Everyone needs support sometimes. There are many ways to reach out and many people to whom we can reach out. Family, good friends, clergy, and therapists are all people who can offer support to us in difficult times. I think one of the challenges is discerning to whom we should reach out and when.
If you are just looking for pure support and encouragement, then family and friends may be an appropriate source of support. They can be our cheerleaders and our kind ears for when times are tough. Also, family and friends often have similar life experiences to what we are going through and will perhaps have a deeper understanding of what is going on for us than a trained professional. They have also known us longer, especially family. One should be discerning when opening up to friends and family however because not everyone is a safe person to whom you can make yourself vulnerable. Think it through first. Is this someone who will eventually use this against you or use the information to their advantage? Many of us have at least one friend in our lives who we cannot fully trust to keep a secret, for example. Also, many of us have friends and family who do not have psychological training. But they do have love and love is powerful. When seeking support from friends and family generally the approach to take is to directly ask for what you need. What I mean is say something like “do you have a few minutes for a serious talk? I could use some help.”
Another group to whom we can reach out is clergy. They are somewhere between friends and relatives and psychological professionals. What I mean by that is they have some psychological training, but they also know us on another level aside from a client/provider relationship. They also come at the support angle from a faith based perspective, which is important to a lot of people. Due to their professional position, you do not have to worry as much about ministers sharing what you tell them with others in an indiscreet fashion. Depending on what religious organization you belong to, your clergy may keep office hours, and you would have to go on that specific day, or you may need to make an appointment.
The final option, and a great one, is a therapist. There are different kinds of therapists like social workers and psychologists. Sometimes, particularly if the things for which you are seeking support involve significant trauma or psychopathology, you may need to bring in a professional. It can be scary at first but it can make such a difference. It was scary for me at first with my therapist but now we have a very good working relationship. Some people prefer a therapist that is the same religion as they are, or the same cultural background, and that is something you can seek out. Sometimes friends, family, and clergy just cannot help you due to a lack of skill set that comes from the training you go through to get the degrees needed to do therapy. Remember though: it is okay to shop around for a therapist until you find one with whom you click. You need to find someone with whom you are comfortable and feel you can work. When trying to find a therapist, you can get recommendations from friends, family, and clergy about who to use, if you like. However, many of us want our insurance to cover the therapy so I think a place to start is your insurance website where you can look up therapists and see if they take your plan.
Support can come from many sources, and can display itself in many ways. But the first two steps are always the same: ask and open up. Ask for help and open up about that with which you are struggling. It may seem awkward at first but it can be well worth it. Whether you do it with friends and family, clergy, or a licensed professional, I hope you find it helpful.
By Julie Morse