As many of you know, I am the Lead Mentor for a ministry called Alongside, designed to help women who are serving overseas, who might have the need for emotional support. The ministry is run through Thrive Ministries who strives to empower women in ministry around the world. My team of 25 mentors give a few hours a month to encouraging. listening and praying for women who have given their lives to be world changers. Our mentees are running orphanages, teaching English, rescuing women from sex trafficking, doing community development…they are strong but they are often somewhat alone and in need of support. My mentor team is an amazing group of selfless women who have incredible life experience but only a few of them are trained counselors, so we have some guidelines in place to put boundaries around the service we offer. Recently I was asked to put together a list of reasons to suggest professional counseling to women who might need more than we can offer in a mentorship capacity. It reminded me how often I have been asked in private practice how people can identify if a family member or friend might benefit from counseling. I thought it might be beneficial to adapt the guidelines we use at Alongside for my clients….
Here are some reasons that your friend might need counseling:
Your friend is having difficulty regulating her emotions. Of course you may have emotional moments with your friend where there are tears. However, if she expresses that she is crying all the time, struggling to keep her anger under control or fluctuating between extreme emotions, she may need more than an accountability partner.
Your friend isn’t performing effectively in her roles at home or work. Deeper mental issues can effect us cognitively and we can struggle to focus and engage effectively with people as a result. Sometimes it is a fine line between an overwhelmed mommy and a person who has ceased to function in a healthful way. If you sense that your friend is struggling, please advise her to seek counseling.
Your friend complains of not being able to sleep, eat or perform other normal human functions. Oftentimes, clinical depression and/or anxiety can lead to physical issues. Unplanned weight gain or weight loss, chronic insomnia or other symptoms such as headache, stomach pain, or even back pain, can be an indicator of a deep emotional need. If these symptoms are worsening for your friend despite your time together, she may need more attention than you can give in a friendship role.
Your friend reports an ongoing struggle with numerous relationships or an inability to build and maintain relationships. Many women have relationship struggles that they need to process and this is normal. However, if you start to get the feeling that your friend has no healthy relationships in her life, she might need to explore this at a deeper level.
Your friend has unresolved trauma. If your friend shares about past trauma, and you suspect that this trauma is part of the reason she is struggling, it is appropriate to ask her if she has ever gone through counseling for that trauma. Trauma comes in many forms. She may have experienced sexual abuse, spiritual abuse, a profound loss, or may have childhood trauma that has never been resolved.
Your friend struggles to find joy in activities that normally provide joy. When you are encouraging your friend in the area of self care and she can’t seem to find anything that brings her joy, she may be experiencing clinical depression. Is she isolating herself or focusing only on the negative? Encourage your friend to seek professional help.
Your friend has deep or unresolved grief. Women often experience grief because of job loss, relationship conflict, cultural challenges, divorce or death of a loved one. She may benefit from time with a therapist.
Your friend is using substances or obsessive activities to cope. If you suspect that your friend is struggling with addiction, it is important to suggest counseling.
Your friend suggests that they may self harm. Self harm in any form can be very dangerous. Please encourage your friend to seek professional services if you are concerned that she is a danger to themselves or others.
Your friend seems to need more than you feel capable of giving. If you start to feel overwhelmed by this relationship, the answer may simply be that the needs of your friend are too great for a reciprocal relationship.
As always, let me know if I can help!