Updated: Dec 26, 2021
Oh, the dreaded conversation. You have a friend or family member who is breaking down, relying on you too much with texts or calls, or always seems to be in a situation. They are fighting with everyone in their lives, seem constantly negative, and nothing good ever seems to happen to them.
Enter you--the person who is worried about them and wants to get help. Perhaps you are burned out from being their go-to and feeling that emotional exhaustion leaks into your friendship and your life. Perhaps you are worried about them and know they could benefit from therapy.
You want to see them get better, achieve their potential, and be that happy confident friend you once knew. You also want your friendship to go back to the good times when things felt fun and easy.
The problem is...how do you tell your friend they need therapy? What is a good way to tell someone they could benefit from help?
There are no hard and fast rules to this but here are a few ways to make it easier on you.
1: Set The Scene
Therapy can still have a stigma about it for many people. Therefore, this may not be the best topic to approach in a group or crowded setting. This conversation is best meant for a one-on-one talk at a calm time (i.e. not in the middle of an argument). This conversation also should not be an ultimatum, as rarely do people forced into getting help really benefit from the help.
2: Point Out Things That Could Be Improved
The second part is to really point out what you’ve been noticing lately. Have you been noticing depression, racing thoughts, a lot of anxiety, relationship distress, or possibly shutting down? This can be a great place to draw attention and let them know help is out there and they can get better.
“I’ve noticed you have been really depressed lately and things haven’t seemed to go your way. Have you considered therapy? A therapist could be helpful for exploring ways to feel better or to talk about these problems.”
This can be a gentle way to point out to someone that now is the time for them to link up to a therapist or some ways their life could be improved by attending therapy.
3: Tell Them They Deserve Help
Often people don’t reach out for therapy because they may feel they don’t deserve therapy or aren’t worthy of getting better. This is a great place to remind them of their worth and how many people love them. They can get better and are worthy of a happy healthy life that they love.
4: Tell Them Your *Positive* Therapy Story
Sometimes the best thing we can do is lead by example. Telling your story of therapy and how it helped you can take away some of the shame and stigma of therapy. You are modeling that it is okay to admit help and help them understand the benefits.
However, if you had a negative experience, that might not be the best to share as it may discourage them from seeking help. I’ve had clients have negative experiences with one therapist and then have a positive experience with me. One client who recently did online family therapy with me, Mary Willoughby Romm, said “I had almost stopped believing in therapy for my child before we met you.” Another, “All they did was color and it didn’t work. A few months with you and we are doing so much better.”
No two therapists are alike and thus it can take time to find the right one who fits your personality or needs from therapy. This doesn’t mean therapy is wrong or bad, it just means that one person may not be the right fit for you. This can also be something that you tell your friend if they once had a bad experience with a therapist and that deters them from seeking therapy.
5: Give Them A Resource List Of Therapists In Virginia
We can tell someone to go to therapy, but actually finding a therapist and beginning therapy can be a daunting task. There are waitlists, specialties, plus trying to understand insurance.
As an online therapist in Virginia, my family and friends often reach out to me to figure out options for them to get into therapy or treatment modalities. This could be a good place to research a few counseling centers your friend may like or go on Psychology Today and find a few people they may match with to tell them about. This could also be a place to offer to help them find the right person when they are ready and tell them you are willing to help them do so.
Sometimes all people need is one person cheering them on and guiding them to the right place.
A simple, “I’ve been told this is a great therapist who specializes in what you are dealing with. Here’s the number and we can call together if you want” can go a long way. Even if your friend doesn’t follow up right away, you are still planting a seed for the future when they are ready.
6: Begin To Set Boundaries To Protect Yourself
If you keep letting this person come to you as their one and only venting source, you are enabling them into the pattern. This is a great place to begin setting boundaries and saying key items such as:
“A therapist could really help with this, but I’m not sure I can.”
“I enjoy your company, however, I can’t be your venting person right now. Too much is going on. That may be something you talk to another friend about.”
At the end of the day…
"Every girl must decide whether to be true to herself or true to the world." —Glennon Doyle Melton
So, if you need to set boundaries, make hard decisions about who to have in your life, or limit the amount of time you spend attending to others--that is okay. That is why there are therapists in the world who are trained to help others and chose that job. Never feel guilty for referring someone to professional help who are trained in helping others heal. If you are wondering if it is time for your family to seek family therapy, click here.
If you or a loved one need online therapy in Virginia, Willow Tree Healing Center offers complimentary consultations. Call us at 757-296-8794 to get your complimentary consultation today.
Mary Willoughby Romm is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Virginia who provides online therapy for Willow Tree Healing Center. She enjoys transforming the lives of women, college students, kids, tweens/teens, and families through providing communication strategies, coping skills that work, allowing a safe space to be heard, and actively working towards helping you with your challenges. She is certified in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (ages 2-7) and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, counsels substance abuse in teens and adults, and practices Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy.