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  • Caleb Birkhoff

How to Confidently Tell Your Family You're in Therapy

Opening up to those closest to you about attending therapy can be daunting. You may fear their judgement, their misunderstanding, or their lack of support. However, it's important to remember that seeking help from a therapist is a brave decision that requires a lot of courage. Below is a list of suggestions to help you navigate this complex situation, offering guidance and insights on how to tell your family that you're in therapy. Sharing this decision with your family can be empowering. While discussing therapy might initially seem daunting, it can lead to deeper understanding and strengthen familial bonds.

1. Start With a Plan:

Before initiating this conversation, it might be important to plan it out carefully, maybe even with your therapist. You know your family better than anyone, so consider their unique personalities, beliefs, and experiences. Think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. Jot down a few notes if it helps. Also, think about the setting in which the conversation will happen. Choose the right time and place. Ensure that you choose a location that is private, comfortable, and feels safe. Create an ideal scenario that would allow you to communicate your situation successfully. Timing is crucial. Pick a moment when everyone is relatively calm and has time to engage in a meaningful conversation. A casual, private setting can foster a more relaxed atmosphere. There is no way to manage all the risk, or simply put all the variables, but there are ways to empower yourself in the process.

It might be helpful to frame it positively, instead of telling them that they’re the reason you’re in therapy (even if it’s true). Emphasize the positive aspects of seeking therapy and the impact it’s had on you. Highlight that it's a proactive step towards self-improvement, personal growth, and overall well-being. Share your goals and aspirations for the process. Express your feelings, to the extent that it is comfortable or safe to do. Be open and honest about your emotions. Let your family know why you've chosen therapy and what you hope to gain from it. Transparency builds trust and understanding.

2. Practice Open Communication:

It's critical to approach this discussion with an open heart and mind, which might sound a little bit corny. Avoid becoming defensive or confrontational. Be transparent and clear about your motives for attending therapy. Explain how therapy is helping you grow and improve your mental health. Your loved ones may have preconceived notions about therapy or mental health issues, so give them the chance to ask questions and express their concerns. Emphasize that your therapy journey is personal and beneficial and ask for their support.

Sharing openly should not be confused for sharing everything. Share specifics wisely. You're not obligated to disclose every detail about your therapy journey. Share as much as you feel comfortable with, and let them know you'll keep them updated on significant developments if/when appropriate.

3. Educate Yourself and Your Family:

Unfortunately, mental health is still stigmatized and taboo in many cultures and communities broadly, but maybe specifically in your family. Despite progress, people tend to view therapy as a sign of weakness or something that only "crazy" people need. To dispel these myths, consider educating your family about the benefits of therapy and how it works. Share articles, videos, or personal experiences that can shed some light on the topic, if you feel comfortable doing so. Though it can be helpful and empowering to inform your family about therapy and its role in your life, it is not your responsibility to convince them of how it works for you. Encourage your family to keep an open mind and embrace therapy as a positive and powerful tool for well-being.

If your family is unfamiliar with therapy, you might feel more confident in addressing their naiveté with some prepared basic information. Explain the different types of therapy, the benefits, and how it can positively impact not only your life but also your relationships. Recognize that there might be misconceptions about therapy. Assure your family that seeking professional help doesn't imply weakness or failure but is a strength in recognizing the importance of mental health.

4. Set Boundaries:

As much as you would like your family's support, it's also important to establish reasonable boundaries. Remember that your therapy journey is your own, and you need to protect it from negativity or invalidation. If someone in your family is unsupportive or judgmental, let them know that you won't tolerate such behaviors. Be firm and assertive in communicating your needs and expectations. Conversely, if someone in your family is genuinely interested in learning more or supporting you, welcome their efforts and show them gratitude for taking this journey with you.

If you’re in therapy, you’ve certainly talked about boundaries with your therapist. This is a part of the process that can be easier in concept than application. It can make an enormous difference to talk about boundary setting with family before you are in that moment.

5. Be Patient and Kind:

It's essential to remember that change takes time, and your family members might need some time to process your news. They might go through a range of emotions, including shock, confusion, sadness, or anger. It would not be surprising to experience defensiveness from some members of your family. They could also need some education about how they can support you in your journey. Therefore, approach the conversation with patience and kindness. Extend understanding and compassion to your family members and listen to their feelings and feedback. With time, you'll find that your family can become some of your greatest supporters and cheerleaders, unless they prove themselves unable (or unwilling) to do so. Invite their support if you want or need it. Emphasize that you value their support. Let them know how their understanding and encouragement can contribute positively to your therapeutic journey.

Your Therapy is for You

Remember that considering therapy is a courageous step towards a brighter future, and you deserve all the love, support, and respect that comes with it. While telling your family might seem like a hurdle to cross, it's an opportunity to grow, connect, and heal together. It is your decision to include them in this process. If you decide to you can be more successful with some planning, open communication, education, boundaries, and patience, you can successfully share your decision with your family and pave the way for a more positive and fulfilling future.

Confidently sharing your decision to pursue therapy with your family can pave the way for a more supportive and understanding environment. Remember, your well-being is a priority, and by initiating this conversation, you're taking an important step towards holistic health and happiness.

I hope that this list helps you feel more confident to share about being in therapy with your family. If you're wanting more, consider therapy in San Francisco. If after reading all of that, you’re still swirling with questions feel free to call me at 415-990-1452 for a free 15-minute phone consultation and to get some questions answered. I would be happy to hear what is happening for you, what you’re looking for and provide some direction to finding the right therapist for you.

If you are seeking help with couples therapy, drugs and alcohol, life transitions, discovering yourself, or therapy for men’s issues, you can read more about how Caleb Birkhoff might be able to help by clicking here!

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