How to Tell Your Friends and Family About Therapy
After weeks, months, if not years of not being able to afford it, convincing yourself that you don't have time, it's not a priority, or that you don't have a good enough 'reason' to go, you finally made it. But that doesn't mean the stigma around therapy disappears overnight.
When I went to therapy, I felt ashamed. I hadn't been abused as a kid. No one had died, and even if they had, shouldn't I just get on with life? But despite the shame, I did something that surprised me. I told work I needed a longer lunch break on Wednesdays because I had counselling. I told my parents, who previously said therapy didn't work. And I told my friends (that was the simple part). It wasn't easy, but even though I could feel myself going red and even though my parents looked around the room to check if anyone had heard, I still talked about it.
It didn't change anyone's mind about therapy, but it did mean that I wasn't hiding a part of myself
I've learnt a few lessons about why you should tell your friends and family about therapy:
It reduces shame.
They might be more supportive than you think.
It creates more open, honest and authentic relationships.
It brings you closer to your true self.
It can help you feel less alone and accept that what is happening is real.
So now I've run over a few reasons why it's beneficial to disclose that you're getting support; let's get into how you tell them.
Tell your closest friend first
Whoever it is, sibling, partner, fav work colleague or childhood friend, tell the person you trust the most. Starting with someone who's got your back helps you test the waters about how to have a conversation about it and how you react according to other people's responses. It also means you already have someone fighting in your corner, so if shit hits the fan, you know you can talk to them about it.
You know they're the right person if you confide a lot of things to them and they confide in you. They give you honest and open advice without bringing you down, and you enjoy spending time with them. If your 'friend' is someone who's belittling, judgemental or friendly one moment, then nasty the next, they're a frenemy. They don't deserve to be told something this close to your heart.
Call it whatever you want
There's a lot of stigma around the word, 'therapy.' It brings up images of someone lying on a couch talking about their menial life and the therapist telling them it means you want to have sex with your mother.
When I went to therapy, I preferred to call it 'counselling.' It's essentially the same thing, but it clarifies what you're doing, seeking advice from a council to support you. But you can call it whatever you want.
You can be as specific or as vague as you like, which will probably depend on who you're talking to. Some examples might be, 'I'm getting support with my stress/depression/anxiety, etc.' Or, 'I'm seeing someone who's helping me manage some stuff I've got going on for me.'
There's never a 'right' moment
The cliche you often hear in TV shows is, 'I'm waiting for the right moment.' Let me tell you now; there is no right moment. Someone isn't going to casually say, 'What's new with you? Did you randomly decide to therapy even though we've never discussed it, EVER?'
So how do you bring it up?
You can tell someone in person or drop them a message. For example, 'Hey, thought I'd let you know I've started going to therapy which I think will really help me. How's everything with you?' Casual and breezy. Even if it feels like a big deal to you, it probably isn't to someone else. You don't have to wait for an invitation to tell someone something important. Take charge of the situation and put yourself first.
You don't have to tell them now
If you're reading this and thinking, 'No way, I still couldn't tell my family. They'd disown me.' That's fine. I mean, that fear is a little extreme, but that's okay.
You don't have to tell them now. It's your life and your business. You can let them know right after you've finished therapy, months or even years down the line. If it's an integral part of your life and you want to share it, then take your time. But try not to feel guilty about keeping it to yourself. You need to be ready to tell them, and you can only do that when you're accepting and being non-judgemental towards yourself. Ensure you put yourself first, which is why you went to therapy in the first place!
Often the reason you don't want to tell friends and family is to protect yourself and the people who are important to you.
Many people hide that they're going to therapy because they don't want to be judged, rejected or alienated from the rest of their clan. That's completely understandable.
However, I found there was also a fear of hurting my family. I knew what they thought about mental illness. It was for weak people with a lot of feelings who couldn't manage their lives like everyone else. But, more importantly, I knew they would feel ashamed and blame themselves. What had they done wrong? Had they failed me somehow?
Going to therapy is a GOOD thing. It means your child is willing to take charge of what is happening independently. It shows they're brave, resilient and determined to get better.
Not many families understand that, so a great way to phrase it is, 'I'm doing something that I'm really proud of, and I'm going to therapy. It's scary, but I feel so much better because I'm finally getting support instead of trying to fix it by myself.'
Will conversations about therapy end in hugs, kisses, tweety birds and a picture-perfect family? Not always! But you've done your part, and you can breathe a little easier knowing you are showing pride in yourself and your decisions.