Have you ever felt helpless or frustrated when a parent refuses professional help? You can see how troubled they are but you can’t convince them to talk to someone about it.
Recently, I got an email from a woman in that exact situation. She wrote:
“I moved in with my mother not long ago and have noticed how depressed she is over some family and personal issues she’s dealing with. I tried to persuade her to get professional help, but she’s not open to that. So what can I do? How can I get her to agree to talk to someone?”
Why We Refuse Professional Help
There are reasons why people, especially seniors, are reluctant to get help for personal, emotional issues. Much of it stems from our need to appear strong. Self reliance is deeply embedded in our culture. In fact, a 2007 study found that only 1 in 3 people actually seek help for their mental health issues.
Another obstacle: Often those with mental health problems don’t believe they’re sick according to psychiatrist Dr. Mark S. Komrad. He says it’s critical for family and friends to step in and “meddle” if they have to because they could save a life. (More on the right ways to intervene below.)
There’s one more reason why some aging parents refuse professional help even when they really need it. Whether real or imagined, there is a stigma attached to psychotherapy. Many seniors would rather talk to their hair stylist or golf partner than seek professional help. Their feeling is “You’d have to be really messed up to need a shrink and hey, I’m not that bad!”
This is where the Personal Consultant comes in. Many of us (myself included) have the credentials to work as psychologists, counselors or therapists. But we’ve discovered that personal consulting is less intimidating and more accessible, comfortable and informal. It’s like a chat with a friend, which makes it easier for some seniors to accept.
What is Personal Consulting?
A personal consultant will listen to your problems with a non-judgmental ear, offer empathy, and provide feedback to help solve your problems and feel better… quickly. There’s no need to commit to years of analysis or travel great distances to see a therapist.
With personal consulting, the focus is on problem solving and conflict resolution in the here and now. And because it can be done over the phone or computer, your loved one doesn’t even have to leave their home.
How Do I Persuade My Parent to Try It?
In his article entitled How to Persuade Your Loved One to Seek Professional Help, Dr. Komrad suggests:
-Approach the subject with compassion and empathy.
-Choose a quiet time and place to have the conversation.
-Use “I” statements. “I’m worried about you, Mom.”
-Tell them it would be a gift to you and the rest of the family if they got help.
-Find a personal consultant yourself; don’t wait for your parent to do it.
-Make an appointment and help your parent attend if needed.
Above all, explain to your parent the differences between psychotherapy and personal consulting so he or she will feel more relaxed about our first session. Tell them I’m a senior, too, and I know the challenges of aging. This makes me a good listener with a patient, understanding ear! Show them the special message I wrote just for them on this page.
And if all that doesn’t work, contact me yourself… we can talk things over and figure out a way to convince your mom or dad that we’re all on their side, ready and able to help.