Friends are usually the safe haven of a lot of people. It is good that we know that it is of human nature that people tend to associate themselves and form groups or circles with people they trust and respect. This set-up is good nowadays because of the issues regarding mental health, the stigma of traditional counseling and the security or privacy fears on counselor online.
When was the last time you asked your friends if they are okay? Go on and have a quick, subtle survey but here are the ways that you, as their most trusted friend, can act as an informal counselor to them.
Acquire Sufficient Information
According to Stacy Donn Cristo, LMHC, “Many people turn to therapy because they feel as though they are not functioning.” Educate yourself on what therapists do. The internet has sufficient reliable information on how counselors do their job and all the do’s and don’ts in their profession. However, remember you are not a licensed one, so don’t be too technical and strict about acting like a real one. Remember, your friend needs someone whom he or she can trust enough that opening up will be easier than that with a stranger.
Educate yourself too about the different forms of depression and its symptoms. It might just be a mood disorder or stress which need different counseling. You should also be able to spot if your friend is already suffering an alarming manifestation of depression. That is because “Depression is an illness, an illness that you have little control over, just like any other illness. Nobody tells people with broken bones to get over their pain,” says Charmaine J. Simmons, LPC.
Be Ready To Listen
Listen and stop talking. It’s all a depressed friend needs right now – a shoulder to lean on and someone to listen without judgment on the part of the listener. Accept who he or she is. Avoid having surprised or shocked looks upon hearing what he or she needs to tell.
Don’t tell her what he or she should have done. Your friend does not need any more blaming. Instead, remind him or her how strong he or she is for overcoming these challenges, for coping with those, and for having the courage to be in the present.
Don’t Compare Yourself
It is a mistake that our friends ‘who are there to help us’ always unconsciously do. Telling your or other people’s success story is not a remedy that will magically lift stress, anxiety, sadness, and depression from a friend in a matter of seconds.
Even if your intention is good, some depressed people still look at it negatively. Your friend might also feel more isolated, pressured, and even more anxious if you compare his or her circumstance with somebody else’s success story. Remember we all have different and unique sets of facts and ways of coping with the problem. Someone’s story is not always that identical with someone for you to conclude that they will end in the same successful fate.
Get To The Root Cause
“Depression symptoms take many forms, and no two people’s experiences are exactly alike. A person who’s suffering from this disorder may not seem sad to others.” John M. Grohol, Psy.D. explains. With that, know when to start asking deeper questions as you console and go along with the opening up of your friend. The technique is to earn your friend’s trust. Always keep in mind that the main challenge of licensed therapists is how to make their patients and clients open up. First and foremost, they make everything comfortable – starting from the decor of their session rooms/office up to the way they talk and converse informally and without pressure.
Perhaps, your big edge from these licensed and professional therapists is that you are already assumed to be in your friend’s inner circle of friends. Hearing their problem is already at the tip of your fingers. All you have to master and practice is how to probe deeper on them without the pressure on the part of your friend.
Know That You Are Their Emergency Dial
In other words, always be available whenever your friend needs you. It does not have to be physical availability, but it can also be digital reachability. Tell your friend that he or she can contact you or leave you a message at any time and you will answer as soon as possible.
However, it does not mean that you will neglect your mental health and other dealings with life. Remember that you are only acting as an unofficial and informal counselor for your friend. It is enough that your friend knows that you are there, that you are ready to listen, and that you are capable of giving him or her fresh perspective regarding their stress factors and other personal problems.
It is also much better if you will be able to suggest to your friend about seeing a licensed and professional therapist either online or traditional ones. The utmost concern here, after all, should be the quick recovery and the restoring of your friend’s lost cheerfulness in his or her everyday life.