Trauma is a normal response to an extreme, unpredictable, and uncontrollable event. It is a sharp increase in arousal and reactivity, causing the person to feel out of control and on edge, which can severely impair their functioning. Unresolved trauma whether from an event in one’s past or ongoing, chronic stress can be debilitating. Regardless of who you are, without help and support to address the underlying trauma, it can eventually take a toll on relationships, sleep quality, and happiness. Encouraging a friend to seek professional consent can be very difficult and sometimes even risky, but it is an act of love. Here are five tips on encouraging a friend to get help for unresolved trauma.
1. Know What You are Getting Into
While you may want to help your friend get help for unresolved trauma, know that it may not make a difference. Find out what your friend’s previous experiences with therapy and healing have been like. Explore their thoughts and feelings with them, so they can see that you are trying to understand where they are coming from. Do your research on therapists and treatment services in your area. The first step to healing is to know what services are available and how they work.
2. Understand Their Commitment Level
Before you encourage a friend to get help, consider how much they seem open to the idea. This is something to consider if they have been putting it off or have not been thinking about starting trauma treatment sessions. Your honest and kind approach can help them gain clarity and perspective on what they need. Remember to leave room for them to change their mind and be considerate of their feelings without making them feel judged or pressured. Their lack of commitment may be a matter of difficulty accessing services, reluctance to face their trauma, or perhaps they have not yet fully understood the issue.
3. Support Their Healing Timeline
Unresolved trauma is not a condition that can be treated overnight. Healing takes time, patience, and commitment for survivors and their loved ones. Be aware of your responses to your friend’s journey and reactions to treatment outcomes. The news of a relapse or treatment resistance can trigger them. If you feel annoyed or frustrated, try to slow down your thoughts and feelings until you notice that anger is starting to cloud your judgment. The best way to support a friend’s healing is to be there and encourage them to take their time.
4. Find Common Ground
Your friend must know that joining a support group or therapy isn’t something to be embarrassed about or fear. Keep the communication open and establish a common understanding that being a survivor does not define them and does not mean they are alone. Mention other people who have recovered from the trauma and have found support groups helpful, so your friend can see that they are not odd or unique. Emphasize the benefits of joining a support network, so they can know they will not be alone in their journey.
5. Be Realistic
Be honest with your friend about what your expectations are in terms of what the treatment will entail and their goals for treatment. Healing takes time, so remind them that small steps taken daily can accumulate to make a significant difference. An important thing you can do is to welcome them where they are and encourage them to trust themselves enough to let go of shame and speak up for the support they need. You can also suggest they read some trauma recovery books to help them navigate their thoughts and feelings.
Often, when faced with someone triggered by a past traumatic event, the most important thing you can do is be there for them and understand why they seem to need to push through with the matter. Even if you can’t change their opinion, your presence will let them know that you care about them and may encourage the healing process. You can enable a friend to seek professional support by understanding the elements involved in their recovery process and providing them with knowledge about accessing services within their area.