There are several angles to this question that need to be examined so let´s try to answer it concisely!
1. We’re all social!
First, when someone is going through a struggle, it invariably affects the individuals who are close to that individual. We´re social creatures and are naturally connected through our limbic systems, especially to our family members and loved ones. If ¨the person with the problem¨ is going to counseling, this indicates they have already tried just about everything individually they thought would fix the problem. Their struggle becomes part of our struggle.
2. Change the tactics!
This brings me to the second point. If the problem has reached this level that means however you are helping them is not quite doing it. Sure, it likely helps, but it also could be hindering the person way more than anyone realizes. Typically, negative emotions can get stirred up when we see those we love not following our advice. Typical advice would be:
¨Just study more.¨
¨Get more sleep.¨
¨Change your friends.¨
¨Stop smoking or drinking.¨
¨Don’t go to that party.¨
¨Get a sponsor.¨
¨Talk to me before you go to that website.¨
These are all great suggestions, but sometimes there is a block stopping the person from truly following through with it. This means two things:
- They have to learn what that block is (i.e. counseling)
- We have to figure out how to give them helpful advice, support, and feedback
What we are currently trying is not working for anyone. They can´t seem to stop and you have your own negativity all up in your business. Anger, resentment, fear, stress, guilt. The list goes on and on. The wheel is simply broken. The cycle continues, all options have been exhausted, and people are feeling sick and tired of being sick and tired. To quote Game of Thrones, we have to break the wheel. This always takes a team effort.
3. Align with them!
The third point is to consider how realistic is the plan of sending the person with the problem to counseling and saying, ¨Go figure it out.¨. It makes no sense to take the ¨most unhealthy¨ person with the most obvious struggles and say, you need to change first. That’s like asking a toddler to run a marathon. They are not equipped for it! The changes you want are unsustainable and relapses happen. The same old patterns emerge again. Then, it appears the counseling is not working. A different way to approach that person is more like a partnership. ¨You´re not happy, I’m not happy, let’s figure this out together.¨ It is a great way to help the ¨problematic¨ person deal with shame if they know you are in the next room, working on your part of the puzzle. They are much more likely to buy in to the counseling process if they know you are with them as opposed to feeling like they have been sent to the principal’s office.
Parents might want to check out our video post on Facebook about how to get on the same page in parenting an addict.
The usual push-back here is that people ask why we do counseling sessions separate (i.e. parents see one counselor; teenager sees another). Is it a money gimmick? There actually are very purposeful reasons behind this decision. My next blog post will dive into those reasons. Thanks for reading!