You are not alone if you have sought professional mental health assistance. In 2021, over 40 million people went to see a therapist. You or someone you know may have noticed something was off, become depressed, realized you were sleeping too much or too little, or simply felt blah and decided that seeing a therapist could help.
Recognizing your need for assistance and deciding to take action are important steps to take for yourself. However, if you see someone close to you who needs therapy, such as your partner, it may seem more difficult to suggest it to them. When you notice signs that your partner may benefit from therapy, what you say and how you say it can make all the difference.
It can be difficult to tell your partner that they should go to therapy. You want to convey the message in a caring manner while also helping them understand the importance of taking action. We will talk about how to express your feelings and encourage your partner to see a therapist, as well as what to say and what not to say, and what to do if your partner refuses to seek help.
Can Your Partner Benefit From Therapy?
Everyone has ups and downs, so it is critical to distinguish between everyday difficulties and the need for therapy.
“Signs that your partner might benefit from seeing a professional therapist include sleep problems, feeling increasingly overwhelmed, and being unable to contribute to the relationship, i.e., meet their financial responsibilities with children, if their mood changes are frequent and noticeable, [or] if their ability to manage stress has improved,” explains Xiomara Arrieta, LCSW-C at Thriveworks.
Other signs include:
- Suffers from persistent depression or expresses feelings of hopelessness.
- Anxiety is a constant.
- Discussing suicide or alternative methods of death.
- Mood swings that are frequent or severe.
- Reliving a traumatic event from the past
- Social isolation or avoidance results in difficulty maintaining relationships.
- Eating significantly more or less than usual
- Feeling numb and uninterested in anything
- Increased use of substances to cope with, avoid, distract from, or numb difficult feelings
- Having difficulty functioning at work, home, or school
Therapy can also be beneficial if your partner is dealing with specific work or family issues where a neutral third party can provide insight and feedback.
However, simply disagreeing with your partner does not necessitate therapy; it is normal for couples to disagree. However, if you notice your arguments turning into fights or becoming more frequent, couples’ therapy may be beneficial.
“Couples therapy emphasizes the idea that maintaining a relationship’s health is a shared responsibility, rather than one person’s ‘fault’ or problem to solve.” “Suggesting couples therapy can also help reduce feelings of blame or shame that your partner may experience if they are the only one expected to attend therapy,” says Morgan Pommells, MSW, Trauma Therapist.
Tips for Suggesting Therapy to Your Partner
Recognizing that your partner requires assistance is one thing; knowing how to tell them that they require assistance is quite another. When approaching your partner to discuss a sensitive subject like this one, it is not just what you say, but also how you say it.
Before you start the conversation, think about why you have decided to talk to your partner about going to therapy. Is it out of worry? Do you want them to get the assistance they require? Is your motivation self-serving, such as wanting them to stop doing something that bothers you? Your motivation will influence how you communicate with your partner.
“The best way to tell your partner you want them to go to therapy is to do so from a place of love and care, rather than judgment or shame,” Pommells says. A number of factors must be considered in order to accomplish this:
Approaching them with compassion necessitates a number of considerations.
Consider the following: Talk to your partner when both of you are calm. Trying to talk to your partner while they are agitated or stressed, or blurting out your words in the middle of a fight, is unlikely to produce positive results.
Put yourself in the following situation: Bringing up the need for therapy in public may embarrass or irritate your partner. Discuss in a private setting where you can clearly express your concerns, validate your partner’s feelings, and focus on the topic at hand without interruption.
Choose your words carefully: Share your observations and feelings, and give specific reasons why you believe your partner would benefit from therapy. Explain that you care about your partner’s mental health and overall well-being and that therapy can be a helpful way to do so. Use empathetic “I” statements to frame your language, with sentences that start with “I am concerned” or “I have noticed.”
Make sure your recommendation for therapy doesn’t come from a place of control or sound like an ultimatum.
Pommels suggests using loving and empathetic language, such as “‘I love you and I really want to make our relationship work.'” I believe that talking to someone about your ongoing anxiety can benefit not only your personal struggles but also your relationship as a whole. ‘How do you feel about that?'”
Another way to start the conversation is to ask if your partner has considered using therapy as a tool. Pommels recommends gauging your partner’s thoughts on therapy by asking, “‘Have you ever considered talking to a professional such as a therapist?” They have tools and techniques that can help with this type of stress.”
These statements can help you create an atmosphere of understanding and concern, making your partner feel cared for rather than accused. Therapy can also be de-stigmatized with the right language.
What If They Refuse to Go to Therapy?
Even if you tried everything you could think of to persuade your partner to go to therapy, it might not work. This can occur for a variety of reasons, including internalized stigma surrounding mental health, the belief that talking to you or another loved one is sufficient, or simply not wanting or being ready to.
However, being unfairly placed in the position of providing your partner’s sole mental and emotional support can be exhausting.
After multiple conversations, if your partner refuses to go to therapy, seek additional support, or do any sort of self-work, you must consider what is best for you.
“After all of your efforts, if your partner refuses to seek services, remember that you cannot control the actions of others.” Think about how their mental health issues are impacting you,” advises Arrieta. “Think about setting boundaries with your partner and engaging in self-care.”
Be truthful with your partner. Make it clear to them what is and is not acceptable in your relationship. Although they may choose not to seek help, this does not imply that you must tolerate problematic behavior. Though you want to show your partner grace and patience, evaluating the relationship may be the next step.