5 Tips for Talking to Someone about Mental Health or Substance Use
Vulnerability and courage are what strengthen relationships. Taking a healthy risk to have difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable conversations is necessary for growth and change.
By Beth Pfitzenmaier, Intensive Outpatient Counselor at SouthLight
Have you wondered how to approach someone you think may be struggling? How to start that conversation? Here are some practical tips from Beth, a Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist and one of our lead counselors in the Substance Abuse Intensive Outpatient Program at SouthLight Healthcare.
1. Use self-disclosure
“I’m struggling with COVID, how are you doing with everything?” or “I know my drinking has been increasing lately. Is that the case for you as well?” or “I’m having a hard time relaxing recently—has that been your experience?”
2. Be direct.
Name the thing and avoid being vague. This creates space for the other person to be open and honest. “I’m noticing that you’ve been more irritated/stressed/isolated lately. I’m worried about you.” Often we do not notice these shifts within ourselves so having a loved one point it out can be the first step towards our being able to make changes to move towards balance.
3. Listen and really hear what they say.
Be present with them as they share their experience. Even if you disagree with what they are saying, attempt to see things from their perspective. Be curious, open, and non-judgmental as you share this moment with them.
4. Offer support and ask how you can help.
“What can I do?” or offer something specific like “Let’s meet up and go for a walk,” or “Let’s take a virtual yoga class together.” Be creative with this—virtual dance parties, watching a movie together while at your own houses, reading the same book, or being accountability partners. Support can also be about expressing gratitude and appreciation for the conversation or your friendship.
5. Be vulnerable and courageous.
Vulnerability and courage are what strengthen relationships. Taking a healthy risk to have difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable conversations is necessary for growth and change for everyone involved in the conversation.
And remember: If you or someone you know needs help, just reach out. We’re always here for you. 919-787-6131.
I value authenticity, courage, vulnerability, growth, and connection. I work in the Intensive Outpatient Program at SouthLight and I help adults in early recovery from substance use transform their lives and relationships and learn skills that move them towards independence, stability, and flexibility. I recently completed yoga teacher training and am now a certified yoga teacher. I look forward to being able to more fully incorporate yoga into my work with the people I serve.
Founded in 1970, SouthLight Healthcare is one of the area’s largest nonprofit providers of substance use treatment and mental health services. SouthLight partners with individuals and communities to provide innovative treatment solutions delivered with compassion and dignity. With outpatient and community-based programs, SouthLight provides prevention, education and treatment services in the Triangle and beyond. Call 919-787-6131 for help or more information.