Encouraging Aging Family Members to Try Therapy

How to encourage aging family members to try therapy?

encourage to try therapy

Photo by LOGAN WEAVER | @LGNWVR on Unsplash

Have you suggested therapy to your aging parents before? Maybe you go to therapy, yourself, and you’ve talked about the benefits only to be met with discouragement. Your parents or other older family members might have a laundry list of reasons why they might not want to try therapy. 

However, there’s also likely a variety of reasons why they should absolutely be in treatment. 

According to the WHO, 1 in 4 older adults deals with some type of mental health concern, including depression and anxiety. Your parents could be dealing with loneliness or isolation, grief over losing other loved ones, or struggling with a lack of “purpose” if they’ve retired and aren’t sure what to do with their lives. They might even be struggling with losing a sense of independence if they’re getting older or have health issues. That can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression, causing both their physical and mental well-being to suffer. 

If you believe therapy could be beneficial for your aging family members, it’s important to encourage them in the right ways and consider why they might be reluctant. Let’s dig a little deeper into how you can do that effectively. 

Getting to the root of the problem

Maybe you’ve suggested therapy before, but your parents have been vehemently against it. Have you ever thought about asking why? The stigmatization of mental health has been around for centuries. Your parents might have grown up in a culture where no one talked about mental struggles. That can be especially true for the Baby Boomer generation. As a result, they are more likely to have a hard time opening up or admitting that they’re struggling. If that’s the case, do what you can to break that stigma for them. Consider showing them some statistics, or talking about the benefits of therapy (which we’ll get to in just a moment). 

Even if they don’t hold a stigma, some people don’t want to seek help from a therapist because they’re worried about judgment. If your parents were to go to a therapist who was around the same age or just a bit younger, they might be uncomfortable and see that person as a “peer”. Others might be hesitant to see a younger therapist due to a lack of experience. It’s all about preference, and that’s okay. 

Thankfully, you can let them know there are therapists of varying ages all over the country, and work with them to choose the right person

Why therapy is important

Once you have a better understanding of why your parents might not want to attend therapy, it’s time to fight back against some of those reasons with beneficial information. Some of the biggest benefits of therapy for seniors include: 

  • It can help to process and express emotions
  • It validates life experiences
  • It can help them embrace change
  • It creates opportunities for self-discovery

Therapy can also help an older individual feel more comfortable asking for help. If you want to help your aging parents but often struggle to get them to open up and talk about what they need, therapy can help them feel more comfortable leaning on you for support and assistance. 

As you encourage your parents to try therapy, remind them that it can be an important and effective part of a healthy lifestyle – as important as eating right and socializing with their friends. Whether they’re nearing retirement and want to make some habitual changes or they’re prioritizing their overall well-being, you can help them prepare by encouraging lifestyle changes that will benefit their physical and mental health. Many people are willing to change the way they eat and include more physical activity in their day. Going to therapy should be on the same playing field, and it’s important for them to understand that mental health and physical health both deserve their attention and care. 

How you can help

Maybe you’ve convinced your parents that therapy is the right move for them, but they aren’t willing (or able) to seek out the right person for the job on their own. One of the best ways to ensure they follow through with setting up an appointment is simply to do it for them — with their permission. 

Sit down with your parents and narrow down a few therapists that you think might be a good fit. You can be their mental health advocate by “vetting” different candidates and setting up appointments with the one they choose. 

One of the great things about therapy today is that it can be done from almost anywhere. Teletherapy has become exceedingly popular in recent years. If your parents have mobility issues or are more comfortable at home, consider having them work with a therapist who offers telehealth services. Doing so allows them to meet regularly without leaving the comfort of their home. They might be more willing to stick to appointments, and even more willing to open up to a therapist when they feel safe and comfortable. 

You can’t force your aging parents to try therapy. If they’re “stubborn” or stuck in their ways, it can be frustrating to try to convince them that mental health support would benefit them. However, by understanding their reluctance and reminding them of the benefits, you might be surprised by how quickly they’re willing to change their minds and give therapy a chance. Try these suggestions to encourage your aging family members to prioritize their mental well-being. 

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