You: “Listen I need to talk to you. Do you have a minute?”
Friend: “Umm..can I…”
You: “Okay, so I’m really upset with how my manager spoke to me today and it’s not only about today, I just feel like she keeps demeaning my work and humiliating me in front of other colleagues. Even things at home aren’t that great, my parents have such high expectations of me, I just can’t deal with everything anymore.”
Friend: “I’m really sorry, I’m in the middle of something, can I call you back?”
You: “I just told you I’m not doing okay and you’re saying you’ll call me back?”
How often do we vent out to friends and family? I’m sure your answer here is, “All.The.Time”. While it’s a great thing to have supportive friends and family, it’s also important for us to realize that these support systems can also get exhausted, resulting in resentment. These systems are there to support us but they may also have their limits, just like ‘Friend’ in the hypothetical conversation you read at the start of this article.
Are your friends and family becoming your therapists by-default?
It’s okay to talk about your feelings, problems and thoughts with trusted, loved ones but at the same time, you must also understand that they are not always responsible for resolving your issues and giving you advice. When you overload a relationship with several roles, there’s a higher chance that the relationship will succumb to the pressure, leading to unnecessary tiffs that could have been avoided. You may think that talking to a friend is a natural response when something even mildly unpleasant happens and I agree with you. However, it’s also about drawing the line and gaining some unbiased perspectives on your situation.
Our friends and families would never do a thing to hurt us, unfortunately, even when it’s for our betterment. When it comes to a point where you need some guidance on certain aspects and problems in life, the best option is to seek therapy from an unbiased but trusted therapist. A great thing about therapy is that your information remains completely confidential and trained therapists can help you take on the best objective views towards your problems.
Are you becoming the Therapist By-Default?
We all feel lucky and blessed to be able to help and support our dear ones in their times of crisis. However, it’s important to evaluate your mental capacity and position before taking on a mission to solve their problems. This may sound a little selfish, but trust me, it’s important for you to be in a good mental space before you try pulling someone out of the dark.
As a friend or family member of someone whose reflex is to call you up as soon as they meet with a problem, it can get difficult to draw boundaries. Also, you must acknowledge the fact that you may not be able to help them out every single time, mainly because you’re not trained to do so. In such a case, you need to have a health conversation with them, letting them know that you might not be the best person who could help them out and that they could consider speaking to a professional.
It could be possible that you fall under both the roles- the helper and the person with the problem. In any case, go ahead with the more sure-shot route – therapy!
How do I tell them that they need to see a therapist?
With all the stigma around mental health still floating around, you would have to keep certain things in mind before telling them that a therapist would be of great help to them. Here are some things to keep in mind when you want to tell a friend or family members to visit a therapist:
1) Break the notion that therapy is only for serious illnesses
Partly, the reason why the stigma around mental health still resurfaces from time to time is because it has long been believed that therapy is reserved for people who suffer from mental disorders or illnesses. However, therapy is about healing with a trained therapist as they guide you through science-backed techniques to work through your problems. A qualified therapist can walk you through your own life and tune you into your own wisdom to enable you to take on your issues, whether big or small.
2) Convince yourself and be calm
Before you tell them to seek therapy, convince yourself that therapy is actually going to help them get through their problems. Without being convinced about it yourself, it will be very difficult for you to make them see the other side. Avoid over-explaining why you’re suggesting therapy. Tell yourself that therapy is going to have a super positive impact on their life and you’re only leading them to that door. Also, don’t completely blow your idea on them, build up a conversation and then suggest therapy.
3) Hear them out
You could be the first one pointing out their need to seek therapy and that might lead to a dialogue or discussion between the two of you. Acknowledge their thoughts and feelings about going for therapy without getting aggressive. You could also read up a little about the process of therapy before you spark this conversation with them just so that you know what you’re talking about.
4) Tell and show them your support
While there’s very little that you can do in the therapy process itself, you could definitely let your friend or family member know that you’re just a call away. If they’re feeling very overwhelmed with the idea of booking their first therapy session, you could sit with them while they do it. It doesn’t have to be large acts of helping, but anything that will aid them in getting access to help from a professional. If the idea of therapy seems daunting to them, letting them know that you’re there for them will make them feel more secure.
5) Avoid trying to ‘over-help’
Remember, therapy is a personal journey that every person must embark on by themselves. As much as we would all like to help, the person needs to walk down the path and pass through all their healing phases. You could ask them about how their therapy sessions are going, but don’t press too hard for details. It’s a personal process and it would be best to allow them that space to heal.
A lot of people may be apprehensive about seeking therapy because of factors of such as a lack of time, inaccessibility to qualified therapists and even due to confidentiality. In times like today, when there is a greater need for people to reach out for help, online counseling can be a great resource. The Mood Space is an e-counseling platform that bridges the gap between those who need to seek help and qualified professionals who can guide them through their mental health concerns. While relying on friends and family is okay, it’s also important to understand that they may not always be able to be there for you, seek therapy when you need it!