Updated: Jun 14, 2020
Once you have found a therapist who is able to successfully facilitate healing, it can feel like you have found a cheat code for life. It’s natural to want to share this cheat code with your family and friends. However, due to stigma and the overall delicate nature of building a relationship with a therapist you should proceed with caution.
Beginning an intimate relationship of any kind can be anxiety inducing, and building a relationship with a therapist is no exception. Personally, I went through a lot of anxiety when looking for a therapist. I had an extremely difficult time trying to find someone who truly understood me when I first began to search.
As a Black woman, it was important for me to build a therapeutic alliance with a therapist who I didn’t have to explain systematic racism to. Instead, I found myself with a therapist who would make microaggressions about my culture and appearance. Experiences like these are common among marginalized populations and they contribute to high therapy dropout rates in these communities. It is for all these reasons that referring someone to therapy can be delicate. It requires forethought and careful consideration for the person you seek to support. Remember to consider the following tips when recommending that a friend seek therapy.
1. Focus on their goals
Therapy is most effective when the person is engaged and invested in the healing process. Avoid recommending therapy for selfish reasons. Wanting to change something about your friend is not a good reason to recommend therapy.
According to Good Therapy.com, “The last thing we want to do is refer someone to therapy because we want them to change or conform to some goal that we have for them. That’s usually a recipe for someone either avoiding therapy or showing up but hating it.” Focus instead on what they want to accomplish. When speaking with your friend, try to identify their specific goals. When you frame therapy as a way to strive toward these goals, it can make therapy seem less daunting.
2. Make it an option
Phrase your referral as optional. It can be jarring to feel like your friend has deemed your problems too large for casual conversation. Consider using phrases like, “It’s really up to you,” “I’m not sure if I’m right, but it’s something you can decide for yourself,” and, “It’s not a requirement, just a thought.” Try to remember that everyone has a different perception of therapy. Take the time to ask probing questions about your friend’s feelings toward what seeking therapy means. Be prepared to receive whatever response your friend may have. Though they may not be receptive at first, bringing up therapy as an option could provide relief.
3. Take therapy for a test drive
Put your friend in the driver seat on the road to their personal healing. Some people feel that beginning therapy is like entering into a long term relationship. Remind your friend that therapy happens one session at a time. If something does not feel right they are free to discontinue the service. Tell them something like this, “You can meet with Xiomara and decide if you’d like to meet with them again. The first session or sessions can help you decide if you think they might help. You may know right away you’d like to meet with Xiomara more, but sometimes it can take a few sessions to decide if it’s worth continuing to invest in the therapy. Either way, it’s up to you how many sessions you go for. A therapist is an employee whom you can hire and fire.”
4. Avoid making promises
No one, not even a therapist can promise a particular outcome of therapy. Offer therapy as a tool, rather than an instant miracle-fix. Therapy will require your friend to delve deeply into the core of their emotions which can be difficult at times. Therapy is not one size fits all, and results vary. The best way to find out if a therapist can help is to give them a try. Ideally you will have a therapist who can cater to your unique needs (much like the therapists who work with Ayana Therapy!)
The decision to enter into any form of mental health care must be made without external pressures. Suggesting that your friend try therapy shows that you care for them, but mindful of how you go about presenting therapy as a potential tool for support. Consider referring your friend to Ayana Therapy. It may seem that it would be difficult to begin therapy but trying therapy over the phone for the first time might take away some of the pressure that comes from physically going to an office. With Ayana, you can even receive services anonymously. Therapy can be a wonderful tool for personal growth; don’t be afraid to share it with the people you love the most!