How to Help Your Loved One Seek Therapy

By Maria Miller, MA, PLPC

We’ve all been there: We see someone we love struggling deeply, and we just want to yell from the rooftops, “Go to therapy! You need help!” Most of us have had our own beneficial experiences with therapy, and it seems like a no-brainer to tell someone else to try it out. Unfortunately, our well-meaning wishes are not always well-received. Given that May is Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s explore why some people *don’t* seek help and a few phrases we can use to encourage them to receive the support they deserve.

  1. “How is this impacting your family?” Depression and anxiety has a tendency to narrow people’s focus. They believe that they are the problem, everyone and everything else is hopeless, and it is fully their responsibility to make it better. Helping your loved one widen their lens on who their suffering is impacting might help them reconsider the value of therapy. For example, if someone is feeling hopeless but loves their dog very much, you might talk to them about how their depression is affecting their pet. Then you can tie their healing to their pet as well: “Maybe a therapist could help you think of some strategies to walk your dog more often? I bet Fido would love that!” Help them understand that their decision does impact others, and they do not have to do this alone.
  2. “You deserve support.” In our fast-paced, resource-stretched world, everyone deserves a little extra support. However, when we tell someone they need “help” or to “fix” themselves, it doesn’t always go so well. Why? Because it infers that the person is broken, inferior, or the problem which would make anyone defensive! Switching to the word “support” suggests that the person is whole and good the way they are, they just need a boost to be the best they can be.
  3. “Do you need help finding a therapist?” Many people write off therapy because they assume it is inaccessible. They think it’s too expensive, too stuffy, too white, etc. But there are as many types of therapists out there as there are people! If you can understand their barriers to seeking care, you might also be able to help them find the right fit. There are wonderful directories, programs, and agencies that offer just about every kind of therapy with different kinds of therapists at all kinds of prices. Just be sure to ask your loved one if they want help first– if they really don’t want to go to therapy, you won’t be able to convince them!

For Mental Health Awareness month, let’s destigmatize going to therapy for our loved ones. Share your own experience with therapy, try out these phrases, and lend a supporting ear to the people who are suffering in your life. They deserve quality treatment, and you deserve to feel equipped in supporting them. The Center for Mindfulness & CBT has current availability for clients, so if you or your loved one would like to reach out for support, please fill out this form.