It takes courage to push yourself to places you have never been before.
So, your loved one is in therapy.
Maybe you helped them decide to try it. (Maybe you were the one to suggest it.)
Perhaps you weren’t fully on board. (Or had no idea they were even considering it.)
But, regardless of how they arrived at the decision, many of us experience some degree of uncertainty when a loved one is in therapy:
Should I ask them about it?
Should I wait for them to bring it up?
Is there something special I should be saying or doing?
It’s normal to have questions like this!
And while each person’s therapy experience is different, the good news is that there are some key ways you can help the person you care about, regardless of what brought them to therapy.
Today we’re highlighting 5 ways you can show support when a loved one is in therapy:
1. Acknowledge their decision.
Therapy is a powerful way to care for oneself.
But make no mistake:
It can be very hard work.
It takes courage, commitment, and a willingness to reflect honestly on your thoughts, feelings, and choices.
And for this reason, it can feel intimidating. Even draining at times.
That’s where you can play such an important role when your loved one is in therapy.
- Acknowledge your loved one’s decision to begin therapy. A simple sentence or two (e.g., “I know this isn’t easy, and I’m really proud of you for giving it a try”) can be incredibly encouraging.
2. Follow their lead.
Your loved one is in therapy, so ultimately it’s their decision to share as much or as little as they like.
Your job is to show them that you care about them, and then respect them enough to listen, allow space, or whatever they may need right now…
- After their first session, ask if they’d like to talk about it. Or if they’d like to focus on something else instead.
- Let them know you respect their privacy, but that you’re always available to listen if they feel like sharing.
- Set a reminder on your phone to check in periodically (e.g., “How have you been feeling? You’ve been on my mind lately.”)
3. Offer extra support.
Maybe it’s running an errand for them. Maybe it’s spending a little extra time listening.
You know your loved one. What are some of the ways they appreciate being cared for?
- You know how good it feels when someone offers to help you out when you’re feeling under the weather or up against a tight deadline? Think of a specific task or responsibility and offer to take it off your loved one’s plate. (Or better yet, just do it!)
- Ask ahead of time if they’d like some company after one of their sessions. If they’re up for it, offer some options (a walk? dinner and a movie?) and let them choose what sounds best.
4. Educate yourself.
Your loved one may be eager to share what they’re discovering in therapy.
But you can help them out by doing some discovery of your own.
The trick is to read just enough to be supportive… not so much that it becomes a full-time job.
- If there’s a particular issue your loved one has shared they’re working on in therapy, read up on it yourself. (NAMI and The Mighty may be good places to start.)
- If your partner is the one in therapy, brush up on those good relationship skills.
- Recognize the limits to your role in supporting your loved one.
5. Take care of yourself.
Your loved one is in therapy.
And if you’re reading this, it means you care enough that it’s probably affecting you in some way.
That’s totally normal. It’s part of being human.
But it’s also a good reminder to take good care of yourself, too.
- Remember to prioritize your own self-care. Consider seeking therapy of your own or to learn additional strategies for helping your loved one.
Enjoy this post? You might also like:
Therapy 101: Who Goes to Therapy?
How to Help a Loved One: Empathy
How to Help a Loved One: Respect
How to Help a Loved One: Limits
Ready to connect with a therapist for support?