It's difficult to deal with despair, anxiety, or other major concerns. It's considerably more difficult when you're on your own. The first step in feeling better is telling your parents and loved ones that you require assistance. However, having that conversation can feel daunting. Talking about mental health can be challenging due to social stigma, cultural differences, and our own views about mental health—and it can be much more difficult to open up to our own families and tell them we want to get therapy. Will they be enraged? Sad? Tell us it's all in our heads or that we just need to move on?
They may, in fact, be able to. It's perfectly normal and valid to want to go to therapy, but that doesn't make the conversation any easier. Here are some strategies to prepare for a conversation with your loved ones about going to therapy, whether you're a teen or want to talk to your parents about it at any age.
Understanding The Signs
Before seeking out help, there are certain signs and symptoms that should be looked into. According to Ms Mehezabin Dordi, clinical psychologist, rehabilitation, and sports medicine department, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai, they are:
• You're having trouble managing and regulating your emotions
• You're not functioning as well at work or school
• You're having trouble sleeping or eating
• You're having trouble creating and maintaining relationships
• You've been through a traumatic event
• You are no longer interested in the activities you used to enjoy
• You're in a state of bereavement
• It affects your physical well-being
• You want to better yourself but aren't sure where to begin
• You're self-medicating with drugs
Is there a right time to reach out for help? She says, “If you find yourself struggling with any of the above mentioned signs, it is time to reach out to a mental health professional.”
Having The Talk
We understand that having a conversation of this nature can be tricky as one cannot anticipate the reactions. Experts suggest that planning out the conversation can help you hold on to the key points that need to be addressed.
Dordi emphasises on the importance of choosing the right moment to have the talk. “Bring it up at a low-key time when both of your parents are comfortable. You don't want to be fighting for their attention with siblings or a work call. Inform them of your feelings and how they are affecting your life. It's not necessary to try to explain why you're feeling this way. Then, tell them you need assistance. It's possible that your parents will get it the first time. They might say that what you're going through is typical. If that occurs, inform them that you believe the situation is more serious. It's turned into a major issue in your life.”
She further adds, “If they dismiss you, try again the next day. If necessary, get assistance from a trustworthy family member or friend. It can be frightening to ask for help, yet letting someone else in can be a big relief. Don't get caught up in trying to figure out why you're feeling this way.”
If The Reaction Isn’t What You Hoped For…
Once you’ve shared your thoughts, and find that your parents or loved ones are still dismissive, it’s okay to feel low. However, Dordi states that it is imperative to understand where this reluctance is coming from. “The most important thing to grasp is that a lot of resistance stems from a lack of awareness. People who are resistive to therapy often lack awareness, which is a crucial component. It can be difficult to persuade your loved ones that you require psychiatric assistance. It is advisable to acquire as much information as possible before speaking with your parents. During the conversation, remember to remain calm, explain your feelings openly, and demonstrate that you have a strategy,” she expounds.
She further suggests a plan of action for tackling this situation:
• Take a piece of paper and make a list of your mental health concerns. Make a list of any examples or instances that have stayed with you.
• Rehearse your conversation. Tell a trusted friend or relative what's going on and ask for their assistance in preparing. This person can play the role of your parents while you have a fictitious dialogue. Then you can switch roles and assume the position of your parents to gain a better understanding of their viewpoint.
• Gather resources to give them. Arrive at the meeting prepared. Obtain pamphlets or other information regarding your concerns. Print information from the internet. When you meet your parents, bring something concrete to give them.
• Schedule a private meeting with your parents ahead of time. Allow for their busy schedules so that when you do speak, their entire attention will be on you.
• Speak gently and rationally. Before you begin, take a few long, calming breaths. Your parents will be more understanding of your situation if you act maturely, but don't be hesitant to exhibit your emotions. If they disagree, say what's on your mind.
But If They’re Too Interested In Your Therapy…
Let us not forget that there is a huge possibility that your parents might be fully supportive, and in that regard, they may get too invested in how you’re navigating through therapy. While any support is appreciated, it should be noted that boundaries are equally important.
Dordi explains, “One of the most typical concerns that might lead to a troublesome situation is boundary crossing. It is so critical to establish and maintain appropriate boundaries with family members.”
Setting boundaries with parents entails:
- Identifying your own distinct values, some of which may differ from theirs
- Being able to act in a manner compatible with your values and beliefs
- Being explicit on what you require; and establishing guidelines on how you wish to be treated
Some ways you can create boundaries, as suggested by Dordi are:
1. Communicate in a clear and concise manner: Make a mental image of the problem. It will help you feel more confident and safe in asking for what you want if you can identify how their unique behaviour makes you feel. Being clear and concise involves being direct and communicating exactly what you require of them without equivocation. Make sure your request is specific, logical, and quantifiable.
2. Be assertive and compassionate: Assertiveness entails expressing how you feel and what you require without attempting to harm the other person. Maintaining eye contact, remaining calm, being receptive to having a conversation, actively listening to the other person, monitoring your tone, maintaining a straight posture, and being direct are all examples of this.
3. Show appreciation: When establishing a boundary with your parent, it may be beneficial to express gratitude for what you are grateful for in the relationship, as well as the intent behind their actions. If a parent interferes with your treatment on a regular basis, for example, you can say that you appreciate their care for you or that they want what's best for you, but you'd like them to stop attempting to learn about the contents of the session because it's a violation of your privacy.
4. Establish your boundaries: Take the time to define what you are prepared to tolerate and what you will not tolerate from them.
5. Let go of any guilt you may have about having limits with your parents: Having boundaries with your parents might bring up thoughts of uncertainty, anxiety, and guilt. We must practise recognising feelings of guilt around setting boundaries in order to be able to exercise aggressive communication and compassion toward ourselves. Guilt can be a sign that we're doing something wrong, and it's crucial to understand that setting limits with your parents is perfectly acceptable. Boundaries are essential for maintaining a relationship and developing your sense of self.
Also Read: There’s No Shame In Asking For Help, Here’s Why
Also Read: Mental Health Guide: What To Expect From Your First Therapy Session