in the past. Letting go of loss is much easier when we can separate the event of loss as it relates to how we store time.

    suggesting counselling to someone you love is the best way to them get their life back.

  7. Malathi said on January 29, 2014 at 12:11 pm ... #

    The whole World topples over when you receive any bad news and the whole World looks like a beautiful spring day when the going is good! However, life goes on no matter what AND That’s the way it is.

    Continue to love every moment you have with your suffering partner at least outwardly showing the courage you both need at this time. If that seems hard, remind yourself that today, now, you still have the togetherness that you fear you will be losing soon, to enjoy and make the most of, moment by moment.

    Keep a routine and follow it to the best of your ability.
    Whatever was your recharging activity, definitely give it a refresher and build into your daily routine. If you didn’t have any outside of yourselves, make one now. The Buddhist temple suggestion sounds good but any zen garden should work!
    Definitely build memories. Make video tapes, albums of photographs etc.

    I usually become two people inside of me- one who is the suffering one and the other his best friend and caretaker who keeps him on course for his own and the sake of all those around.
    God Bless, Peace.

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