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How to Approach a Loved One with Therapy


Psychotherapy is a form of treatment that addresses disorders and conflicts through cognitive, interpersonal, and other psychological approaches, instead of by medical means. For instance, marriage and family therapists specialize in the family unit and how that system functions as a whole. Through various types of talk therapy, they focus on a variety of issues and problems from mood disorders to marriage counseling or to family therapy.

It is important to find a therapist who you connect with and feel comfortable opening up to. Therapy cannot work if clients are hesitant, silent, or if they withhold vital feelings or thoughts. Studies show the positive results of psychotherapy and particularly, marriage and family therapy in “treating the full range of mental and emotional disorders and health problems. Adolescent drug abuse, depression, alcoholism, obesity and dementia in the elderly -- as well as marital distress and conflict -- are just some of the conditions Marriage and Family Therapists effectively treat.”

Approaching a Loved One with Couples Therapy 

Approaching a loved one with the idea of therapy may present challenges. For interpersonal conflict within a marriage or partnership, therapy may help resolve ongoing issues.

When approaching your partner or spouse, pick a quiet time. If possible, bring up the idea about therapy when they are not tired or stressed from a long day. Pinpoint a time of day where you both would be willing to sit down and have a calm conversation. Wait for a less chaotic time if you feel that something is off or that they are overwhelmed from outside stressors.

If you think there may be a possibility that your spouse or partner will not be open to the idea, raise the idea with a lot of support. Reminding your partner or spouse about the love and care you have for him or her should be positively reinforced throughout the conversation. Carefully choose your words and rehearse, if possible. Express optimism for the future. Explain how the conflicts you are both going through may need a fresh set of ears, in order to resolve them. Positive reinforcement may make it possible to get them to see where you are coming from. Also, it might make them give therapy a chance.

Also, be extra cautious of tone. When asking your partner or spouse to join you in couples therapy, do not make demands, point fingers, or bring up conflicts at that moment. A therapist will help you work through those serious conflicts in a healthy, productive, and healing way. All you need to do is take the first step, together.

Approaching a Loved One with Family Therapy

When approaching loved ones with the idea of family therapy, challenges may be elevated due to the large number of people involved. In blended families, family therapy can be especially helpful in establishing a healthy and open rapport. It is important to raise valid reasons as to how family therapy would be benefit all parties. If there are children involved, family therapy is a way to help them find stability and peace, while they may be living in a situation that is the opposite.

Therapy can be helpful for starting a dialogue to address big life events, like a divorce or remarriage. A therapist can help provide guidance on how to move forward, while developing or maintaining harmony for everyone.

Marriage and family therapists are trained specifically to handle issues within family units, whether it is between a couple, children and parents, or other family members, like stepparents, stepchildren, or grandparents. The encompassing session will help facilitate healthy discussion between each person to understand deeper issues.

Family conflict has numerous obstacles largely due to the number of people it affects. Within the system, changes may be occurring that may hit nerves or uncover unexpected turbulence. If hurt is suppressed and conflict has been ongoing, therapy may be especially helpful to bring up feelings in a safe way that can minimize additional hurt.

Therapy Can Help Guide Transition

Therapists can help guide the transition in life events. The end of old partnerships and the development of new relationships, for example, may cause conflicting feelings from all sides. Adults and children may face challenges accepting a new family dynamic and may act out in ways that cause strife and unbalance.

Everyone may struggle to find new ways of communicating and interacting with people who they may have unexpressed hesitation towards. It may take time to adjust, but a therapist can help smooth that transition, by encouraging clients to step away from their nervousness and express feelings that they would rather avoid. This is where productive change begins.

Therapy is a Non-Judgmental and Safe Environment

Mental illness, conflict, and major life events can have severe ripple effects on the calmness and order of daily life, even more so than a physical illness. Within a family or marriage, it can have far-reaching effects, which can grow and become more unmanageable with time.

Because of our nation’s individualistic cultural frame of mind, reaching out and saying that you need help, may be viewed negatively. One out of three people who need mental health care for an illness, do not get it. The fear of being labeled often deters people from therapy, causing them to dismiss therapy without experiencing it or to find a therapist, only to cancel.

Reports have been formulated to address the high number of no-shows or cancellations for first time therapy goers and what can be done. “You cannot treat an empty chair.” (Clark, 2010). No-shows, or missed appointments, represent a common phenomenon in health care (Lasser, Mintzer, Lambert, Cabral, & Bor, 2005). A lot of this connects back to uncertainty, stigma, and possibly fear. However, therapy is a non-judgmental and safe environment to work through mental health issues and conflicts.

If a commitment is made to engage regularly and actively, therapy can drastically improve the quality of life. The therapist is there for you and your loved ones. It is important to take the first step in finding a therapist today.