My loved one needs therapy, what do I do next?

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Once you’ve had positive experiences with a particular mental health treatment, it can be tempting to move loved ones down the same path so that they can receive similar rewards. But how can you make it sensitive and what if they are not interested?

When we see our loved ones struggling emotionally or physically, it is in our nature to want to help. That compassion and concern should be admired, but there are times when it can be problematic too.

You can lead a horse to the water, but you cannot make it drink as they say. Likewise, you may want to support your loved one, but they may not be ready or open to treatment that you so seriously believe could help. And that’s hard. You care for your loved one and of course you want the best for them. It can be very difficult to understand and understand why you are not taking the chance to get involved in a particular therapy or treatment that you think may be helpful.

How can you manage this situation with sensitivity and support?

1. Provide them with (expectation-free) information

Providing a brochure, website details, or positive feedback on your own therapy experiences can be a really good place to start. Respectfully and with no ultimatums or expectations, this can lead to further discussion of treatment options that can be helpful to both parties – it gives you useful information that they may not have considered before, and you may feel a little less helpless to do so in the Are able to provide it.


2. Watch out for hidden messages

Whenever you suggest that a loved one could benefit from professional assistance, you may want to make them feel, “I love you, and I want what is best for you.” However, there is always a chance that they may share your belief that one is Receiving therapy should be perceived as an accusation in the sense of “They need to be fixed”. You can react defensively even with the warmest of intentions. It may sound obvious, but reassuring your loved ones that you simply want to help them get the best out of them and not “change” them in themselves can go a long way.

3. Think about what the problem really is

Take a moment to step back and reflect on the obvious “problem” that you think needs to be addressed. Does your loved one consider this a problem at all? Does that bother you more than it bothers you? And if so, could you benefit from working this through with a professional from your point of view instead?

4. Listen to them

Often times, we can get so involved in our own narrative that we forget that other people have theirs too. If a loved one refuses to try a certain approach, give it a listen! Try to understand (or at least listen) why they aren’t as spicy as you’d like right away. Perhaps this opens up areas for more dialogue to talk about together (“I’m just a little worried about trying something new”). Or maybe not (“It’s just not for me; back”). In any case, this is their story and they have a right to it.


5. Take care of yourself

Just as your loved one has the right to decline your benevolent invitations to consider a particular therapy, so too do you have the right to express your own feelings about it. Feelings of helplessness and frustration are normal in such situations and deserve space and recognition. Remember that you are a separate person and you are not responsible for your loved one. Your own self-care is important. Whether it’s meditation, gardening, your own therapy, or just screaming into a pillow, do what you need to do to take care of your wellbeing. After all, we cannot take care of others if we do not take care of ourselves first.

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