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Help me help a friend learn how to help himself and not feel helpless
February 23, 2014 2:03 PM   Subscribe

I have a friend (Steve) that seems to be unable to try and help himself get along in life when certain problems come up. He's mentioned more than a few times he's not happy where he's at and I've been trying to help when I can. About a year ago when we first talked on this he brought up the matter of not having finished highschool cuasing the problem in a big way. I knew a thing or two about some free programs so I pointed him in the right direction and he took it upon himself to get on it, get it done and move forward. Now since he got his GED back in fall, it seems like I and our small circle of friends are finding out a few other things that are causing this problem Steve's problem to come back with a vengeance. [snowflakes and the like ahead.]

Steve was looking at exploring some options at our local community college. He gets a few free credits through them as part of their GED program. He got on it, got to work, but then he got to the point he needed some paperwork from his dad and simply stopped for a couple weeks. I found a few skillfull means to help him sidestep that. In the meantime seems like dad kinda pressed him to have GED paperwork sent to dad.

He went to apply for scholarships and it went well until, again, he was waiting on paperwork and information from his dad. No way around that and it took the better part of two months to get a response. That was with everyone making sure to bug Steve about it because it was apparent after the first week he had given up on this situation. Dad does not exactly seem reliable here.


Now I've learned that among other things he relies on his dad to handle a lot of aspects in his life, up to and including the money he gets for his physical disability. I can't see this exactly helping his quest to break free from his routine. Every time the idea of dealing with something dad-related comes up he just stops. I can understand this as it kinda feels like dad is trying to hamstring this a bit at times.

He is otherwise good at seeking answers but when this comes up he becomes helpless. Even an easy task that he was excited about becomes something he sees as impossible to accomplish. He even stops asking people for help. It's like some impassable barrier and whenever he encounters it he withdraws and just stops caring about most else in his life.

I brought up the idea of getting more control over his situation as far as removing dad's control in his life and he sounded completely defeated and started defending the situation saying he'd just screw it up etc. but did agree that it would make things flow smoother should he be able to handle it.



I've realized in writing and editing this post these little hiccups serve as a pretty big barrier for him and that there's a lot else Steve has going on that can cause him to have some problems. I've been pretty good at helping him cope with his problems and getting past them but IANATherapist So I guess there's more than one question.

For the short term: What can I do to help him feel empowered about getting control of the situation and not be afraid of relying on himself? Should he choose to do so, how do you back up a buddy who seems afraid of dealing with his dad without getting too involved?

For the long term: I've had success with similar issues by seeing a counselor and doing some CBT. How do I politely bring up the idea of getting professional help and what resources are there for someone who currently relies on disability checks?
posted by ThrowbackDave to Human Relations (8 answers total)
 
It would be helpful to know how old he is, and, perhaps, what his disability is.

This: "up to and including the money he gets for his physical disability." concerned me. I'm wondering why his father has control of this (I'm assuming your friend is considered an adult).

He may need a legal advocate to break free of his dad's control... but, again, a little more info might be useful.
posted by HuronBob at 2:12 PM on February 23 [5 favorites]


Some more information would be helpful. I am wondering if he might have other disabilities, such as processing speed or ADD or something of the like. A legal advocate or other agency might be able to help him, but I can't tell what he needs from your post.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 2:34 PM on February 23


Empowering him means just that -- giving him the power to make decisions in his own life. You can't really do that by making decisions for him.

It may be that his father is being overly controlling; it may be that you don't have a thorough grasp of the extent of his disabilities. A social worker, therapist, and/or lawyer would probably be a better and more knowledgeable advocate for him -- IF he wants to move forward.
posted by jaguar at 2:56 PM on February 23


If he's on disability, it looks like he may also qualify for Medicaid in Oregon. If he's in the same city you list in your profile, it looks like Lane County Behavioral Health Services might be a good place to start for counseling/case-management, or at least for referrals to more appropriate places if necessary.
posted by jaguar at 3:08 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]


How do I politely bring up the idea of getting professional help and what resources are there for someone who currently relies on disability checks?

You could begin with "I've had success with similar issues by seeing a counselor and doing some CBT..." adding details regarding about that process and info about other things that have and have not worked for you.

Everyone should have a friend like you.

(BTW, after reading the first couple of paragraphs I was expecting your question would be about your total frustration with your friend's failure to address his issues, how to extract yourself from the situation, etc. Now I'm thinking I need to adjust my attitude because I've gotten too cynical for my own good.)
posted by she's not there at 3:50 PM on February 23 [3 favorites]


Sorry for lack of detail. Was headed off to work and wanted to make sure and fire this off before I left.

Steve is 27+ (I forget) and has been living independently for as long as I've known him. He gets disability because of his cerebral palsy that mostly affects his legs and lower back. He's able to walk without assistance, though his gait is awkward and sometimes he has some pretty bad days where it's hard to walk at a decent pace on account of the pain.

@jaguar: Doing my best to keep this an open and inviting hand situation, but as he said this is something he really wants to do he just doesn't know how to or what to do. Thanks for the rec regarding services. I hadn't even thought of that as any stuff I've gotten was available to me through other means. For that matter I don't even know if he has a case manager/social worker/etc. and most other people I know that have any kind of disability know have mentioned such things in the past.

I was thinking that there might be a reason for pops to be in control but I've never noticed anything seriously bad come up as far as behavior or anything else that seems awful. He does pretty well on his own save for the things that are out of his hands and he specifically has to rely on a parent for. FWIW I think Steve is a pretty great guy and smart as a whip to boot, but this whole helpless and giving up thing when reaching what he feels like is an impasse seems to utterly defeat him and feel like he doesn't have a choice in the matter.

He feels he lacks in life skills and I feel this is accurate because many things he hasn't tried. My only gain in this is seeing my friend happy. He was happier than I'd ever seen him during step one of this education project and I'd like him to have that again.
posted by ThrowbackDave at 9:48 PM on February 23


A note on contacting the county link -- their job is to provide mental health services, and I linked it because I suspect there's a reasonable chance that your friend is depressed. If you or he contact them, you'll probably want to emphasize that aspect of it -- which is what you're asking about in this question -- because they can probably help with mental + physical disability, but they're not the appropriate place for physical-disability-only.

If your friend adamantly does not want mental health services, he may be able to access some of the same resources (Medicaid, a representative payee (third-party service that can help manage his money)) through his medical doctor.
posted by jaguar at 9:55 PM on February 23


Now I've learned that among other things he relies on his dad to handle a lot of aspects in his life, up to and including the money he gets for his physical disability. I can't see this exactly helping his quest to break free from his routine. Every time the idea of dealing with something dad-related comes up he just stops. I can understand this as it kinda feels like dad is trying to hamstring this a bit at times.

At a subconscious, emotional level, Steve's dad is getting something out of the continued dependency (even just on the usual "don't want to let go of my kid" level, and I have no idea what it's like to be the parent of a child with a disability) and it sounds like he's reluctant to let the dynamics change too much and may be subconsciously sabotaging; at some level, Steve probably recognizes this and instinctively backs off to avoid it (and I have no idea what it's like to consider alienating yourself from family, even temporarily, when you have a limiting physical disability). Counseling might help, particular with someone sensitive to coming of age issues for people in Steve's situation.

Also, yes, most states have vocational rehabilitation programs for disabled people looking to join/return to the workforce--if he gets a great case worker, that might be enough of a workaround like dad that it doesn't require engaging family systems issues just to pursue basic steps like applying for scholarships

If it was at all difficult for you to separate yourself from your parents' helicoptering or disagreement about your goals or whatever, it would probably feel normalizing for him if you could share some of those stories in a, "man, can you believe what it's like to leave the nest, you won't believe what my mom was like my first year away..." etc. camaraderie.
posted by blue suede stockings at 5:15 AM on February 24 [4 favorites]


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