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How To Tell Someone They Need Help

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How to tell someone they need helpBy Grant Stenzel, MS Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

You’re already picturing an intervention, right? Makes sense. We’ve been conditioned by pop culture to think interventions—a group of loved ones presenting a united front to tell a person battling addiction that they need help—are the first step you should take when telling someone they need help.

Not so. Interventions are a final effort for an addict who has refused treatment in the past or can’t stay sober in the present. Plus, interventions require great care, because often that short conversation isn’t enough to help someone see the light. Instead, they might feel ganged up on and double down on their feelings of anger and denial.

So whether you have a loved one in your life struggling with alcohol, gambling, sex or any other addiction, here are three steps to take before you try the intervention route.

1. Be patient.

Not every time is the right time to have this conversation. If you’re parents who need to talk with your child, do it together. If you need to have this conversation with a spouse, do so 1-on-1. Don’t bring extra people in on it. You know this person better than anyone else, so talk about their problem (and potential addiction) in a private, comfortable setting.

Make no mistake: This is an incredibly difficult conversation to have. Give plenty of grace and hand out truth with love on the side. Use “I feel” statements instead of “You” statements. “I feel very out of control” instead of “You’re out of control.” “I feel very scared” instead of “You’re scaring me.”

2. Be curious.

Asking genuine questions without heaping judgement helps get someone to talk and perhaps even open up.. Example questions you can ask:

  • How’s life lately?
  • Anything you’d change?
  • Do you ever feel out of control?
  • What about it do you enjoy so much?

Tip: Here at Stenzel Clinical, our counselors try to ask “what” instead of “why”. The word “why” tends to feel judgmental, and can instantly turn a conversation confrontational. But using “what” is more curious.

3. Be there for them.

Professional counseling is the end goal for virtually any person suffering from addiction. You are not equipped to help them and change them. You probably don’t have the necessary educational background, and even if you did, you’d be way too close to the situation to give effective treatment.

Let them know you’re in this together. You love them and want to see them living a life they’re proud of, a life that’s free of anxiety, addiction and guilt.

How we help at Stenzel Clinical.

First, know that there are two types of addictions: chemical and process. If it’s a chemical addiction, we encourage people suffering from one to seek in-patient treatment to detox and get hands-on care. We’re here to help them stay sober after that.

If it’s a process addiction (gambling, eating, sex, pornography, spending), we can help find the root cause so it may be healed.

Remember: Your loved one probably feels great shame in having a process addiction. They’re probably frustrated that they can’t “just stop.” But it’s more complicated than that. So whether they visit Stenzel Clinical or not, they need help that you’re not equipped to give.

We wish you the best of luck in helping your loved one find their ah-ha moment. If you approach them in grace, truth and love, it’s far more likely that they’ll be receptive.