It’s counseling awareness month!
Too often, individuals see counseling as a last resort, something to consider only when life has become overwhelming. If you have a loved one struggling with mental health and/or substance use disorder, you may be certain that they could benefit from counseling… but what about you?
Family members and friends need support too!
Anyone can benefit from additional support just as much as their loved ones with diagnoses.
Although mental illnesses and substance use disorder often have a biological component, it’s common for family members to feel ashamed or hurt by their loved one, whose behaviors they may not understand. A person’s mental illness or addiction often triggers a host of difficult emotions in those closest to them. Loved ones regularly feel self-blame or guilt, grief over the loss of normalcy, and anger towards the situation or the person themselves.
The presence of a mental illness or substance use disorder can change family dynamics, as more attention shifts towards the member who is sick. Though uncomfortable, the anxiety and frustration of the other members are normal reactions to this shift. However, if they go unaddressed, these normal emotions can further complicate the relationship that someone has with their ill loved one.
When a family member or friend denies their own anger, shame, or mistrust, these emotions may express themselves unintentionally through hurtful comments or inconsistent actions that hinder the recovery of the loved one who is ill.
Family members and friends need to seek their own support to process the experience of loving someone who has an addiction or psychological disorder.
In counseling and support groups, loved ones can find a sympathetic audience who understands their unique challenges. They may gain new perspectives on the situation that can allow them to create a healthier, more balanced relationship with their loved one.
Remember: counseling is not something to be put off until life seems so complicated that it feels unbearable. The positive benefits of counseling can be accessed at any time, and can be especially life changing when they are proactive. Counseling is a powerful tool that family members and friends can use to support not just their own well-being – but the recovery and healing of their loved ones as well.