How to Talk to a Loved One About Getting Treatment for Their Mental Health

Just about every family has a “black sheep”; someone who’s always causing trouble, or maybe is more of a free spirit. Sometimes however, the “black sheep” of the family is someone with a serious mental health issue. If you have a loved one who you believe may need mental health treatment, there are things you can do to try and convince them to seek help.

Family and Friends are First Responders

You should see yourself as a type of “first responder” for your loved one. Teachers, employers and even medical professionals that interact with your loved one aren’t likely to do anything to intervene if it appears they need mental health treatment. As their friend or family member, you are their first line for help.

The Importance of Early Intervention

Early intervention is key to improving your loved one’s quality of life. The longer a mental illness goes untreated, the shorter the intervals between the troubling episodes and behavior that’s drawn your concern. As the intervals shorten, the relapses increase in severity; and as their mental illness becomes more severe, the more resistant it will be to treatment. Intervening as early as possible will change the course of your loved one’s life, putting them on a positive trajectory.

Talking to Your Loved One

Prepare your loved one for this conversation by letting them know that you want to have a talk. Let them know it’s because you love them, and that the topic is very important. Make sure they know it’s nothing negative or scary. Set a date and time, and choose a neutral location where they will be most comfortable.

Keep the conversation in the context of your relationship with this person. Make sure they know you’re not rejecting or judging them, but that you love them and are concerned. Don’t attempt a diagnosis, such as “I think you’re bipolar”; leave diagnoses to the professionals. Talk about your feelings and be specific when you’re describing concerning behavior. Instead of vague statements like “you need help”, or “you’re acting strange” give specific examples. “It frightened me when you were yelling the other day,” or “You missed work four times in the last two weeks.”

The Goal of the Talk

Your goal in talking to your loved one should be for them to get a one-time evaluation. Offer to make the appointment, to pay for it, and/or to drive them.

Talking to someone you love about seeking mental health treatment is difficult and awkward, but it is important. Be prepared for them to have an angry response, and if they do, maintain your composure and stick to the theme of your love and concern. It may take multiple attempts to get your loved one to seek help. Don’t be nagging or harassing, but do be persistent.

If you or a loved one are in need of mental health treatment or a comprehensive evaluation, a licensed mental health professional can help. Call my office today, and let’s schedule a time to talk.

5 Ways to Get Your Teenager to Talk to You

It’s tough trying to get your teen to talk. Science has shown that the teenager’s brain has yet to fully develop the frontal cortex, which is the area that controls our ability to reason, and to think before we act. As your teen’s brain develops, they’re also learning new things about themselves and their surrounding world; simultaneously, they’re dealing with hormonal changes out of their control.

For all of these reasons and more, it can be difficult to find ways to talk to your teen, or to get them to talk to you. Although it’s difficult, it’s not impossible; read on to find five ways to get your teenager to talk to you.

Learn to Listen

Take the time to listen to your teenager when they want to talk. Instead of saying you’ll talk to them later, step away from what you’re doing and listen to what they have to say. Don’t talk, interrupt or be quick to offer advice; just listen. Kids have thoughts and experiences that their parents don’t know about, and the best time to listen to them is when they’re asking to talk to you.

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

As you listen to your teen, your knee jerk response may be to quickly resolve their issue, offer advice or maybe even dismiss their complaints or opinions. Put yourself in your teen’s shoes; think about how you would feel if your spouse responded to you the way you respond to them.

Watch for Signs

Everyone has a desire to be heard and understood. As you talk to your teen, mirror back to them what you hear them saying. Watch for signs that they’re not being heard or understood by you. They might roll their eyes, shake their head, wave their hand at you or interrupt. When they’re nodding and/or silent, you’ll know you’ve understood.

Ask Specific Questions

Ask your teen specific questions rather than general “how was your day?” questions. Ask questions about a friend you know by name. Ask about a sport they participate in or a teacher they like. Ask open ended questions such as, “What was Mr. Burton’s class like today?”, or “What was the best thing that happened today? What was the worst thing?”

Location, Location, Location

When and where you try to talk to your teen matters. One of the worst times to talk to kids is after school. Just like you do after work, they need wind-down time. Instead, ask questions around the dinner table. It’s casual, and there’s no pressure for eye contact. The car is another great place to talk to your teen (unless their friends are in the back seat); they feel more comfortable because you’re not looking at them.

If you’re having difficulty communicating with your teenager and need some help and guidance, a licensed mental health professional can help. Call my office today and let’s set up a time to talk.

4 Ways to Improve Communication in Your Relationship

If you’re reading this blog post, chances are you and your significant other have hit a snag in the relationship. Maybe you’re spending less time with each other and you’ve grown apart. Or maybe you do little else than argue these days.

All relationships go through their ups and downs. No matter the good intentions of the individuals or how in love you were when the relationship began, it is completely natural for a relationship to take a hit every now and then.

In some ways, these trials can be a good thing. Much like you need to break down muscle to build it up stronger than it was before, many relationships can be strengthened by challenges, provided your communication is healthy.

Here are some ways to improve communication in your relationship:

1. Recognize the Change

It’s important to be open and honest with yourself and each other. Don’t deny that something has changed in your relationship, admit it openly. You may also need to recognize that each of you has changed over the years. None of us stays the same. Our wants, needs, passions, annoyances, etc. change as we mature and grow as people. People can usually accommodate this change as long as they admit it has happened.

2. Validate Each Other’s Feelings

There are two words that are very powerful in communication, “Yes, and…” Effective communication is not about one person being right and the other wrong. Often, both people are right and allowed to feel their feelings. Try not to attack the other person or get them to compromise on issues. Instead, focus on simply being heard and hearing the other person.

3. Be Ready to Change

If you want to improve your communication as a means to get the other person to change their ways, you are really thinking about this communication thing all wrong! Good communication is not about winning an argument. This is not a debate class. Your goal is to better share your thoughts, feelings, ideas, hopes and struggles with each other. Don’t be so focused on getting the other person to change and focus more on how your own behavior could change.

4. Breathe

Managing your emotions is one of the most important skills when it comes to interpersonal interaction. How often are you ready to blow when you and your spouse or partner are speaking to each other? How does the communication breakdown once you or your partner have become emotional?

When communicating with your partner, or anyone, should you feel your emotions rise, stop, take a slow, deep breath, and let it out. Taking this moment is important and will help you not to say something you’ll regret or that will escalate the situation.

None of us are perfect. All we can do is try to be the best versions of ourselves we can be for ourselves and our loved ones. By following these communication tips you will be able to strengthen your relationships.

How to Practice Self-Compassion

Most of us from a young age are taught how to be kind, considerate and compassionate toward others. But rarely are we told to show the same consideration to ourselves. As they say, we’re our harshest critic. But what if it self-compassion could change that?

What is it?

Self-compassion refers to how we can relate to the self with kindness. This is NOT to be confused with arrogance or selfishness. In actuality, arrogance and selfishness stem from the absence of self-love.

But what does it really mean to be kind with ourselves?

It means that on a day-to-day basis we are mindful of being courteous, supportive and compassionate with ourselves. Too many individuals beat themselves with harsh judgement instead of compassion. Essentially it means be nice to yourself.

Why is this important?

When we engage with practice this, it helps us recognize our unconditional worth and value. It allows us to recognize though we my sometimes make bad decisions, we’re not bad people.

Research, over the past decade, has shown the parallel between self care and psychological wellbeing. Those who recognize the value of being nice to self also tend to have better connections with others, are reportedly happier with their own lives, and have a higher satisfaction with life overall. Being kind to yourself also correlates with less shame, anxiety and depression.

So you know the what and why, now let’s look at the how.

How to Practice Self-Compassion

Treat Yourself as You Would a Small Child

Would you harshly judge or belittle a small child the way you do yourself? Probably not. You would only want to help and love that child. You would want to be nice to that child and have fun with them. You would give them the benefit of the doubt. You would allow them to make mistakes without penalty. When you begin to treat yourself this way, you begin to show yourself the same love, gentleness and kindness you would a small kid.

Practice Mindfulness

Every minute your mind is handling millions of bits of information, though you consciously are only aware of a few of them. Many of us have scripts or a stream of messages running in our minds 24/7. These messages have a tendency to run our lives. They insist we do certain things and make certain decisions.

Some of these scripts are the ones that tell us how “bad” or “unlovable” we are. They’ve been running since we were kids. The way to quiet these scripts is to pay attention to what we are telling ourselves.

Here’s some easy steps to incorporate mindfulness:

First, be mindful of the thoughts we have by paying attention to them. Then, we have to identify the negative statements and messages. Next, evaluate if they are true or not.  Many times negative thoughts we have about ourselves are not true. We believe they are true but when we look for evidence of them we find they’re actually not true. Finally, we need to replace them with positive true thoughts.

Good Will vs Good Feelings

Self-compassion is a deliberate act of kindness we show ourselves; it’s not a way to alleviate emotional pain. Life happens, and it sucks. We can’t always avoid negative or sad feelings. Never mistake self-compassion as a tool to ignore your deep and rich emotional life.

These are just a few ways you can begin to cultivate self-compassion. If you’d like to explore more options or talk to someone about your feelings of self-rejection and judgement, click here. W’d be happy to discuss how cognitive therapy may help.