How to Approach Tough Subjects & Get Effective Help for a Loved One
we're really excited that you're here and interested in exploring ways to communicate and get help for a loved one. we know that both of these things — starting a difficult conversation and finding the actual help — are often a lot more involved than they seem.
we've crafted this guide for you — the family, friends, partners, caregivers, and other amazing supporters — to provide some considerations as you begin to navigate these difficult waters. we are by no means mental health professionals but, with the tips below, we hope you'll be a couple steps closer to finding some good ones.
APPROACHING TOUGH SUBJECTS
it's time to start a difficult conversation — perhaps discussing a serious illness, the possibility of death, addressing an unspoken addiction issue, acknowledging or exploring a loved one's experience with depression, anxiety, or grief. where to begin?
1. lead with empathy
regardless of how it might be manifesting itself, keep in mind that your loved one is just seeking basic things like love, acceptance, and self-esteem, and trying to cope with (or avoid) all of the fun demons we share (e.g. fear, pain, ego, guilt, shame, embarrassment, etc.).
2. ask the simple questions
3. show up, consistently
4. walk the walk
if it’s a call, this means finding a quiet spot and making the time. (when you're vulnerable or in crisis it can be really hard to hear "i've got to get back to..." or "so and so is waiting for me" that may amplify someone else's loneliness or your more important priorities.)
5. be prepared to help them take the next step
at the end of the day, there is only so much we can personally do to support someone who needs professional help — and that’s ok. but so often we direct our loved ones toward therapy or rehab, without understanding the hurdles that prevent so many people from actually getting the help they need. if you're serious about getting your loved one in professional care, here are some important considerations to help them take the next step...
GETTING EFFECTIVE HELP FOR A LOVED ONE:
2. TREATMENT/PROVIDER TYPE
what kind of help does she/he need? for better or worse, there are so many options — from the actual therapy structure (in person, phone, video call, text, in-patient, outpatient, etc.) to the therapy format (individual, couples, family, group, etc.), the type of provider (MFT, MSW, PhD, PsyD, MD) and the therapy theory he/she practices or specializes in (psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral, etc.). some other important considerations may include spiritual/religious affiliation, comfortability with a male vs. female provider, etc.
don’t let the breadth of options overwhelm you, but do consider them as you navigate the sea of resources available to you. ask your loved one about her/his preferred format, do a little research, and present some options to help narrow down the possibilities and identify the most relevant starting point. you don’t have to have all the answers, but doing some leg work here early on can definitely help expedite your journey to effective treatment (and save some money along the way).
FIND A THERAPIST OR PROGRAM
once you've gotten her/him in the door, keep checking in to see how it's going (and if she/he is keeping up with it!). sometimes setting a couple future dates on the calendar can be really helpful. this will hold your loved one accountable and also send a big message — that you're in this together and you're still going to be there to support her/him come week/month/year 2, 3, 4, of this journey.
sound like a lot of work? not going to sugar coat it — it is. but your loved one matters, and if you’re both ready and committed to making it happen, it CAN and DOES happen. we are all rooting for you (both of you!).
want to get started now? check out our growing RESOURCE DIRECTORY.
thoughts, feedback, or suggestions? firstname.lastname@example.org