Start a conversation

Starting a conversation about offering help can be difficult. You could try asking simple questions, such as:

  • I’ve been worried about you. Would you like to talk?
  • I care about you and want to help. Is there something I can help with?
  • it seems like you’re going through a difficult time. Maybe I can help you to find the right help?

Talking with someone they trust and sharing their problem can be a really positive experience. It can help them feel less alone and give them a different perspective on the problem they are facing.

Show your support

If a friend or relative is struggling with a problem, it can have a big impact on your life. Supporting them and letting them know you're there to help can bring you together. You could try:

  • expressing your concern and reassuring them that you care
  • asking questions, listening to their ideas and being responsive when they talk about their problems
  • reminding them that help is available and that problems can be solved
  • finding out what they feel would help and supporting them to get any care they want
  • offering practical help such as making a telephone call or by going with them to their GP or a counsellor

Maintain their trust

Though it may be obvious to you that someone you know needs professional help, there are many reasons why they may refuse or be reluctant to seek help. You may feel frustrated if you think they’re not trying hard enough to get well, but try not to make assumptions about how they feel. When talking about their problems, try to remember to:

  • treat them with respect, compassion and empathy
  • keep yourself and them focused on positive things and day to day realities
  • discuss the topic when and where they feel safe and comfortable
  • watch for reactions during the discussion and slow down or back up if the person becomes confused or looks upset

Talk to a counsellor 

Counselling can give people a non-judgmental and confidential space to chat to a skilled professional about their issues and concerns. A counsellor can help your friend or family member to explore their thoughts, feelings and behaviours so they can develop a better understanding of themselves and others. They'll help them find their own solutions – whether that’s making changes in their life or finding ways of coping with problems.

Your friend or family member may be able to see a counsellor through their GP or the NHS, from where they work or study, or through charities and voluntary services. Or they can pay to see a private counsellor. This gives them a wider choice and they may be able to see someone quicker, perhaps for longer. 

Anyone can call themselves a counsellor or psychotherapist, so it’s important they choose a therapist who’s listed on a Professional Standards Authority accredited register – such as the BACP register. This gives people the assurance that they meet the standards of proficiency, training and ethical practice you would expect.

Find a BACP member using our Therapist directory.