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Your friend may need to see a therapist if …

So you’re sitting there with a great friend over coffee or a meal and as you’re listening to them talk, you realize that they aren’t coping very well with a particular situation, or maybe just life in general. You’re thinking they may benefit from professional help, but afraid they may be hurt or offended by the suggestion, or you just can’t seem to find the right words. So you end up not saying anything at all, but later wish you had.

Many people have experienced talking with a dear friend and thinking that they may need some professional help, but just aren’t sure. Here are some common things you may have noticed that are cause for concern, and you can feel confident about recommending they go talk to a therapist.

7 signs that your friend may need a therapist:

  1. They seem to be experiencing an extreme intensity of emotions such as sadness and anger

  2. You notice they seem to be drinking large quantities of alcohol to cope with their problems

  3. They avoid dealing with their problems or withdraw from relationships

  4. They express intense feelings of helplessness

  5. Whatever they do to solve the problem does not seem to work

  6. They express feelings of self-hatred and discouragement

  7. They have a child or a partner that is abusing alcohol and/or drugs, and they’re at a loss about how to help

These are just some of the signs that may lead you to talk to your friend about seeing a therapist. They have trusted you by sharing their problems, and you are in a unique position to encourage them to seek professional help. Now, how in the world do I go about having that conversation?

Opening a conversation with your friend about therapy may be scary and awkward. The best way to do this is to be honest. Start out by saying what you have observed them doing that concerns you. It is likely one of the seven things above, or another that you see causes great distress for your friend. Use empathy to help set the tone by saying how much you care for them, and that you can see they are really struggling. You could also begin by asking for permission to talk to them frankly about a concern that you have. The main thing is to always be patient and kind and honest, and don’t be upset if they don’t follow through right away. You may also realize that you encouraging them to get treatment is not enough. In some cases you may need to talk to their family and other friends in order to organize others in your efforts to help them get help.

Having the courage to do what is necessary when your friend needs help is the right thing to do, no matter if it’s for depression, anxiety, trauma, substance abuse or another concern. A friend recommending professional help to a friend is not always easy, however it does have a greater likelihood of success than most other approaches. And you may just be that special person that helps them turn their life around!

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