Although mental health treatment has become much less stigmatized, you still might feel some discomfort at the idea of telling your friends and family that you are seeing a therapist. You might even wonder if it would be easier to avoid the conversation altogether.
Although stigma surrounding going to therapy is still present, you might find some big benefits from telling your loved ones that you’re attending therapy.
Before talking to your loved one, consider starting by talking it through with your therapist and spend some time thinking about what you want out of the conversation.
Plan to wait for the right moment to tell your loved one about your therapy experience and be sure to explicitly ask them for what you need.
Your loved ones aren’t entitled to private information you don’t want to share with them, including whether you attend therapy. However, there can be some tremendous benefits from sharing this information with them. We will review those benefits below, along with tools and strategies that you can use to tell your loved ones about your therapy experience.
Benefits of telling your loved ones about therapy
Telling your friends or family that you are seeing a therapist may feel uncomfortable. However, if you choose to share this information with them, you may experience some valuable benefits.
Mental illness feeds on feelings of shame and stigma. Unfortunately, it is still fairly common for some people to judge others who seek counseling or work with a therapist. Many people with mental illness then internalize those feelings of shame and stigma, which can prevent them from seeking care and impede their healing. Talking to your friends and family about your therapy experience can reduce feelings of stigma and shame both for yourself and those around you.
Support for your healing
Whether you're seeking therapy to heal from past trauma, cope with anxiety, or even deal with substance abuse, social support can be crucial to your healing. By telling your loved ones that you’re working with a therapist, you can build out your social network to support your healing and growth.
Having difficult conversations can feel uncomfortable, but it does get easier with practice. By sharing this personal information with your friends and family, you can continue to practice this skill. In turn, this can make it easier for you to have challenging conversations like these in the future.
Sharing vulnerable parts of ourselves with other people rarely creates distance. Instead, it can lead to a deeper and more fulfilling relationship. You can walk away with a closer, more intimate relationship by telling your loved ones that you’re seeing a therapist.
Preparing to tell your loved ones about therapy
Once you’ve decided to tell your friends and family that you’re in therapy, there are some things you may want to do to plan for the conversation. Here are some tips and strategies you can consider.
Talk it through with your therapist
Your therapist is there to support you in doing hard things, and that includes having challenging conversations with your loved ones about being in therapy. Your therapist can help you make a game plan for how to approach the conversation and may even help you role-play different responses and scenarios.
Decide what information you’d like to share
Telling your loved ones that you’re seeing a therapist doesn’t mean that you need to share specific details about your struggles or mental health challenges. Before starting a conversation with a loved one, have a game plan for what information you feel comfortable sharing and what information you’d prefer to keep private. Plan what you’ll do if someone asks a question that you’re not comfortable answering.
Consider who you’d like to tell
The unfortunate truth is that some people in your life will react poorly to knowing that you’re going to therapy. Know that these kinds of reactions are not about you, but rather are about that person’s own feelings of discomfort, guilt, or shame. Still, it may be helpful for you to consider which people in your life will be most supportive when hearing about your therapy experience. You may choose to wait to tell others who might find the information harder to hear.
Imagine an ideal scenario
What are you hoping to gain from this conversation? How are you hoping your loved one will react? Are you looking for their support? Or do you just want to share this aspect of your life with them? Consider the ideal outcome from this conversation and plan accordingly.
How to tell your friends and family that you’re in therapy
You’ve considered the benefits, thought things through, and now you’re ready to have the conversation. Here are some next steps to follow.
Wait for the right moment
Having this kind of conversation with your loved one might require waiting for the right moment. Broaching the topic when your loved one is stressed or distracted might result in the conversation not going the way you had hoped. Wait until you can have some uninterrupted time together, without any big distractions getting in the way.
Come right out and say it
Sometimes you just need to “rip the band-aid” off and say what you’re thinking. Other times, you might want to warm up to the topic. Either way, let your loved one know that you want to share something important with them. You might even present this as something exciting or a new journey you’re embarking on, and that you want them to be a part of that journey.
Ask for what you need
You’ve thought about what you want out of this conversation with your loved one, and now it’s time to ask for what you need. Whether you want your loved one’s support in your healing or want to have a space to share what you’re learning, ask them if they’re able to provide the support you need. Being explicit about what you’re looking for can help make sure everyone has the same expectations and is on the same page.