How do I get my mom to get the therapy she needs?
December 17, 2010 2:48 PM   Subscribe

How do I get my mom to see a therapist?

My mother is a well-intentioned person, and took great care in raising me and my brother. Both of us have been out of the house for several years, and since then, my father and we have seen a steady decline in the quality of life for my mother. She does the basics around the house, but refuses to get involved in anything social, fitness-related, volunteer-related, school-related or work related, despite having all the support - emotional, mental, and financial - in the world from my father and from us. She is also very vehement about other people not doing things outside of the house, and immediately dismisses suggestions we make, such as taking a day-trip, having family friends over, or making improvements on the house. Her normal day consists of 3-4 hours of sleeping, a few hours of watching TV, and at least 3-5 hours of sitting on Facebook.

I'm guessing this behavior relates to some kind of social anxiety, depression, or fear of change. She refuses to acknowledge there is a problem, but it has been been difficult for my father to deal with this for so many years, and it's getting worse. My brother and I have been in the house for the past few months, and have been trying to get her to seek help. We will both be gone within a month, and I am worried about leaving without making sure she at least starts the process of getting help.

What should I do to get her to seek help? I feel like I have tried it all, but suggestions from similar experiences with a parent or elder would be great.
posted by msk1985 to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
would your father consider couples counseling? maybe to fix something in himself that he could use her help with? then she's going for him and it might start her on a path of her own...
posted by nadawi at 2:50 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

he's offered several times, but she refuses that too.
posted by msk1985 at 2:52 PM on December 17, 2010

Does she have a regular physician? Sometimes having the suggestion/referral come from a non-family member is taken more seriously than from a family member, especially from a child.

Does your father believe that she would benefit from therapy? Has he had that conversation with her, or has it been coming only from you?
posted by catlet at 2:54 PM on December 17, 2010

What finally worked for my mom, after five years, was saying "Mom, we're at a point now where you've discussed these issues with me repeatedly, and at this point I don't think I can offer you any further advice. I believe, as I've been saying for five years, that you need to speak about these issues with an objective professional. We can continue to talk about anything else you like, but these subjects which seem to cause you so much anxiety are off limits."
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 2:54 PM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

You can't. I'm really sorry that you can't, but you can't. I spent a long time trying to do this for my mother. I tried, my father tried, my siblings tried, my aunt tried. But we couldn't. And it was awful, and I'm so sorry that you're going through this.

There are really only two things you can do, neither of which will be any fun. The first is to let your mother know how she's affecting you. Tell her about how much you worry about her and how it hurts you to see her like this. Tell her that you're afraid for her. Tell her that you love her and can't bear to watch her live this way. If she's anything like my mother was, she will get very angry and upset when you tell her these things. She doesn't want to hear them, and she may simply refuse to talk with you about them. But it may make you feel better to try.

The second thing you can do is refuse to play along. If your father wants to make improvements to the house, he should do it. If you're living there and want to invite friends over, you should do it. If you want to take a day trip and she doesn't want to, you should go without her. The rest of you should get out of the house and do things, whether she likes it or not. She can be "vehement" about anything she wants, but she can't stop you from living your lives and from encouraging your father to live his life.

You can't make her get help. But you can let her know that you hate what she's going through, that you want to help her, and that if she doesn't want help, the rest of you aren't going to let her actions control your lives anymore. Again, I'm so sorry that you're going through this. Please feel free to contact me if you want to talk.
posted by decathecting at 2:55 PM on December 17, 2010 [14 favorites]

Has your mom been seeing her GP regularly? Could your father discuss it with her GP?
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 3:05 PM on December 17, 2010

I came here to say what decathecting said.
posted by ApathyGirl at 3:45 PM on December 17, 2010

Yeah, what decathecting said. Trust me, you cannot make people go to therapy. Even if they're physically dragged there, it won't be therapy without their cooperation.
posted by SMPA at 4:05 PM on December 17, 2010

What catlet and fairytale said. My mom lived with me and my son for about 8 years before she died. She suffered from depression and eventually dementia, and it was her primary care physician who diagnosed both and was able to get her to accept help. It wasn't her effect on us that got her on medication -- it was the doctor's assurance that her problems were essentially chemical in nature, and could be treated as such. Knowing that her unhappiness was not a failure of character made all the difference. She became willing to be treated for depression once she understood it to be a condition she wasn't responsible for, like red hair or sensitive skin. Your mom may not need therapy -- she may need medication. In either case, her doctor would be a good place to start.
posted by Srudolph at 4:53 PM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

To repeat what has been said before... you can't make anyone go to therapy, no matter how much you may think they need it, and no matter how good your intentions. I learned this firsthand. The result of my efforts? A very skilled and experienced therapist that I contacted gently suggested that perhaps I could benefit from some therapy. She was right and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. YMMV.
posted by braemar at 5:52 PM on December 17, 2010

Thanks for the comments. The added frustration to this is that my brother recently went through depression, and my mom was proactive in helping him. She just can't seem to bridge that gap for herself. My father is physician, and was able to explain the biological and chemical aspects of his depression to her, but again, she won't listen to the same reasoning for herself. I'll try the GP suggestion though. Might help coming from a different doctor.
posted by msk1985 at 6:18 PM on December 17, 2010

Parents will move mountains for their kids, but not for themselves. My mom doesn't want to do therapy either, but for a few months she did some because my shrink told her it would help me. I got her to some group therapy sessions and she did do some private talks for awhile before she quit.

That MIGHT be the one loophole you can exploit here. I don't know your situation that well, but it's a possibility she might do it for her kid, if not for her, or something like that.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:57 PM on December 18, 2010

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