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Maybe You Should See Someone: How to Support A Loved One in Accessing Therapy

When people are ready to, they change. They never do it before then, and sometimes they die before they get around to it. You can't make them change if they don't want to, just like when they do want to, you can't stop them. - Andy Warhol, artist

Many people can think of at least one person in their immediate circle who is struggling with mental health and/or substance use concerns. More than ever, Americans are endorsing high levels of anxiety, depression and other concerns. This is not surprising given how much social, political, economic and environmental upheaval has occurred in the past few years (and is ongoing!). Yet knowing what to say and how to support your loved one can be challenging.

First, it’s important to remember that you can support your loved one by offering compassion, normalizing seeking mental health care and encouraging access to various resources (such as talk therapy, informal support groups (sometimes peer- or professionally-led) and psychiatry). Ultimately your loved one is the person who must make the decision for themselves. Unless the person is at immediate risk to themselves or others, you can’t force, guilt or obligate them to start therapy – no matter how obvious it may seem to you or others that therapy might help them. Starting therapy, joining a support group or beginning to see a psychiatrist for medication management are tremendously brave and difficult steps to take, especially when someone is at their most vulnerable.

Here are some key points to remember and guidance on options to help your loved one search for therapists and other mental health providers:

I recommend contacting at least 3-5 therapists to start. That's partly because a) there's a high demand for therapy and so some folks will be fully booked/not taking new clients and b) it's good to put out a bunch of feelers to see who responds back and figure out next steps. Many therapists will offer a free brief (15-20 min) phone consultation if you ask. This gives you an opportunity to ask some questions and "try out" how it feels to connect with them, if it seems like it might be a good fit, etc. You can also verify the insurance they accept, if they are accepting new clients and ask any specific questions you might have about what they're like before scheduling a first appointment.

Finding a good therapist for you – not just a good therapist, but someone with whom you feel comfortable – can feel a bit like dating. Sometimes you connect right away with the first person you contact, and sometimes it can take a little research and getting to know someone before things click. Know that if you don't "vibe" with a therapist or don't feel like you're getting what you want from the experience, it doesn't mean that therapy isn't helpful, rather that it might not be the right fit for you. You can always decide to switch therapists or see a new person if/when you want to.


Below are therapist directories and search tools to share with loved ones:

TherapyDen, Mental Health Match, and ZenCare are all comprehensive therapy search directories where you can sort by topic/issue, therapist’s identity, geographic location, insurance and more. Several of them also offer a service to "match" you with therapists based on your request/preferences.


Inclusive Therapists is specifically dedicated to providing gender- and queer-affirming, anti-racist, culturally attuned mental health care. Their motto is care from a therapist who gets you. You can search on your own or "match" to prospective therapists.

Therapy Matcher through NASW-MA is a non-profit organization you can call, email or complete their online interest form with your insurance information, preferences and issues to address in therapy. They will follow up, often within a few business days, with names of some licensed clinical social workers who may fit your needs.


INTERFACE Referral Service through William James College is a mental health and wellness referral helpline. This is a free, confidential referral service for residents of participating communities in Massachusetts. Callers from these participating communities are matched with licensed mental health providers from their extensive database, on average, within 2 weeks of their call to INTERFACE. Each referral best meets the location, insurance, and specialty needs of the caller.

If someone you know is at immediate risk or in crisis, don’t wait: contact 988 or call/text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. You can also encourage using a resource like a crisis call, text or chat service, like one of those listed below:


 

Jen Brown, LICSW is a licensed independent clinical social worker who has been in clinical practice since 2014. She received her MSW and Certificate in Urban Leadership in clinical social work from Simmons University School of Social Work. She has worked in outpatient mental health and integrative settings in community health centers, college mental health, and in affordable housing. Jen has experience working with depression and other mood disorders, anxiety, trauma/PTSD, substance use and addiction, ADHD, identity shifts/adjustment issues, chronic illness, body image concerns, and relationship issues.


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