Help us support her through therapy.
October 21, 2011 8:39 AM   Subscribe

Mom's about to start psychotherapy for a condition that has been around for a long time and that we only recently had the nerve to talk to her about. How can we be supportive, what can/should we do to help her through the shock of going to therapy for the first time, and what else can we do?

We recently told my mother that we can no longer bite our tongues through her mood swings and emotional outbursts. Rare as they are, they are so extreme and traumatic for everyone involved that we felt it was time to tell her what we had all been saying to each other for years - that this was not normal, it needed to be fixed, and we did not have the tools to help her through it; so perhaps she would consider talking to a therapist.

She did not take it well and is very hurt and upset by our message. However, she is starting to see a therapist even though she hates the idea. We think this is amazing and want to help her through the process.

How can we reinforce the idea that therapy is a good and healthy thing (in general)? And, any tips on how to convince her that we actually did this out of love because we Do want to be around her but were worried that if things continued as they were, we would actually all drift away and avoid her.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Thank her for going to therapy and tell her you love her. Don't press her to talk about it with you if she doesn't want to.
posted by jon1270 at 8:46 AM on October 21, 2011 [6 favorites]

Wow, this reminds me of my own mother and my siblings! My mother has, over the years (not so much mood swings) been prone to totally inappropriate and unpredictable outbursts of rage that leave us all shaking and speechless, and silently resentful. Although they are not frequent, they are disturbing. My sister and I have discussed how much we'd love her to see a therapist but we are afraid to tell her because of how she will respond. I'm impressed that you did it. But I almost don't think you have to go overboard softening the blow - maybe you can just express that her behaviour is intolerable and you are tired of putting up with it.
posted by beccyjoe at 8:59 AM on October 21, 2011

beccyjoe, the OP states clearly that they have already talked to her about it, and is asking how to be supportive of her being in therapy.

I think jon1270 is right: tell her you are glad she's going, and that you were worried about ending up avoiding her. Acknowledge it's a big step, and that you're you're proud of her.
posted by Specklet at 9:07 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think you need to let your mother be.

What I read in your question is a sincere concern for your mother, as well as deep love. You acted out of love for her, and now you are worried because of that love. But, I see something else, too: what you want to do is control her emotions. Not in a "controlling" way, not in a mean way, but still you want to be able to decide how she responds emotionally to therapy and to you.

You can't do that. It just doesn't work that way. Your mother is an adult -- perhaps an unwell one, but still an adult. She gets to own her emotions, make her own decisions, and live her life as best she can. She may seek out your assistance, in which case it would of course be wonderful for you to help her as she needs. But, unless she does so, you cannot force your help upon her. If you try to help her see the "right" way to respond to what happened, you run the risk of smothering her, frustrating her, pushing her away even more.

I would suspect that, if therapy ends up working for her, she will come to understand your motives and, really, appreciate the great gift you gave her by pointing out her need for it. But that has to be her realization, her lesson she learns through work with a professional. Therapy is her journey. It's on her, now, to find a healthier way to be.
posted by meese at 9:08 AM on October 21, 2011 [6 favorites]

You know what I like best about my wife and her connection to my therapy?

That she doesn't ask me about it. OK, that's not 100% true. If she sees me on a Monday or Tuesday she'll ask me how it went. But that's the only question she asks unless it seems like I'll start to open up. And she's really good about not pressing me about things.

Even the other day when I told her that the therapist said she should trust me more to not run into cars at stop lights she didn't press me on things.

You didn't force her into therapy. She decided to go on her own, no matter how much you encouraged it.

If you try to reinforce that therapy is good and her therapy is bad then you're opening up a giant can of shit.

Seriously, if she wants to talk she will. If she doesn't then she won't. Just take the improvement and be happy with it.
posted by theichibun at 10:02 AM on October 21, 2011

You don't say if it's for depression but there's these:

10 things to not say to a depressed person

10 things you should say to a depressed loved one
posted by lysdexic at 10:29 AM on October 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I think I would leave it alone. I know you want to encourage and comfort her, but I think she needs to sit with her hurt a little bit. This is the first time there have been consequences for her obnoxious behavior and there should be consequences for that. I know it's often easier to take on the hurt yourself--and you did that by not saying anything for a while--but she deserves it and she needs to carry it for a while. Let her think through what would cause the people she loves to do that and consider they might be onto something.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 3:29 PM on October 21, 2011

Let her know you're open to going to a therapy session or two, to help support her in that, if that'd be something she'd be interested in. Don't be surprised if it's super-difficult for you to tell the truth in there if it does come down -- these are decades of patterns, and decades of not talking about "it" openly, or at all.

But if you do go there, any competent therapist will support both you and your mother, in getting these things out into the open -- though it's still hard, it's upwards of fourteen thousand times easier when you've got a trained and unbiased person there to make sure that everybody fights fair.

What a relief it will be to get it into the open, and begin to have a real relationship with this woman you love, who loves you, too, almost certainly.
posted by dancestoblue at 7:49 PM on October 21, 2011

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