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Suggesting Counseling to Someone You Love

[1]Our thanks to Andrew Lester and Emily Tetelman of River City Comprehensive Counseling Services [2] 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.

Photo credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/rocketboom/4442692245/