Council | How to talk to your (skeptical) family about therapy

 Council |  How to talk to your (skeptical) family about therapy

(Maria Jesus Contreras for The Washington Post)

As the daughter of Indian immigrants and the granddaughter of refugees, mental health didn’t exist in my family’s vernacular growing up. Not even when I experienced a traumatic accident or was going through a subsequent depression. Instead, I was encouraged to focus on the positive, only mourn when someone dies, and consider how complaining was making it worse.

It wasn’t until many years later that I learned that many millennials from diverse cultural and racial backgrounds had gone through similar experiences. We are taught that something must be extremely wrong to seek professional mental health care, or that going to therapy is a betrayal of one’s family. We may feel that our struggles with emotional and mental health are unworthy of our parenting struggles.

When I finally sought therapy in my 20s, my immigrant parents perceived it as their failure. What did it say about them that their own daughter needed to turn to a complete stranger for help?

Often, millennials from different racial and cultural communities are still unlearning the narratives that have been passed down from their elders. Additionally, there may be larger issues at play that make one’s family resistant and wary of therapy such as the model minority myth, intergenerational trauma, religious discrimination, and structural racism.

How is trauma passed on from one generation to the next?

But at what price? Asian Americans are one-third as likely as their white counterparts to seek mental health care. Only 1 in 3 blacks who need mental health care get it. Latinos and Hispanics access mental health care 50% less than non-Hispanic whites. And indigenous peoples have disproportionately higher rates of mental health problems than the rest of the population, yet they have low insurance coverage rates and their geographic location can make it difficult for them to access treatment.

Even when it doesn’t result in a tragic outcome, an inability to address mental or emotional health can be disruptive to our personal growth paths. After all, therapy isn’t just a resource for when someone is in crisis; instead, it can be a tool for self-exploration, allowing us to gain trust and develop healthier relationships.

Normalizing therapy and mental health care is key, but how do we do it Actually talk about it with our family members in a way that reaches them? Here are seven strategies:

Consider why you are bringing it up

Take some time to think about why you want to have this conversation. Is it because you’re looking for acceptance of a struggle you’ve been through? Is it because you are concerned about the well-being of a family member? Has something happened within your family that needs to be addressed?

Reflecting on what you hope to accomplish can help you start preparing for how to have the conversation, what you can expect, and answers for different scenarios.

Be aware of how and what you share

Consider your choice of words and language when talking to family. Saumya Dave, a board-certified psychiatrist, suggests using I-statements, which can reduce the likelihood of guilt, shame, or defense being felt by the other party. You should also be aware that the clinical language you are learning in therapy can distance you. If depression or therapy doesn’t run in your family, consider other words.

Being compassionate and reminding the family that you are having this conversation out of love can also help set the tone. You may want to bring in another family member to join the conversation as an ally.

Also, discern what you Need share. As Han Ren, a licensed psychologist, explains, millennials don’t need to justify or explain [their] reasons to take care of [themselves]. You may want to avoid discussing your experience with therapy in front of certain family members.

Keeping this part of your life separate from the judgment and opinions of unsupportive family members can be protective and necessary, says Ren.

Be prepared to tackle common topics

The stigma is real, especially since mental health care and therapy is steeped in history and vernacular that doesn’t feel culturally fitting in many communities. Consider preparing yourself for a few questions that may arise during the conversation:

Therapy is for white people; not for us. You can recognize that therapy is not the only avenue to healing or intended to replace other cultural forms of healing. While the field AND predominantly white, there are ever more resources for culturally sensitive care. Consider printing online resources that address your family’s specific background or based on how receptive your family member is highlighting how therapy has benefited you.

Sometimes, when our elders see how our quality of life has improved from these steps, they become more open and accepting of the idea, Ren says.

You just have to pray more. For many people who grew up in religious families, discussing mental health struggles can be met with criticism of their devotion to their faith. Remember: Therapy is not meant to replace the practice of religion, and the practice of religion is not a substitute for professional care. Areeba Adnan, a clinical psychologist and neuropsychologist, suggests citing the rise of religious and spirituality research in the field of mental health, or pointing to references to well-being and self-improvement in religious teachings.

Don’t air out our dirty laundry. You may need to educate your loved ones about the logistics of therapy such as confidentiality and how therapists are trained to help people process their experiences.

Mental health care is a waste of money. Natalie Y. Gutirrez, a licensed marriage and family therapist, suggests highlighting how therapy can be viewed as an investment comparable to things like a gym membership. You may also consider having information handy on how to find low-cost options.

Tap into popular culture and shared interests

Sometimes we have to be creative in how we discuss mental health with our families. It might be helpful to use a shared interest to create an inroad for larger conversations.

For example, you might watch a movie that has a storyline about mental health, or perhaps find a celebrity interview or pop culture reference to destigmatize the idea of ​​discussing mental health. If you can find someone who is from the same culture or country as your family, even better.

Link mental health to physical health

Mental health problems can be somatized as physical symptoms in Asian communities. And Latino-Hispanic people are more likely to seek help from a primary care provider than a mental health professional.

So making a connection between physical symptoms and emotional health may be key to having these discussions with family. It might sound like “Dad, you come home every day with a headache.” I wonder if you feel stressed at work. By validating our relatives’ struggles with a focus on physical health, we may be able to engage conversations about mental health.

Focus on collective impact

Many communities of color are rooted in collectivism, the act of prioritizing group harmony and community. While this is important and may even be a protective factor towards our mental health, these values ​​can come at the expense of our own well-being. To address this issue, consider focusing on the value of familism in explaining your concerns or struggles.

One example Dave shares is: I really want our relationship to be stronger so that our family enjoys it better when we’re together, and I see this as one way to get there. By focusing on a common goal, you create a dynamic where you are collaborating with your loved one rather than asking them to change, which could make them feel isolated or defensive.

Alternatively, if you’re getting a fight from a family member, you may need to consider talking openly about how it’s affecting you. This may sound like: I know this has been painful for you, but it is taking a toll on me to be your only source of support.

Being vulnerable and dealing with this topic can be incredibly difficult for many millennials from different racial or cultural backgrounds. It’s important to have support when doing this.

Consider interpreting your conversation with a trusted friend beforehand and putting a plan in place for how to handle a growing conversation. You may also want to make plans to reduce stress afterward.

Remember: When talking to family, it’s important to recognize that not everyone can be supportive, no matter how kind, serious, or prepared you are. The truth is, we can’t Do work for our loved ones, and sometimes we have to accept that two things can be true: going to therapy is a healthy choice for ourselves, AND our family may not be supportive.

We can share how we talk about mental health, Dave says, and we’re also limited in our ability to change someone’s mind.

#Council #talk #skeptical #family #therapy

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