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How To Tell Someone They Need Therapy

Key Takeaways:

  • Look for signs like mood changes, lack of interest, sleep issues, and decline in self-care as cues your loved one may need therapy. Contrast their current behaviour to their baseline.
  • Choose the right time and setting to suggest therapy sensitively. Lead with empathy, care, and concern. Offer tangible support like helping find a therapist.
  • Have an open, honest dialogue. Ask questions, share your observations, validate their feelings, and suggest therapy. Avoid ultimatums.
  • If they refuse traditional therapy, suggest alternatives like online therapy, support groups, or self-help resources. Continue encouraging professional help.
  • Take care of yourself, too. Set healthy boundaries, make time for self-care, see your own counsellor, and lean on loved ones for support. You can’t force someone into treatment.

Watching someone you care about struggle with their mental health can feel frustrating and worrisome. You want to help but don’t know where to start. Maybe you’ve noticed dramatic mood swingssleep issues, or loss of interest in things they used to love. Perhaps their self-care has declined, or they seem quick to anger nowadays.

While going through ups and downs is regular, ongoing issues like depression or anxiety often benefit from professional support. Therapy provides tools to help your loved one feel better and teaches healthy coping strategies. But suggesting therapy requires thoughtful consideration so they feel cared about, not accused.

In this article, we’ll explore:

  • Common signs indicating therapy could help your loved one
  • Compassionate ways to sensitively recommend counselling
  • Responding if they seem resistant or defensive about therapy
  • Alternative options like online counselling or support groups
  • Setting healthy boundaries if they refuse traditional therapy
  • Self-care tips to manage your stress

The goal is lovingly encouraging your loved one to get support while caring for yourself. With patience and empathy, you can have an open conversation about therapy that makes them feel heard and valued. Professional help provides mental health guidance tailored to their unique needs so they can feel like themselves again.

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Recognizing When Therapy Could Help

It’s difficult to distinguish between everyday struggles and when professional help is needed. Here are some common signs indicating therapy may benefit your loved one:

Behavioural Changes

  • Withdrawing from family/friends
  • Losing interest in hobbies
  • Making unsafe or impulsive choices
  • Increased substance use
  • Difficulty leaving home due to anxiety
  • ​emotional distress
  • life transitions

Mood Changes

  • Ongoing sadness or feelings of hopelessness
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Expressing frequent anger or aggression
  • Excessive crying spells
  • Apathy and lack of motivation

Sleep Disturbances

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Recurring nightmares or panic attacks

Cognitive Concerns

  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Memory issues
  • Disorientation
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Past traumas

Self-Care Decline

  • Change in personal hygiene
  • No longer doing household chores
  • Weight fluctuations from overeating or lack of appetite

Suicidal Thoughts

  • Making comments about death/suicide
  • Looking for ways to end their life
  • Feeling life is not worth living

Seeing one or two of these occasionally may not indicate a severe problem. However, if you notice a pattern spanning weeks, it likely signifies a real issue.

  • Compare their current behaviour to their typical baseline.
  • Has their functionality at work or home declined?
  • Do they seem constantly on edge, sad, worried, or angry?

This contrast can confirm your sense something is wrong. Recognizing a loved one needs help is the first step to getting them support.

Thoughtful Ways to Suggest Therapy

Once you identify signs your loved one may benefit from counselling, you’ll want to suggest therapy sensitively. Here are some tips:

Choose the Right Time

Avoid bringing up therapy:

  • During an argument – they may get defensive
  • When they’re already irritated or upset
  • In front of other people – it could embarrass them

Instead, ask if they have time to talk privately when you both feel calm.

Pick a Comfortable Setting

Discuss therapy somewhere they feel safe, like:

  • At home on the couch
  • While going for a walk together
  • Over coffee at their favourite cafe

A relaxed, familiar environment prevents them from feeling anxious or attacked.

Lead with Empathy

Frame your conversation around care and concern by saying:

  • “I’m worried about you and want you to feel better.”
  • “I’ve noticed some changes I wanted to check in on lately.”
  • “You seem down – I’m here if you want to talk.”

Use “I” Statements

When expressing concern, use “I” phrases like:

  • “I’ve noticed you seem stressed.”
  • “I’m worried this may be more than a rough patch.”
  • “I care about you and think counselling could help.”

This centers the focus on your caring observations rather than criticizing them.

Offer Your Support

Provide tangible help like:

  • Researching local therapists or support groups
  • Calling providers to check insurance coverage
  • Scheduling intake appointments
  • Driving them to sessions
  • Sitting in the waiting room for moral support

Show you’ll stand by them throughout the process.

Normalize Therapy

Explain that therapy is:

  • Helpful for everyone at some point
  • A judgement-free place to vent
  • An investment in self-care and growth
  • A way to build coping skills

Be Patient

  • Don’t force the issue if they seem reluctant.
  • Give them time to get comfortable with the idea.
  • Check in again in a few weeks.
  • Let them know you’re always available to listen.

With compassion and patience, you can thoughtfully encourage therapy.

Having an Open, Honest Conversation

Once you’ve chosen the right time and setting, here are some tips for having an open, caring dialogue about therapy:

Lead with Love

Set a compassionate tone by saying something like:

  • “I care about you and want you to be happy.”
  • “I’m bringing this up because I’m concerned and want to help.”
  • “You mean the world to me. I’m here for you.”

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Get their perspective by asking:

  • “How have you been feeling lately?”
  • “What do you think is contributing to feeling this way?”
  • “What would help you feel better?”

Share Your Observations

Explain specific changes you’ve noticed, like:

  • “You seem much quieter and withdrawn than your usual outgoing self.”
  • “I’ve noticed you’re drinking more and staying home instead of seeing friends.”
  • “You used to love painting but don’t seem interested in it anymore.”

Stick to factual, caring statements without judging.

Validate Their Feelings

Let them know it’s okay to feel how they do by saying:

  • “It makes sense you feel sad, given what you’re going through.”
  • “I can see how everything feels overwhelming right now.”
  • “I would feel anxious too if I was dealing with this.”

Suggest Therapy as an Option

  • “I think talking to a therapist could help you develop skills to manage this.”
  • “Counseling provides an unbiased place to work through challenges.”
  • “I heard therapy can be effective for what you’re experiencing.”

Offer Your Support

  • “I’m happy to help find a therapist and make the appointment for you.”
  • “Maybe I could attend the first session with you if that would make you more comfortable.”
  • “I’ll be with you every step of the way.”

Have an open, caring dialogue focused on understanding their perspective and offering support. With compassion, you can sensitively share your point of view while making space for theirs.

Alternative Options if They Refuse Traditional Therapy

Your loved one may be reluctant to pursue traditional face-to-face counselling despite your best efforts. In that case, suggest lower-commitment alternatives:

Online Counselling

Support Groups

  • Connect with others dealing with similar issues
  • Build a community and see you’re not alone
  • Groups available for grief, addiction, trauma, etc.
  • Local chapters and online forums

Self-Help Resources

  • Books, workbooks, podcasts, and courses
  • Interactive journals and skill-building tools
  • Let them explore at their own pace
  • Can supplement or lead to counselling

Life Coaching

  • Help set goals and develop positive habits
  • Provide motivation and accountability
  • It may seem less stigmatized than therapy
  • Focus on growth vs. mental illness

Peer Support

  • Confide in trusted friends and relatives
  • Feel safe opening up to someone familiar
  • Receive empathy, understanding, and advice

With patience and care, encourage the forms of help they feel most ready for. Any support is better than continued struggles alone.

Getting Additional Support for Yourself

See a Counsellor

Seeing a therapist helps you:

Lean on Loved Ones

  • Confide in trusted friends and family
  • Ask loved ones to check in on you
  • Share encouraging Bible verses or quotes
  • Vent about challenges

Practice Self-Care

Make time for:

  • Regular exercise and eating well
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Enjoying hobbies
  • Relaxing with baths, music, or books

Take Breaks

  • Schedule regular date nights or weekends away
  • Visit friends out of town
  • Prioritize time for yourself

Don’t neglect your needs. Seek support so you can be fully available emotionally for your loved one.

Supporting Your Loved One Through the Process

Help Find the Right Therapist

  • Ask about preferred gender, age, treatment approaches
  • Review credentials and specializations
  • Ensure they accept your loved one’s insurance
  • Schedule a 15-minute phone call to help vet potential fits

Assist with the Intake Process

  • Offer to complete new client paperwork with them
  • Provide background on their situation
  • Explain their symptoms and challenges
  • Share details on any past treatment or diagnoses

Provide Transportation

  • Drive them to and from appointments
  • Arrange for Ubers or taxis if needed
  • Offer to sit in the waiting room during sessions

Check In Regularly

  • Ask how therapy is going and discuss progress
  • Listen without judgment if they need to vent
  • Validate any mix of emotions – hope, frustration, etc.

Offer Encouragement

  • Note small wins like opening up to their counsellor
  • Highlight growth you’ve noticed in their mood or behaviour
  • Remind them recovery isn’t linear if they hit setbacks

Adjust Expectations

  • Progress takes time, so be patient
  • Avoid questioning why they aren’t “better” yet
  • Respect their pace and therapy process

Keep supporting your loved one consistently. Your faith in them and their treatment makes a big difference.

In Summary

Watching a loved one struggle takes an emotional toll. While you can’t force someone into counselling, you can encourage them to seek help. With patience and compassion, have an honest dialogue about your concerns and the benefits of therapy. Suggest they try it for a set period, like 12 weeks, to judge if it helps.

But don’t neglect your own needs either. Set healthy boundaries if their struggles begin threatening your mental health or relationship. Make time for fun and self-care. Talk to a counsellor or join a support group to ease your worries for them.

While the situation may continue to challenge you both, keep in mind change is possible with professional support. With time and treatment, your loved one can learn healthy coping strategies to feel like themselves again. Remind them how much you care and are always available to listen and help brainstorm options. Reach out to other family and friends who can share the role of caring for them, too.

Most importantly, know you’re doing your best in difficult circumstances. Don’t give up hope. They will eventually get the assistance needed for an improved quality of life. Keep gently nudging them toward help and nurturing your relationship. You’ll get through this together with love, compassion, and support.

Picture of Pareen Sehat MC, RCC

Pareen Sehat MC, RCC

Pareen’s career began in Behaviour Therapy, this is where she developed a passion for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy approaches. Following a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Psychology she pursued a Master of Counselling. Pareen is a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) with the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors. She specializes in CBT and Lifespan Integrations approaches to anxiety and trauma. She has been published on major online publications such as - Yahoo, MSN, AskMen, PsychCentral, Best Life Online, and more.

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