The concerned parent of a depressed college student

The friend of someone with severe anxiety

The wife that sees the emotional struggles in her husband

Each person has come to me asking for help for someone else.  In some cases, the other person is willing to receive help and just needs a nudge.  In other cases, the person being pushed toward help has little desire to change, or little awareness of their own difficulties.

Why is it so hard to convince people to go see a psychologist or counselor?

People develop ways of coping with stress and other emotions.  One common coping method is avoidance.  It may seem safer to avoid making changes and work to convince themselves that everything is really okay.

Many people have mixed feelings about the idea of making personal changes.  They would like to make changes in themselves, but they may feel fearful or hopeless about their ability to change.   These people may have considered counseling in the past, and each time they convinced themselves that it would not work out.

There is still some stigma attached to getting mental health counseling.  Some people feel embarrassed about needing help, or they may have been taught that getting counseling is a sign of weakness.

In a family system, one person may be the identified “patient.”  This could be a spouse or a child.  In each case, other family members believe that this person alone is responsible for all the difficulties in the family.  They have sent this person to counseling to get “fixed” without realizing or accepting the part that they are playing in the family dysfunction.

What’s the best way to let others know that they need counseling?

First, approach the person gently with your concern.  Even though it may seem that they are not listening, you have given them an idea to think about later.

Have an attitude of compassion rather than blaming.  Do not choose a heated moment or argument with a friend or partner to tell them they need counseling.

Lead by example.  If you have had a positive experience with counseling, let your loved ones know how it has helped you.  This can help decrease the feeling of shame that someone may feel about their struggles.

Be patient.  Let the person know that you are available to talk to them further about this in the future.  It may take several conversations about counseling before someone is ready to take the first step.

Consider seeking counseling for yourself.  It can be stressful to care for friends and family members with mental health problems.  Counseling may allow you to learn some skills to manage your own emotional reactions to the difficulties of loved ones.