Things Not to Say to Someone Who is Undergoing Therapy
November 5, 2017
If you have a friend or family member undergoing therapy, it can be difficult to know what the right or wrong things to say are. Especially if you are unfamiliar with the process or topic. Here are some basic phrases to avoid, and advice on alternate phrases to help you be open and talk positively and productively with those seeing a psychologist.
1. “Talk to me instead.”
Being supportive is appreciated, but understanding that those seeking therapy looking for experienced therapists that can remain neutral about their issues or concerns. As a friend or family member you are partial and opinionated, even without meaning to be. Instead of offering talk as an alternative to seeking therapy, offer it in addition. When you say, “I’m here if you need to talk,” rather than “talk to me instead,” you are opening the door for more positive and supportive conversation rather than critical.
2. “Only crazy people need therapy.” Or “You seem normal, why would you need therapy?”
It takes a lot of strength to seek help for their turbulent emotions or unhealthy behaviours, and putting them down for trying to get better and more emotionally healthy is not the correct approach. Being considerate of their emotional pain or circumstances that have caused them to seek professional treatment will strengthen your relationship. Be supportive offer your well wishes, and above all don’t judge.
3. “Exercise is all you need.”
Your hobbies and outlets are great, but they don’t always work in everyone’s case. Everyone has their own way, habits, hobbies and routines that help them ease stress, work through issues, bring joy, etc. If seeing a psychologist helps your loved one work through a complex issue, you need to be supportive of them taking initiative, not suggesting alternates. Let them discover for themselves what works or doesn’t work for them, and trust them to seek the right help that they need.
4. “What did you talk about?” and “Do you talk about me?”
Any form of therapy and counselling is a very private and personal experience. Asking someone for specifics about their conversations might feel to them like an invasion of that privacy. It does not mean that they don’t trust you, but keeping conversations private will help them continue to trust and be open with their psychologist. Also, if you’re particularly close to the person seeking counselling, chances are they will mention you. What you need to remember is that their sessions are not about you they are about them. They are there to work through issues and resolve emotional problems, seeking help to better themselves and their emotional happiness. So, they are not there to blame you for their issues to their therapist, but to speak up about particular emotional conflicts and stresses and get the professional help that they need to resolve them.
Graeme Deeth and Deborah Marshall Deeth of CPCCPC on the Gold Coast offer comprehensive psychological services to individuals, families, groups and organisations. Depending on the situation, they will undertake face to face, group and remote counselling, with all interventions based on continued individual assessments and applied using practical, clinical and research-based knowledge.
Deborah Marshall Deeth
B.Nursing, B.A. (Psych),
B.Soc.Sc (Psych Hons), MAPS
We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools...