Motivating a Loved One to Seek Counseling

Sometimes trying to motivate someone you care about to get help via counseling can be difficult and sensitive.

It may be appropriate to inquire about some distress or inner pain that might be occurring and expressing your concern about that possibility. It is always a mistake to say flatly to someone “You need help!”  This is almost always taken as a shaming criticism or an indication that you don’t want to take time to understand their predicament.

Watch for complaints of distress, no matter how muted or subtle. Be aware that emotional suffering can be experienced or communicated as a physical complaint about sleep, fatigue or physical pain. Listen patiently to the details of the complaint and then inquire if there are feelings of sadness or loss of morale or worry. If they are focusing on negative situations or events, listen patiently, convey respect for their distress and avoid directly agreeing or disagreeing with their accounting of it. Finally ask if they are in distress about it.

Avoid any reference about how they ought to feel more positively about the situation. It is sometimes uncomfortable to hear out complaints that are full of anger and it is tempting to try to convince the person to feel otherwise. Try to remember that anger is a response to perceived injustice, which cannot be lessened by and is often aggravated by attempts to persuade a person to feel otherwise. It is possible to inquire as to whether the anger is a stress or a stressful burden to the person who is upset.

All successful helping relationships begin with some acknowledgement and expression of painful distress and with some response that the helper thinks he or she might be able to help, all of which must occur in a background of respectfulness and concern.

Remember that if a loved one has substance abuse problem, trying to get mental health help without first accessing a treatment plan for the substance abuse is like trying to build a building
on a bed of sand.

Take the first step towards compassionate counseling by contacting Dr. Bonn today at 215-635-3300.