How to suggest someone see a therapist. We’ve all been there. Part of being a friend or a family member means that you support the people around you through challenges in their lives.
But sometimes, we don’t feel like we can help someone as much as we want to. Maybe that’s because there are stresses in our own lives. Or maybe it’s because the trauma, the loss, or confusion they are experiencing is too unfamiliar. And sometimes, it’s simply because we don’t feel we know them well enough.
It’s times like these that it’s best to suggest someone see a therapist. However, this is not an easy conversation to have. How to suggest someone see a therapist includes reducing someone’s anxiety about therapy in general. There are several key elements in broaching this topic with someone else.
Therapy is For Normal People
Many people have a negative view of therapy. Some think that the only thing mental health professionals do is talk to be who are “crazy.” How to suggest someone see a therapist if they have this view? Share the truth.
In truth, however, the vast majority of mental health experts—from psychologists, to psychiatrists, to counselors and even licensed clinical social workers like myself—work with people who are able to function in everyday life. Most of my clients and most therapy the clients the world over have jobs, maintain relationships, and achieve success in many areas of their lives.
Most people are in therapy because they see the possibility of improvement in their life and they are willing to talk to someone about making a change. A therapist is someone who helps facilitate that improvement. Going to therapy doesn’t mean you’re in terrible shape. It just means you want to live a happier, more fulfilling life.
Some phrases to keep in mind are:
- “Lots of people who are working on improving their lives talk to a licensed professional.”
- “Therapy is for ‘normal’ people too: people who want more out of life.”
Therapy is Not Forever
Another fear is that someone who meets with a therapist once will end up doing so for the rest of their lives. Usually, however, this is not the case. Most of the research of modern therapy approaches show for common situations, individuals may experience a benefit in as few as a half dozen sessions. That’s not to say that there aren’t cases in which seeing a therapist for a longer period of time will be helpful. But for the most part, therapy is a relatively short term process that involves changing your long term outlook.
Think of it this way: you may go the doctor or the hospital frequently when you are sick, but you might visit only a few times a year when you are otherwise healthy for regular checkups. The same is the case for therapy.
Some phrases to keep in mind are:
- “Going to see someone is not making a commitment. It’s just opening a door to see if this might help.”
- “You take care of your physical health by seeing an expert once in a while, why not do the same for your mental health?”
Therapy is a Community Process
Most people are in “individual therapy”, which means they see the therapist by themselves. But people do not heal on their own. A client will return home and talk to their family and friends. They may not reveal anything that was said the in the session, but they may take something they have learned into their interactions with others.
It’s also okay to bring a friend or a family member to therapy. So if someone is on the fence about going, offer to visit the first time with them. Offer to help them get to the session by driving them and taking them home. They may even want to invite you in. You may not stay in the room for the full session, but you’ll show your support. And better yet, be willing to tell them if you’ve worked with a therapist before yourself.
Therapy can help almost anyone struggling with challenges in their life. But sometimes people benefit from the love of others in finding their way into the hands of a clinician. Be gentle, but encouraging. Help your friend or family member find what is best for them.