A friend in need of therapy is a friend indeed
November 26, 2012 2:47 PM   Subscribe

Trying to convince a friend to see a therapist to deal with some recent emotional issues and having difficulties being a good advocate because she doesn't feel like she 'needs' it.

A friend is on the fence regarding whether to go see a therapist. She was recently blindsided by a now former friend/former coworker's behavior. She says she doesn't feel like she 'needs' the therapy and asked me to 'promote' it to her to get over the fence she's on. She looked online already and found a therapist she thought might be able to help her. She just can't get enough motivation to call and schedule an appointment because of her lack of 'need'.

What are some things I can tell her she'd get out of therapy in at least the short term and motivate her to go?
posted by Green With You to Human Relations (12 answers total)
Therapy can help give us strategies of how to best respond to the actions of others.
posted by RainyJay at 3:21 PM on November 26, 2012

I've helped a lot of seriously mental ill friends get help and feel supported, and when I intervene is when people are a danger to themselves or others-- otherwise as a friend, it's not really your job to convince her to go to therapy. She's a big girl, she can decide if she wants to or not. If you had a great experience with therapy though, I would let her know how helpful it was and that because you care about her and want to see her happy you want her to get to enjoy those benefits as well.

If you've never used therapy and don't know much about it-- I'm just not sure how you're convinced she needs it? Unless there's more to this story? Is her behavior causing you to not want to be friends with her unless she fixes something about it? Are you genuinely concerned for her wellbeing if she doesn't go to therapy?

Are you talking about "behavior" as in abuse/violence/threats/sexual assault? Are you just worried because this problem is bigger than you're able to help with, so you want her to go to therapy so she can get better support? It's perfectly ok to tell her that you don't know how to help her with what she's dealing with but that as her friend you're happy to help her find someone better able to. Or just assert a boundary of your own that you don't want to talk about it/support her with it.

It might help you get better responses if you clarify whether there is a serious reason she needs to be in therapy- otherwise folk might feel a bit weird assisting in convincing some random person they don't know anything about that they should be in therapy immedietely.
posted by xarnop at 3:24 PM on November 26, 2012

Just for clarification--who brought up the idea of therapy first, her or you? If she brought it up, you could provide some encouragement along the lines of RainyJay's suggestion. If you are the one who brought it up, I think it's wiser for you to let it drop now. You don't want to get stuck in a situation where you are constantly trying to convince your reluctant friend to go to therapy. Of course if you think she'll self-harm, that's different, but it doesn't sound like that's what you're talking about.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:36 PM on November 26, 2012

One thing to promote is that therapy is about learning life-long strategies, not just about a current situation. If she invests in some therapy for this smaller issue, it could really help down the road in something potentially more difficult. (That is how I look at therapy and all inner work, it is insurance for the future).
posted by nanook at 3:56 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

It depends. If this was a one-off thing, perhaps she doesn't need therapy. There's definitely a culture of therapy-as-answer that goes on sometimes, and truth be told, a lot of problems are just that – problems. Not everything can be answered, nor worked out by seeking answers. Sometimes the truth is just that – something happened, and it was shit.

Therapy is helpful if there is a pattern of problems and that pattern of problems has a profoundly negative impact on the person or other people. Everyone has coping mechanisms. Some people go running, some people eat chocolate, some people go driving, other people go shopping. Problems happen, we get a bit sad, and we need something to pick us up.

Now, any one of those things taken to an excess can become a problem. Too much exercise, too much chocolate, too much escapist driving, too much shopping. What is too much depends on the case.

There's an interesting vein which is positive psychology. It started a while ago when the discipline realised that the whole goal of psychology and therapy was to reduce badness. Therapists will be the first to admit that often their role is not to make people whole, rather it is to reduce distress. In many cases of profound distress, that's the best that can be done.

Then some psychologists got tired of that. This huge base of knowledge, applied strictly to reduce distress. What about functional people? They're not distressed, so do they not need counselling?

Enter positive psychology and the new wave of mentoring, coaching, etc. Effectively what many of these activities do is apply psychological practices to healthy people. If psychology can effectively get people from -50 to -10 – a huge win in reducing distress – what happens if you apply it to someone who's at 5? Can they get to 20? 50?

It requires extending the belief system outside of what you consider to be baseline health. In your friend's case, perhaps the sell is not "go to therapy and you can be okay again". Maybe the sell is, "go to therapy, and maybe you can be even better."

And then there's a huge grey area. Maybe this was a speed bump in your friend's life. If it is the only one, then huzzah, happy life. If it's a pattern, there may be enough speed bumps to slow your friend down, but not so many as she notices there's a problem. In that case, is she functional? Yes. Is the optimal? Maybe not.

The other thing about therapy is perhaps many people have absolute horror stories about friends and family who go... for a few months. And a few months turn into a year. A year turns into three. And five years later, they're still talking to a therapist. They have a new addiction. And it's not chocolate and costs a lot more.

It doesn't have to be like that. It's possible to go to a therapist, and say, "I have a problem with my coworker. I think I am contributing to the situation. Let's have at it for six weeks, and see where we get to." Six weeks later, life goes on. The knowledge that is gained will not be lost. Self-knowledge is rarely a bad thing. And it doesn't have to go on forever.

In fact, great therapists will probably say something along the lines of, "It is my goal to work myself out of a job". They probably won't want to see her forever. Doctors are happy when their patients disappear.

Finally, if you want to make it really simple. Therapy is two people sitting a room, trying to figure out what one of them wants. Simple as that. It's an objective person who sees you in a static setting. They are not telling you about the world or about your family. They are telling you about your view of the world and of your family.

A man went to see a therapist, for he had a few anger issues with his superiors. He would tell the therapist what his superiors said – how they spoke to him – and the therapist would be aghast. "They speak to you like that?" he asked. It had never occurred to the man that there was another emotional response, besides passive acceptance. "That's the way I feel inside," he said, "but I didn't think it was appropriate to react like that." He saw the therapist for a little while – not too long. And what he took away was the knowledge that it was acceptable to have boundaries with his superiors. That he could be how he felt. That, in fact, he already possessed healthy reactions, he simply had to listen to them.

So it doesn't have to be Massive Psychotherapy. It doesn't have to be Continuous, Expensive, And About Your Parents. It can be about how you feel when your boss violates your boundaries. It can be about learning to let go of a friend. Or how to talk to that girl or boy in the office.

It can be whatever your friend wants it to be.
posted by nickrussell at 4:27 PM on November 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

maybe I'm just not 100% clear on the scenario here. You said she asked you to 'promote' the idea of therapy to her. To me, that could mean 1 of 2 things.

1) She can't decide whether going to therapy is a good idea or not and she wants to use you as a sounding board, since she knows in her own mind she is highlighting the 'cons' of therapy, she wants you to highlight the pros. If so, there are good suggestions above.

2) She knows in her heart that going to therapy is the right thing, but she can't motivate herself to do it. She wants your help. Couple of other options then... you could call yourself and make the first appointment for her - if she knows that you made it she'll be motivated to attend so she doesn't let you down. You could use some very light bribery/positive incentivizing ("all right, just let me know when you've made the appointment and then I'll go rock climbing with you the next weekend just like you've always wanted me to, as a reward!"). Or, every time she mentions how upset she is about the conflict at work, just respond mildly with "sooo... made that therapy appointment yet?"
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:21 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ah, dammit reading comprehension issues-- I missed that SHE said she wanted you to promote therapy--

That's a very different read for me; I agree with treehorn+bunny's suggestion to go ahead and offer yourself as sounding board complete with a bit of nudging and prodding and hand holding if she seems to want that. Mention that, really, she WILL likely feel better talking to someone understanding about what is going on. Even if that's all she gets out of it, if this is really churning around in her life, having that extra person to help offer some sound advice and comforting words from a position of "authority" can be very helpful for a lot of people. What's more, it sounds like there may be more in her life she is coping with than just this if this really knocked her off kilter and let her know that going to a few therapy sessions just to talk about what's going on and how to brainstorm some solutions could really help.

Since she doesn't know much about therapy or whether she "needs" it, remind her that therapy is FOR her--- she can decide what she wants to get out of it and tell the therapists specifically what she's wanting to work on/talk about etc. Different types of therapists will want to work on those issues (or possibly other related issues they are seeing) in different ways and it's ok for her to find someone who she can relate to and whose methods make sense to her. She can interview a few different therapists if she wants and decide what feels right. If she asked you sell therapy to her, then it sounds more likely therapy is likely what she wants. You're still not responsable for whether she chooses todrink or not, but if she's asking you to hold her hand and walk her to the water then just remind her how much she might gain from therapy and that she won'tknow unless she tries it. And that you'll help her make appointments or even drive her toappointments (if you're comfortable with that) if she's really nervous about going.
posted by xarnop at 6:33 PM on November 26, 2012

One of the most valuable things my therapist did for me was to ask questions that I wasn't asking myself. (Example: "Could you ask your family for help?")

It was usually worthwhile to spend some time considering the question she'd asked. It was always worthwhile to spend some time considering Why didn't I think to ask that myself?
posted by Lexica at 8:04 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe point out that she doesn't think she "needs" to go to the doctor for periodic physicals, either, but she can sometimes get improved health out of them because the doctor asks questions and does tests?

Therapy helped me get a better job, have better relationships, improve self-esteem, and navigate a tricky love life situation to a happier place. I can't promise she'll get a better job out of therapy, but on the other hand I went in thinking I had a little dating anxiety issue I could use some help with and came out with a vastly improved life. It just costs a little money, why Wouldn't she try it?
posted by ldthomps at 8:21 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

One can help oneself to some degree, but my experience is that therapy increases the rate of insight and problem-solving so that one really gets some tools to use throughout life.
posted by Riverine at 11:45 AM on November 27, 2012

Try re-framing the way she's thinking about this from whether this is a "need" to telling her she doesn't have enough information yet. Challenge her to make the first appointment and see how she feels afterwards. After all, she's not signing up for a 2 year commitment to therapy, she can stop the appointments anytime she wants. So might as well as try a few sessions to see if it's useful or not.
posted by white_strawberries at 12:37 PM on November 28, 2012

Thanks for your responses. My friend did end up scheduling an interview with a therapist and I think many of you helped.
posted by Green With You at 2:59 PM on November 28, 2012

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