It is not uncommon for people to call to set up therapy for a loved one. This is perfectly okay, and I wanted to share some ideas for how to navigate these waters, which can be difficult at times. Whenever possible, it is best to make sure that your loved one does in fact want to attend therapy, or is at least open to it. If you have not yet had this conversation, it is usually a good idea to do it first before you start calling therapists. This is important for several reasons, first during this conversation, you may learn more about what your loved one is looking for in a therapist, what time and days of week work best, and what their budget/insurance situation is. All of this information can better enable you and them to find a therapist that fits their needs. Secondly, if someone absolutely does not want to be in therapy, this is good to find out before you spend your time and energy looking for a therapist for them. It is easy for resentment to build on both ends when people put energy into a task that is not wanted or appreciated. Entering therapy is a very personal decision, and ideally, one should be decided without coercion. That being said, it is not uncommon for people to originally come to therapy at the urging of someone else, but if the client themselves cannot find their own motivation or goals, then therapy is likely to be short lived. Assuming that your loved one has expressed an interest in being in therapy, and they have some type of barrier to calling for themselves, such as time constraints, anxiety (or other symptoms that can be a barrier to reaching out), age, or other barriers, then please feel free to call for them, keeping in mind the following issues.
-In almost all cases, it will be necessary for me to eventually talk with them over the phone before we meet in person. This is to verify that they are in fact interested, and to assess that I believe that I will be able to effectively work with them.
-As soon as I do have contact with them, I will not be able to continue to have contact with you. I will not even be able to verify if they have called, etc. This is because they are assured of certain confidentiality and privacy rights that would be violated if I revealed any information at all. In the case that you are a part of a couple, and are seeking couple’s therapy, then I would be able to talk with either you or your partner about making appointments, treatment, etc. If you are a parent of a minor, in most cases I would be able to give you basic information, as well.
If you are concerned about a love one and think that therapy could be appropriate for them and are considering broaching the subject, here are some things to keep in mind:
– First, respect their right to find other ways to get help. For some people this could include social outlets, religious/spiritual outlets, 12-step groups, etc. Not everyone is interested in therapy.
– Sometimes people have had negative experiences with therapy in the past. It is important to remember (and okay to communicate to your loved one) that every therapist is different, with a slightly different approach and personality. People are encouraged to look for a good fit in terms of therapeutic approach and personality. Most therapists would be happy to discuss this with their patients and all therapists are required to give referrals to other therapists if the patients requests this, or if the patient ends therapy because of a fit issue.
– Try to speak for yourself, and for your own experience watching them try to cope with challenging symptoms, relationships, life circumstances, etc. Try to avoid blaming, diagnosing, and demanding. Most people do not respond well when they feel blamed, or attacked. Focus on your hopes for your loved one, and if applicable, your relationship with them. Ask them how you can help, if you are in fact available to do so.
– If they are not immediately open or interested try to keep in mind that for many people, the decision to go to therapy is one that evolves slowly.
– Finally, if you have concerns about their safety, call a suicide/crisis hotline (for a list of California Suicide and Crisis hotlines, as well as other information, go to: http://suicidehotlines.com/california.html), or 911.
-Dr. Megan Goodwin