Do you love your partner, but feel your relationship is stuck on repeat because of his or her behaviour?
Do you want them to seek the help of a counsellor or psychotherapist but they are not listening to you? What can you do?
Why Are You Saying He or She Needs Therapy?
If you keep suggesting to a partner that they need support, it’s important to take an honest look at your intentions for making the suggestion and what it means.
- Do you suggest they seek therapy because you are worried and concerned about them, and want them to feel better? Did you make the suggestions in calm, connected moments?
- Or are you deep down just sick of listening to them, secretly want them to rely on someone else, or want to prove that ‘they are the crazy one’, not you? Do you suggest they go to therapy during arguments?
If the second paragraph feels uncomfortably familiar, it might be that you are using sending them to therapy as a way to disguise the fact that your relationship just isn’t working. Could it be you actually both need to go to couples therapy? Or that it’s even time to leave the relationship?
If your intentions fall into the first paragraph, and you really are concerned your partner is not his or herself lately and want to help your, read on.
How to tell your partner they need counselling
Telling someone they need therapy is something that should be done carefully, with much thought and tact, or it might have the reverse affect – it might mean they become adamant they’ll never go.
[Do read our connected piece as well, “How to tell a loved one they should try counselling.”]
But when someone is a partner, familiarity makes some things even more important..here’s what you really need to keep in mind.
1. Forget the advice – it never works.
We can get used to telling our partner what to do and call it all sorts of things – ‘support’, ‘being helpful’, even ‘showing love’.
It’s still advice. And advice is really judgement.
[Read our piece on how advice could be ruining your relationships.]
Stop giving advice, and only offer your opinion after listening.
Think you already do listen? Research listening skills – it might be more involved than you realise.
If you get really good at listening, and learn to ask good questions, it gives your partner a chance to reflect. It means they are far more likely to realise they want help by themselves.
2. Be honest and clear about your reasons for thinking they could use support.
Saying “I just think it is a good idea you go to counselling, that’s all” is too vague.
Let them know the truth – your vulnerability will encourage theirs. “I feel like I can’t connect to you anymore, and it’s making me feel lonely really.”
Offer concrete examples to support your opinion. “We are all worried” is less helpful than, “I noticed you are no longer going to the gym or playing guitar and aren’t sleeping at night, and it’s starting to keep me up at night too.”
3. Don’t make the issue about him or her, make it about the behaviour.
We are all much more than our difficult behaviours – including your partner. You do, after all, love your partner, and they do have a good side or you wouldn’t be with them.
So tell them you find their lying difficult, not ‘you are a liar and it’s difficult’, or that ‘when your temper is out of control I feel overwhelmed’, not ‘you are such an angry person it scares me’.
4. Get informed about what you are suggesting.
Do some research about their issues (although do NOT offer them a diagnosis! Internet research is not always reliable and you are not a doctor).
And make it easy for them. Sometimes they are too proud to admit they think it’s too expensive, for example. Find out how your family could afford therapy or access a good therapist.
5. Better yet, lead by example.
Often the best way to encourage someone to work on their psychological wellbeing is to work on your own. If your issues with your partner have been there in some form since the beginning, it’s inevitable you have a matching issue to deal with yourself.
Even if you don’t go to therapy just yet, start by looking at ways you can take care of yourself mentally and emotionally. Coud your self-care regime use some work? Do you need to invest time in getting to know more about yourself through some journaling, or starting a mindfulness practise? Are there any self-help books that seem right for you?
6. Be patient – it’s their choice, not yours.
The truth is, that therapy only works if someone chooses to go. If they are not ready, then they are not ready, and that is up to them.
Yes, you might be their partner, but they are still a person with free will!
Try to remain supportive but don’t forget to take care of yourself and have the boundaries in place you need to do so.
7. Remember the most important thing.
You cannot change another person, you can only change yourself.
If you have convinced yourself things will be fine ‘if only your partner would go to therapy’ you might want to ask yourself if you are willing to accept them the way they are, and if not, what is the next step?
When you should NOT tell someone to seek therapy
It’s important to never put your health or the health of the other party at risk.
If you are in the relationship with someone who is in any way abusive, do not offer them advice as this could trigger them. Seek help to leave the relationship as soon as possible.
Please also take note that if your partner is suffering severe psychological or emotional distress or has a history of mental health episodes, and they seem in danger of hurting themselves or others, a stronger intervention might be called for. Seek advice from other involved family members or if things seem critical do call the appropriate authorities.
Do you have something you’d like to share about telling a partner to seek therapy? Share below.