There’s nothing worse than watching someone you care about struggling and feeling powerless to do anything. 

But you’re not powerless. There are a number of steps you can take to support and guide a friend, partner or family member out of the darkness. 

The problem is when someone’s really struggling, it can be difficult to see clearly. In fact, it can sometimes be so murky that they don’t actually realise anything’s wrong.

And that’s where we – as one of the people closest to them – can step in.

As much as we’d like to make things better for the people we care about, when we’re close to someone we can only go so far. Whilst we might be able to provide support and a listening ear, we will always be biased. Our lives are simply too intertwined with the people we care about not to be. Sometimes the best way to make things better again is by pointing someone in the direction of someone who can help.

With this in mind, we’ve compiled some tips for how you can broach the subject. 

Be mindful of how you word it

This is a sensitive conversation so it’s best to give it some thought if you can. You want to avoid sounding confrontational or critical as you risk putting them off altogether. Consider how you might want to phrase it in advance. 

Maybe you want to start along the lines of, “You know I love you so much… And I’ve noticed that you haven’t seemed yourself lately…” 

Choose a safe, private space to do it

There’s a time and a place for certain conversations – and this is one of them. You don’t want to blurt it out randomly and you definitely don’t want it to sound like a retaliation in the middle of an argument. Plan in advance the best setting for this kind of conversation – somewhere you know they feel safe and comfortable.

Share your own experience

If you’ve had therapy before, consider sharing your own experiences with them. This isn’t about finger pointing or singling anyone out. You want to aim for this conversation to be as open, transparent and inclusive as possible. We all have a tendency to fear the unknown. The more they’re able to understand what therapy’s about, the more they’re likely to open up to it.

Make it clear it’s because you care

Again, be sure to make it clear that you’re suggesting therapy because you care – not because they’ve done anything wrong or you want them to change in any drastic way. But because you’ve noticed that they might be struggling and you want them to feel better because you love and care for them.

Offer your support in finding the right therapist

For those who are new to therapy, it can be difficult to know where to begin (which is why our FREE online assessment matches people to the right psychologist/s). Offer your support in helping them find the right person. Sometimes it can take several tries to find the right therapist – a bit like dating! – tell them you’ll be there for them every step of the way.

Remind them of what they stand to gain

Be prepared for some resistance. When we’re scared of something, we might find that we try to talk ourselves out of it. When it comes to therapy, some of the typical excuses might be “I can’t afford it”, “I dont’ have the time”, “what can a therapist offer me that my friends can’t?” Remind them that therapy is a short-term investment with long-term gains – it’s not forever, and the benefits are potentially life-changing.