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Are you looking for counselling for someone else?

Seeing a loved one struggle with their mental health can be challenging. It can be difficult to know how to best help, and the effect of someone’s ill health on the people around them is greatly underestimated.

Mental health concerns affect one in four adults and one in 10 children and access to effective care and therapeutic treatments is critical.

One of the most common enquiries is from someone seeking to help a person close to them. It may seem obvious to you that someone is struggling and should seek professional help, but there are a number of reasons why they may be reluctant.

How can you support a loved one?

You may be worried about how to first address your concerns with the affected person. Try and start a conversation. Pick an opportune moment and ask simple questions such as “I’ve been worried about you; would you like to talk?”, or “is everything ok? It looks like you’ve been going through a difficult time recently”. You may find the person receptive to your concerns, or equally, they may be immediately dismissive. Let the person know you’re there to talk to them should they want to.

It is important that shows of care and support are consistent and empathetic. You may be frustrated by someone’s lack of interest in getting help, or dismissal that they need it. Try and remember that the person struggling with their mental health may feel ashamed, or wish to deny or hide their condition. Empathy and patience are key.

Should a friend turn to you for help, it can be tempting to seize this moment to immediately refer them to a professional. Remember, even if they decide to reach out to a counsellor, they may have to wait for therapy to begin, and it is likely that they will attend for just an hour a week. The support network of those around them is equally important, especially if the therapeutic process brings up difficult emotions.

Express your concerns gently to them and reassure them that you care. Do not be afraid to ask questions, and listen to their answers attentively and with patience. It may be that they wish to find help but don’t know how to get it. Counsellors will be receptive to someone enquiring on behalf of someone else, but it is important that the proactive steps of making that first appointment are made by the person who will be attending. Ownership is a key component of the therapy framework and process.

Seeing someone close to you in pain can be difficult, and it can be frustrating to see someone refuse or be unwilling to get help. The workings of someone’s internal world are totally unknown to anyone except those experiencing it. It can be tempting to make assumptions about what is happening for someone, what they should do, or what is causing their ill-health.

Remember that no-one can be hassled or convinced into therapy, and therapy only works when someone chooses to go. Offer care, concern, and patience. Remind them help is available, but please also remember this – seeking help is only the beginning. Not only must the person find the right therapist and the right type of therapy, but that therapy is a process and can take some time.

Worried about someone else? Read more.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by David Levy

A psychodynamic counsellor working in private practice in Whetstone, London.… Read more

Written by David Levy

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