6 Tips For Gently Nudging A Loved One To Try Out Therapy

Watching a person you love suffer is one of the most challenging experiences a person can face. You might find yourself feeling helpless, useless, and frustrated as you try to offer support to a friend or family member who doesn't seem to be taking the steps necessary to get themselves help. Whether or not you've experienced therapy yourself, it is typically safe to assume that a person struggling with their mental or emotional health could benefit from trying it.


Therapy has now been normalized to a higher degree than ever thought possible by the popularity of social media. Unfortunately, this massive progress doesn't mean that everyone is open to the idea of trying it out for themselves. How do you convince someone who may be resistant to the idea of asking for help from a professional to let go of control and give therapy a chance? Let these suggestions be your guide. 

Voice your concerns

Before you jump into the difficult conversation of suggesting your loved one try therapy, take the time to express that you've been listening. Make a list of all the concerns you have for your friend based on what they've relayed to you and what you've witnessed. Present this information to them from a place of gentle concern and not one of proving a point or winning an argument. Your goal is to help your friend or family member get help, not to be right.


Once you've expressed your genuine concern for how each issue is affecting their well-being, ask if they've considered therapy. If they seem receptive, this is a good segue into sharing your own experiences with therapy. You should never — under any circumstances — speculate about any particular mental health diagnosis you think fits your loved one's symptoms or traits. That is a private conversation for a qualified mental health professional to initiate. 

Share your own experience

After you've expressed your specific concerns and mentioned the possibility of therapy to your loved one, turn the tables on yourself for a bit. If you've gone to therapy, now is the time to share that experience. Start by discussing the issues you experienced that led you to try therapy. If any of your challenges were similar to what your family member or friend is facing now, pay them special attention. While you're not required to share every detail of your personal experience, be as vulnerable as you can.


When you move on to discussing your time in therapy, share the new perspective you gained and give examples of how it still helps you see situations differently today. If you haven't been to therapy yourself, share what you know about other loved ones who have had positive experiences. You can also share the results of any research you've done on therapy through reputable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Focus on the tools

Sharing with your loved one that you or someone else you're close to has been to therapy can help to normalize the idea and make it seem like a real possibility for them. Understanding exactly what they can bring away from therapy may guide them even further toward seeking professional help. Share with your friend or family member the tools your therapist was able to help you develop and how you apply them to situations that arise in your everyday life.


While therapy is now considered more commonplace than ever before, many people still envision it as nothing more than someone to talk to. To these folks, the idea of paying for therapy might feel frivolous when they already have people like you to share their problems with. Outlining the actionable advice you received from your therapist and how it has helped you cope can make a major difference to a person deciding whether to make the investment. 

Make it a bonding activity

If your major selling point for convincing your loved one to get therapy is that you've gone or are currently going yourself, consider proposing it as a bonding activity. If you were to both see a therapist once a week, for instance, perhaps you could create a standing invitation for your friend to come over every Friday night and each share the week's therapy breakthroughs and struggles over a glass of wine and a reality show.


If you're no longer in therapy, you can still offer to make yourself available on a regular basis as someone who understands. If your loved one is comfortable sharing their progress with you, you can schedule a recurring date of post-therapy bonding and pull from your past experiences to relate. If your family member or friend is a little more private, offer to host a craft or movie night after their therapy sessions to help them decompress and give their mind a break. 

Offer real support

Offering to be available for emotional support and to spend time bonding with your friend while they attend therapy is a great starting point, but they might need more than just a listening ear or partner in crime. Ask yourself what you're willing and able to contribute to the cause of your friend or family member's receiving help. Could you offer to take them to their appointments or to help them find a reputable online therapist if they don't have transportation? Would you be willing to lend or gift them the money to pay their therapy bill?


When it comes to which types of support you're able to offer, there are no right or wrong answers. What's most important to remember is to never offer support which you aren't actually willing or capable of following through on. Overextending yourself and then not showing up for your loved one in the way you promised will only damage their chances of following through with therapy and damage your relationship. 

Accept their answer

The most difficult part of preparing yourself to speak to a loved one about trying therapy is being ready to accept their answer. No matter how badly you want to see the person you love get help and how truly you believe in the power of therapy, you cannot force their hand. Attempting to bypass a person's autonomy always results in strong resistance and may even damage the relationship beyond repair.


If you feel so strongly about your friend or family member's need for professional help that you don't feel you can continue a relationship with them otherwise, it's okay to express this sentiment. Just be prepared to follow through if they don't get that help, and make sure you aren't making an empty ultimatum. Regardless of what it means for your relationship, everyone deserves to have their decisions respected.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.