Helping a friend in emotional distress

A friend recently asked me how and where they could refer another friend for therapy. I have since been reflecting on the role of friendship and its significance for our emotional wellbeing. As women, we spend our lives fostering friendships, working on these special relationships. They endure break ups, funerals, births and weddings – life! We share many of our most intimate thoughts and feelings with our closest friends.

We know instinctively how they are doing – whether they are feeling on top of the world, or not. And, it is this instinct that could help our friends! When a friend is struggling emotionally, we are often the first to know. In a sense, we are their emotional litmus paper – we experience it too when they are going through a difficult time.

We want to alleviate their pain, but don’t always feel able to. Sometimes we know that they need help from someone outside of their life. To help seek out emotional support for them, I hope you find the following useful.

Some tips when seeking out a therapist for your friend 

  • It is essential to remember, that having gently broached the subject of therapy with your friend, it is not advisable to pressure them. As much as you may feel they would benefit from talking, it is absolutely their decision if they want to embark on this unique type of relationship.
  • It is really important for your friend to feel they are holding on to some control of their life. Proposing a few different options will allow them this. For example, suggesting a walk together, a massage, a night out, counselling, life coaching or simply a coffee. This way, they can choose what and how they would like to progress. Giving them contact details of various professionals also leaves them in control.
  • The relationship with a therapist is the most important aspect of therapy. I cannot emphasise enough how critical this is. Research consistently points to the connection and relationship between client and therapist as being more important than any approach.
  • Find someone who specialises in the area of need. There are multiple directories for searching a therapist, or you may already have someone in mind.
  • Gently encourage your friend to make contact. No commitment to therapy is needed at this point. They can then gauge how the therapist responds, and get a feeling for the therapist.
  • If you have experience of a certain type of therapy and loved it, it may be ideal for our friend, or it may not. It is important to hold this in mind.

Having reflected on friends referring friends, I know it is hard to witness their distress – and it is a completely natural response to want to help. Sometimes, the most we can do is sit on our hands until they are ready to take the plunge.

Clare Shaw is highly experienced in healing and nourishing pregnancy and postnatal massage. She originally trained as an osteopath and now focuses on her massage. She practice in Tunbridge Wells and Forest Row.

Emma Jefferys is a wonderful and experienced life coach, who works with women searching for a career change after or around the time of childbirth. She sees clients in Tunbridge Wells.