When you care deeply for someone, seeing them in distress can be a real source of worry. But how do you actually tell someone they need therapy without pushing them away?
Perhaps your partner needs counseling but won't go. Maybe a friend or even an older parent might really benefit from it - but they have not reached out for help yet.
Here we'll explore some top tips for approaching how to suggest counseling to someone in a caring way. And perhaps most importantly, the best ways to help them actually start counseling sessions when they're ready.
The final tip focuses on you - and the importance of self-care.
My Partner Needs Therapy But Won't Go
We all know our cars need servicing, and plants need water. Our tech devices need software updates, and our houses need maintenance. Yet when it comes to intimate relationships, do you ever think about what it takes to keep them alive? Perhaps even more than that, to keep it healthy and thriving?
Individually, every human is unique with their own personality, the family culture they grew up in, past hurts, and future fears. Add a second human into the mix (aka a relationship!), and things are bound to get a little emotionally messy.
If you’ve been struggling in your relationship, you’re not alone. Know that help is only a call away. Here are some useful suggestions in approaching the subject with your partner or spouse:
Suggesting therapy to a partner: Step by step
Respect and listening are key. If someone feels pressured or shamed, they might shut down the conversation. Some practical tips are:
1. Schedule a quiet moment ahead of time together
These conversations tend to go better when someone knows what’s coming, and they have the mental space to deal with a deeper conversation
2. Ask your partner their thoughts on how things are going (and really listen)
This is an incredibly important step. You may be surprised at how much more open someone can become when they are asked about their perspective with curiosity.
3. Share your positive hopes for what you would like your relationship to look like
This can be followed by some of the struggles you’re experiencing to get to that place.
4. Ask if they would be open to seeing a therapist
If the answer is an adamant no, then don’t lose hope! Ask gently when they might be ok with revisiting this conversation, even in a few weeks or months.
Suggesting Counseling to a Parent
By the time someone has been on the planet for more than a few decades, it’s wonderful to see the areas in which they excel effortlessly or things they are so comfortable doing because they’ve done it a thousand times.
Yet life throws curveballs. Even if someone has never previously experienced struggles with mental health, that doesn’t mean they’re immune. Grief counseling is a service that can go very far.
Suggesting Therapy to a Parent: Step by Step
1. Take them out for a cuppa (or a virtual one)
Let them know you’re there for them and they’ve been on your mind.
2. Ask how they’ve been coping
If someone has been going through a hard time, they may feel like they don’t want to talk about it “too much” for fear of burdening or boring others around them. Knowing someone is listening and cares can be the first step to opening up.
3. Share your recommendation of a therapist
They may not be aware that online telehealth appointments are available with warm and experienced psychologists. Realising that it’s accessible to them is a huge relief for many.
4. Ask if they would like help setting up the bookings
Technological logistics can be a barrier to older generations who may have less experience with things like telehealth. Setting up bookings and walking them through the steps needed to have an appointment are really simple ways that can calm someone’s nerves.
How to Tell a Friend They Might Need Counselling
Noticing a friend’s distress might be cause for some people to withdraw – especially if you feel you don’t have the skills to help them with their struggles. Yet reaching out with a non-judgemental listening ear can truly help someone through.
Suggesting Therapy to a Friend: Step by Step
1. Set up a time where you’ll have some quiet and privacy
A calm environment where you’ll have space to talk in private is key to making sure that you can talk about more sensitive issues.
2. Gently let them know how well they’re doing, as you’ve noticed their struggles
Ok, so no one loves being told “Wow, you look tired!”. But it can make a world of difference to hear the heartfelt, positive words “I’m proud of you – I notice you’ve been dealing with a lot lately”.
3. Share some experiences
If you have been to therapy, it’s a great time to break the stigma and share your experiences. If you’ve never been, then read on!
4. Encourage them to take the time for self-care in therapy
We might know we need to make time for self-care, but it’s not until someone else nudges us that we realise action is important. Be the friendly nudge your loved one needs.
How to be The Best Support
If you find yourself struggling with the care of a loved one in distress, focusing on looking after yourself can be one of the most important things to do. Overall, it's important to see that someone's choice to engage with a therapist is just that - a choice.
If a parent or friend is not quite sure about attending therapy, then you can let them know that your door is open if they want to chat about it in the future.
If your partner is currently not open to receiving help, then know that it's not uncommon. One of the best things you can do is to focus on the parts you can control.
Which parts can you control? Your own self-care.
Self-care, including therapy for you, can be absolutely central to navigating difficult times. If you’ve never experienced therapy for yourself, there’s no time like the present – and it may even help with insight to support those you care about.
Referring a Loved One to an Online Psychologist
If you or a loved one are looking for the next step in taking care of yourself through therapy, then know that help is never far.
If you are ready to book an online counseling appointment, head here to see who would be a good fit for you.
If you’re not quite sure about the process, head here to chat with someone who can help with any questions.