Month: January 2018

Your loved one is depressed. How to tell them about therapy

 

You’re sitting with your BFF (best friend forever) as she’s depressed, in tears and describing her extremely painful situation(s). You feel so much for her and also feel frozen. You don’t know what to do or say to make her feel better. All you know is you want her pain to end and don’t know how. 

This is an all too common scenario among those with close relationships. For us empaths (“How to know if you’re an empath“), it can be incredibly hard to sit with challenging emotions or a problem that we can’t “fix” (even if we are 1000% certain we know how to fix it).

So, what the heck do you say to someone who has a lot of pain and several problems that need solving? By now you all know that this is a therapist’s blog and I’m going to recommend that you encourage them to seek professional help with a therapist. You also know that your loved one would benefit from therapy (whether or not you’ve gone to therapy yourself). You know that these problems are obviously too big for you and he to carry alone. And perhaps you can feel the toll it’s taken on your relationship or even your own well-being as a loved one.

“So how do I tell my loved ones to get therapy for depression (or any other mental illness), without stigmatizing or offending them?”

I get this question by clients, other friends, family members and and even fellow therapists ALL. THE. TIME.

Below is my list of things to remember and ways to tell a loved one that they’re in need of professional help.

  1. Start with validating their emotions. Validation is a little like stating the obvious – which is why a lot of people skip it, but people who are depressed really need to feel like their voice is heard or struggle is being seen. This is where you can say things like:
    • You are in so much pain right now.
    • I know this is really hard for you.
    • “You went through something really traumatic. It makes sense that you’re in pain.”
    • “I’m so sorry you’re suffering like this.”
  2. Introducing the idea of a therapist.
    • “You deserve to have someone who is unbiased, non-judgmental and in your corner – on your side.”
    • “A therapist doesn’t have all the history you and I do.”
    • “A therapist has a lot more tools and training than I do to help you.”
    • (For my fellow therapists) “Even though I’m a therapist, I can’t be your therapist. I’m your sister/brother/friend/partner/wife/husband. My love is not professional. Ethically, I can’t be your therapist. My advice is biased — all full of love for you.”
    • If they say they’ve tried therapy before and it didn’t work, encourage them to try with another therapist. Not all therapists will be helpful or the right fit. They can definitely shop around until finding “the one” for this situation, in this moment (sometimes different issues require different expertise).
  3. Why it all matters. We all deserve unconditional compassion.
    • “You deserve to heal appropriately.”
    • “You deserve to feel free to express yourself.”
    • “You deserve to be free of your depression.”
    • “You deserve to work through this issue without fear of judgment or that people will get offended.”
    • “You deserve to self-care. You take care of so many other people. You need someone just for you.”
    • “You don’t have to be alone in your suffering. A therapist can help you hold it appropriately.”
  4. How to seek referrals
    • If your loved one has insurance, there is a ‘member services’ phone number on it (most are on the back). Ask for their mental health services department. I recommend talking to a live person to have them email a list of their providers that are close to the home or work (or the city the person wants to seek services in). They can then cross reference that list online by searching the therapist and a website.
    • You can also type in the search engine of your choice, “Therapist in (city)” or by zipcode.
    • psychologytoday.com is an online therapist directory that you can filter by location and insurance.
    • If your loved one is an adult you won’t be able to call a therapist for them. The person seeking services has to make the call and schedule their appointment
  5. Resources and gifts that inspire healing. I have a Resources page with a variety of books on different issues to heal from. I also wrote an article focused on Mental Health Gifts that inspire healing.
  6. What about you? Yes, YOU! As a friend or family member, it can be difficult to hold all this pain and responsibility alone. If you’re finding yourself in a lot of emotional crises with family or friends, it’s critical for you to get your own support too. You might be having a lot of guilt feelings or a high degree of expectation for how you help them. It’s hard sitting with uncertainty and pain. Feelings and core beliefs of helplessness contribute to burnout, stress and your own ideas of what it means to be a true friend/family member. Sort it out with someone who is trained to work with burnout, self-care, and families afflicted by mental illness. Family Connections is a great source of support for loved ones of Borderline Personality Disorder or Emotion Dysregulation in general. I was trained by them and have implemented this support group in Spanish at Harbor UCLA. It made all the difference in loved ones being able to place appropriate boundaries, self-care and understanding for their family members. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is another great resource to anyone who has been impacted by mental illness (individuals and friends/family members). Check out these posts I wrote about convincing ourselves to self-care and basic self-care practices. They were written for parents, but the message applies to anyone shouldering the responsibility of helping in general. Implement the #meforwe or self(care)ish message if it helps.

   

7. Crises. If you feel that your loved one is a danger to themselves or others, I strongly urge you to call 911 or take them to the nearest emergency room. In Los Angeles County you can also call Department of Mental Health’s Access Hotline at (800) 854-7771 where you can speak to a mental health staff member and who can help with sending out the Psychiatric Mobile Response Team (PMRT) to your home to evaluate someone (wait times vary). Lots of police departments also have Mental Health Evaluations Teams that go out and conduct welfare checks to someone’s home and can also evaluate for a psychiatric hospitalization. Check with your local police station about this resource.

Lastly, I’d like to make myself available as a resource. After being trained in various family support models, I appreciate the love, struggle and compassion of family members. Feel free to contact me at info@sofiamendozalcsw.com to schedule a 15 minute consult to determine if you would benefit from therapy and support of your own.

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SMART Intentions

 

Happy New Year! On January 1, most Americans vow to make some sort of New Year Resolution, behavior change, or as I’d love for you all to call them, “SMART Intentions.” As a therapist and someone who believes in recovery and change, I couldn’t be happier about someone making positive changes to their lives. With every new year comes a rise in reflections and a joyous hope for a better year than last. Unfortunately, when studied (even anecdotally when I think of my own resolutions), most New Year Resolutions get abandoned by the end of January. Some say it’s because it takes a full 30 days to create a new habit, while others say that people aren’t making realistic goals for themselves.

As a cognitive behavioral therapist, I’ve implemented the SMART method to goal planning with clients and even myself. The SMART method to starting out your intentions sets up for success, rather than failure. I like the word intention because it is defined as “a mental state that represents a commitment to carrying out an action or actions in the future. Intention involves mental activities such as planning and forethought.”[1] I also like Intention because, in my opinion, it brings in the compassion in language that is very much needed when introducing behavior change.

SMART Intentions

Specific – You want to be very specific about your intention.

  • Example: lose weight

Measurable – Your intention must be measurable with numbers.

  • Example: “I intend to lose 10 lbs.”

Achievable – Your intention must be the right combination of challenging and achievable. Select something that you’re motivated to do and not too extreme.

  • Example: A healthy weight loss is between 7-10% for most people who are considered overweight. For people who set the bar too high, might get discouraged when their goal number is far from reach or the results are not fast enough.

Realistic – Select your intention based on your established resources, environment, support, etc.

  • If your goal is to run outside once a week, and it’s rain season, it’s probably not too realistic. Likewise, if going to gym requires a membership you can’t afford or too far from your home/work, it’s likely not a realistic intention.
  • Realistic example: For this week, I will intend to meet my 9,000 (up from 8,000) step count daily.
  • Realistic example: I will drink 8 glasses of water (instead of juice) by joining the water club at work where I will have access to water at all times.

Time-limited or think “Time-line.” – When will it be achieved by? Start off small and realistic given the above factors.

  • Example: I intend to lose 10 lbs (7% of my weight) by June 2018 (6 months from today). First week of January, I will do this by adding more vegetables to my lunches and dinners.
  • Second week of January, I will do this by increasing my steps to 9,000/day.
  • Third week of January, I will do this by joining the water club and drinking 8 glasses of water (instead of my usual soda).

Fun Fact: When I was taking my first CBT seminar (as a student), I had to create a SMART goal for myself. I said I would workout 3x/week… it was specific and measurable, but definitely not attainable or realistic given my workload and schedule.

Try this with setting one intention for yourself this week. You can also set an intention for your partner, best friends, co-workers, family members and even pets. The possibilities are endless!

I urge you all to be kind to yourselves as you’re embarking on this journey of reflection and self-improvement. And even if you get stuck, or walk in the opposite direction of your intention (which is super normal in most journeys), notice where you and your emotions are at in that moment (mindfulness practice), and dial back to your intention with the compassionate heart that encouraged you to make this change to begin with. Change your SMART intention if you need to, aren’t being challenged enough, or it’s too hard, or not realistic anymore. And lastly, if you’re the Long Beach area and need help in coming up with intentions for yourself and don’t know where to start, give me a call for a free 15 minute consultation at (323) 351-1741 to discuss your situation and schedule a first session for you.

My SMART intention for my website is to post at least 1 blog article per month (or 12 for the year). I will do this by posting draft articles/titles the minute I get an idea. I will spend 2 hours/week researching, writing and editing.

So, what’s your SMART Intention for 2018?

 

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