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Saturday, January 6, 2018

How to Recommend Psychotherapy to a Friend

Recommending psychotherapy to a friend can be a sensitive issue.  While it's true that seeing a psychotherapist no longer has the same stigma that it used to have, especially in New York City, there are still many myths and misconceptions about therapy. There are still people who think that that going to therapy means you're "weak" or "crazy"  (see my articles: Common Myths About Psychotherapy: Going to Therapy Means You're "Weak"Common Myths About Psychotherapy: Therapy Takes a Long Time and Common Myths About Psychotherapy: Therapy is "All Talk and No Action."

How to Recommend Psychotherapy to a Friend

So, if you have a friend that you think could benefit from psychotherapy and you know your friend might be offended by the suggestion that s/he go to therapy, you need to proceed with sensitivity and tact and find the right time and way to approach your friend.

Suggestions For Emergency Situations
Take Action in an Emergency:
The suggestions that I'm offering below are for non-emergency situations.  If your friend is threatening to hurt him or herself or someone else, don't minimize your friend's threats.  You need to get your friend immediate help by either calling 911 or bringing your friend to a hospital emergency room.

Suggestions For Non-Emergency Situations
  • Start By Listening and Finding Out What Your Friend Needs:  If your friend confides in you that s/he has been anxious or depressed and s/he's not suicidal or homicidal, you need to start by listening.  In some cases, your friend might just want emotional support.  S/he might just need you to listen.  You can let your friend know that you're available to listen and provide emotional support.  In other cases, your friend might need more than just emotional support.  S/he might need help from a licensed mental health professional.
  • Normalize Your Friend's Problem (if possible): Sometimes people feel that there's something wrong with them because they have a particular problem.  It's often a relief to them to hear that you and many other people have struggled with the same type of problem.  It can help your friend to feel less ashamed.  So, to the extent that you can, try to normalize your friend's problem by telling him or her if you can relate to the problem.  If you've never experienced this type of problem, be as empathetic as possible to show your friend that you care.
  • Ask Questions About What Your Friend Has Already Done to Resolve the Problem:  If your friend is open to therapy then there's no problem.  You're not going to risk alienating him or her with a recommendation that s/he attend psychotherapy.  The trickier situation is when a friend has misconceptions about psychotherapy and would be insulted if you suggested it.  In a situation where you think your friend would be offended by a suggestion to go to therapy, you could start by asking your friend what s/he has already tried to resolve the problem.  Very often, people with longstanding problems have tried many different things before they consider psychotherapy.  Someone who has tried many different ways to resolve a problem might be more open to considering psychotherapy.
  • Talk About Your Experiences in Therapy:  After you listen to your friend describe his or her efforts to resolve the problem, you could talk about your experiences and how it helped you, if you feel comfortable doing this.  Knowing that a close friend was or is in therapy helps people to feel more comfortable with the idea of going to therapy themselves.
  • Talk About the Benefits of Going to Therapy:  After you describe how therapy helped you, you could also talk about the benefits of going to therapy and address the misconceptions that your friend has (see my article: The Benefits of Psychotherapy).
  • Help Your Friend With Suggestions About How to Get Started in Therapy:  If your friend is open to the idea of giving therapy a try, but s/he doesn't know where to start, you could tell him or her that a primary care doctor or health insurance can provide a referral.  Your friend can also find out from other friends if they would recommend a particular psychotherapist.  You can stress to your friend that s/he just needs to take it one step at a time.  The first step would be going to a consultation with a psychotherapist, which does not obligate your friend to continue.  The consultation would be an appointment with a therapist to talk about the problem in a broad way, ask questions, and to see if s/he feels comfortable with the therapist.  Your friend can also have consultations with a few psychotherapists before choosing one (see my article: How to Choose a Psychotherapist).
  • Be a Good Friend:  If your friend isn't open to considering psychotherapy at this point in time,  don't push it.  If you push it, your friend might be less likely to get help.  You can just let him or her know that you're available to continue the conversation at another time.  Your friend might need time to absorb the information that you've provided, so let him or her know that you're open to continue the dialogue.  Your role as a friend isn't to convince your friend to go to therapy.  Your role is to be a good friend who listens, provides emotional support and psychoeducation about psychotherapy to the best of your ability.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples (see my article: see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me.












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