How to Encourage Your Partner to Go to Therapy

When you’re in a rela­tion­ship, you’ll do almost any­thing to sup­port your part­ner. Whether it’s encour­ag­ing them to grow their career or help­ing them to make healthy lifestyle choic­es, there are a num­ber of ways to show up for your partner. 

One way is to help them pri­or­i­tize their men­tal health through ther­a­py. They might have expe­ri­enced some­thing trau­mat­ic (such as a job loss or the loss of a loved one), are strug­gling with a men­tal health con­di­tion (such as depres­sion or anx­i­ety), or ben­e­fit from the unbi­ased sup­port of a men­tal health pro­fes­sion­al, the rea­sons to go ther­a­py are near­ly endless. 

In recent years, many have caught on to the ben­e­fits of ther­a­py, lead­ing to an increase in its popularity. 

Despite the increase in peo­ple going to ther­a­py, not every­one rec­og­nizes — or is will­ing to admit — how ben­e­fi­cial it can be. In fact, almost half of Amer­i­cans believe going to ther­a­py is a sign of weak­ness. How­ev­er, just a quar­ter have nev­er been to a ther­a­pist, mean­ing that while the stig­ma around ther­a­py still exists, peo­ple are going all the same.

    Encour­ag­ing your part­ner to go to ther­a­py can be chal­leng­ing. They might be resis­tant to the idea of ther­a­py or be in denial about their strug­gles. Here’s how you can talk to your part­ner about going to ther­a­py in a lov­ing and sup­port­ive way. 

    Come from a place of con­cern — not judgment. 

    If you think your part­ner would ben­e­fit from ther­a­py, you’re hope­ful­ly focus­ing on their well-being. But they might not real­ize that, and they might feel judged instead of cared for. 

    Start your con­ver­sa­tion by say­ing that you care about them, you want to see them hap­py, and you think ther­a­py could help. Talk about what you’ve seen that wor­ries you, such as that they’ve seemed sad, dis­in­ter­est­ed in activ­i­ties they once enjoyed, or over­whelmed with wor­ry. If you’ve noticed their symp­toms impact­ing their life, such as at work, in their dai­ly rou­tine, or in your rela­tion­ship, bring up those con­cerns, too. 

    Avoid judg­men­tal state­ments, like say­ing that your part­ner has made your life dif­fi­cult or that they should have been try­ing to get bet­ter on their own. This can make them feel attacked — lead­ing them to feel defen­sive instead of sup­port­ed and cared for.

    Be mind­ful of when and where you talk about therapy. 

    Catch­ing some­one off guard about any impor­tant top­ic can be risky. If you want to broach the top­ic of ther­a­py, choose a time and place that are con­ducive to pro­duc­tive conversations. 

    Rather than jump­ing into a dis­cus­sion right when your part­ner comes home from work or just wakes up, talk to them when they’re relaxed and have plen­ty of time to dis­cuss. You may also want to ask them about tim­ing. Men­tion that you have some­thing you want to dis­cuss and get their input about a time that works for them. 

    As for loca­tion, make sure you have a pri­vate place where you won’t be inter­rupt­ed by oth­er fam­i­ly mem­bers or peo­ple in the vicin­i­ty. For instance, you might want to talk dur­ing a long car dri­ve. This also helps avoid direct eye con­tact, help­ing your part­ner feel com­fort­able and less on the spot. How­ev­er, if you think that a seri­ous con­ver­sa­tion in the close quar­ters of a car might make your part­ner uncom­fort­able, opt for anoth­er low-pres­sure sit­u­a­tion. Remem­ber — you know your part­ner and your rela­tion­ship best. 

    Remain aware of stig­mas, fears, and con­cerns about therapy. 

    While more peo­ple are get­ting the help they need through ther­a­py, stig­ma and mis­con­cep­tions about it remain. Some peo­ple view ther­a­py as only being for peo­ple who are weak, while oth­ers feel it won’t be help­ful. Some may also be hes­i­tant about shar­ing inti­mate thoughts with a stranger. 

    If your part­ner sees ther­a­py as being for peo­ple who are unable to help them­selves, remind them that those who seek ther­a­py are strug­gling with the same things plen­ty of oth­ers are — stress, major tran­si­tions, rela­tion­ship con­cerns, and anx­i­ety, to name a few. The dif­fer­ence is that they’re get­ting pro­fes­sion­al help. 

    What’s more, ther­a­py is effec­tive. About three-fourths of peo­ple who go to ther­a­py get some ben­e­fit from it. If you’ve gone to ther­a­py your­self, con­sid­er shar­ing your own expe­ri­ences and how it’s helped you. 

    As for open­ing up to some­one they aren’t famil­iar with, remind them that this is one of the ben­e­fits of going to ther­a­py. Ther­a­pists don’t have any emo­tion­al stake in their clients’ lives, so they pro­vide unbi­ased sup­port. They’re also eth­i­cal­ly and legal­ly required to keep infor­ma­tion shared dur­ing ses­sions com­plete­ly con­fi­den­tial (with the excep­tion of sit­u­a­tions that might lead to some­one get­ting hurt). 

    If your part­ner is still hes­i­tant, encour­age them to do their own research about ther­a­py, includ­ing what to expect and how it might ben­e­fit them. They could also ask a trust­ed health­care provider or friend who has gone to ther­a­py for their insight. 

    Rec­og­nize your role in pro­vid­ing infor­ma­tion — but don’t be pushy. 

    While you play an impor­tant role in help­ing your part­ner under­stand what ther­a­py is and how it might help them, the choice is ulti­mate­ly theirs. Not only could it be detri­men­tal to your rela­tion­ship to keep push­ing the issue, but if they’re not open to the process, it may make ther­a­py unproductive. 

    If your part­ner con­tin­ues to resist the idea of ther­a­py, you may need to let it go. If they know ther­a­py is an option, they might come to terms with the idea on their own at a lat­er time. In the mean­time, focus on being a sup­port­ive part­ner as they work through the ups and downs of life and every­thing that comes along with it. 

    • I view the counseling process as active and collaborative between the client and therapist. I strive to quickly understand your needs and concerns and to recommend a course of treatment that we both feel will achieve the goals that you want to achieve in counseling. My goal is to help clients develop better insight and coping strategies in order to overcome their problems/concerns in a timely and sustaining manner. I focus on the use of cognitive Behavioral therapy for the treatment of anxiety, depression, trauma, and marital concerns.