Suggesting therapy to a friend can be tricky. It can feel like you’re walking a tightrope between being rude or brushing them off, when in actuality it really hurts your heart to think about them going through what they’ve just described, alone. Although it might feel impossible to suggest therapy (or even just talk about it!) without coming off as abrasive, insensitive, or causing hurt, but offering support to loved ones is doable! We’re going to go over some tips on how to talk about therapy with those you care about, without being too pushy, or coming off as unsupportive and disconnected.
Be Empathetic and Understanding
Most of us can identify as being ‘fixers’. We listen to someone’s difficulties, frustrations, and problems, and move quickly and easily towards a remedy for the situation. We might offer information on what we’ve tried before, what hasn’t worked, or what we’ve heard others say has worked for them. If you identify as a ‘fixer’, buckle up because what I’m about to suggest might turn your way of operating on its head.
When we move too quickly to ‘fixing’ a situation for someone, the result can land far, far away from what we were intending. We end up looking like a know-it-all who wasn’t listening to what was being shared, or worst of all, that we don’t really care about them at all. Ouch. It’s probably safe to say we all want to avoid this, in any way that we can. So here’s my suggestion:
Before even hinting towards therapy (or any other way to ‘fix’ what’s going on), work to be understanding of how your friend may feel and acknowledge their feelings. Let them know that you understand what they are going through by summarizing what you’re hearing, reflecting back what you’re noticing, and ask questions about anything you feel confused about. By doing so, you’re showing that you care about what’s being shared, and also that you aren’t going to pretend to be the subject matter expert of their life. Being an active listener in these situations shows that you respect that they are in the driver’s seat in their life, and that you want to keep them there.
Open the door
What comes next in this new formula of connection is truly magic. After acknowledging what the stressors are and what has been shared, ask the question:
“How are you handling all of this?”
“How are you staying afloat in all of this?”
This opens the door for the other person to share what they’re already doing to take care of themselves, what’s working for them, and what isn’t. They might be able to tell you that every aspect of their 12-step self-care plan works flawlessly, and that they’ve never felt more supported in their life. Or they might lay out that they have no idea how they are handling any of it, and that they feel completely adrift in a sea of intense anxiety and depression. Either one of those answers, or anything in between, can lead to entirely different conversations!
Sometimes we find that our most put-together friends and family members do actually have it all together, and other times they might be floundering around in the dark while being very unsure how they’re going to handle what they’re facing. You might also find that the very folks regarded as champions of “flying by the seat of their pants” actually have a system down to navigate a level of chaos that others might dread. The question posed above is a great way to open the door to conversations that we don’t usually get to have with the people we care about; we then become aware of information so very pertinent to how we can be the most helpful for them.
Share More, if the Time is Right
After posing the question and listening in, you might both uncover that there are some holes in their self-care plan that therapy can help with. Enter your suggestion to consider therapy, here. It could be helpful to share how therapy has been helpful for you, personally, if you’ve had positive experiences with it in the past. Other information to share could include what type of therapist you went to, and what techniques helped you the most. This might normalize the idea of getting help from an outside source, and make the whole situation more approachable. The key here is to ask before sharing. They might not be ready to take on any suggestions or information, given what they are going through. Asking if they’d like to hear your experience and understanding could be really helpful in keeping the pressure low.
Bringing up the idea of therapy to a friend can feel so difficult. The last thing any of us want is to come off as rude or unsupportive. However, showing up to support a loved one through acknowledgement, respect, and encouragement through steps outlined above, can be an invaluable experience for them, especially during trying times. It might feel clunky at first to try out this new way of connecting, but the results are going to be noteworthy. And I can’t wait to hear all about your experience with it!
If you or someone you love is ready to start a self-growth journey, but are feeling overwhelmed with where to start, schedule your free pre-consultation today by clicking here to start mapping out your start with support.