You wouldn't try to set a friend's broken leg just because you've watched some Grey's Anatomy.

Similary, a few self-help books or a psychology class do not make you a therapist. So don't act like one! If you think your friend needs professional help, please refer them to a counselor.

It might be a good idea for your friend to see a counselor if:

  • They are very unhappy.
  • They can't enjoy normal things in life
  • Their performance in work or school is suffering
  • They're using substances (like drugs or alcohol) to cope with the problem
  • They are in an unhealthy or abusive romantic relationship
  • The problem has persisted for a long time and hasn't gotten better.

Of course, if you have any problems that fit these descriptions, please see a counselor too!

Most importantly: if your friend is talking about hurting themselves or someone else, or if they match any of the other warning signs of suicide, then it is very important that you get them to see a counselor as soon as possible. If you ever think they may be in immediate danger of suicide, you should call 911 (or whatever your local emergency number is.)

Although counselors can seem expensive, most health insurance covers counseling, and many colleges have counseling centers that are free to students. In addition, some counselors offer “sliding scale” fees where people with lower incomes pay lower rates. Money should never be an obstacle to getting counseling.

Not sure how to find a therapist? Psychology Today and Good Therapy have lists of therapists that you can look through to find a good match in your local area. You can also find an online therapist at BetterHelp or Breakthrough (although this is not available in all areas.) Many therapists will do a free phone consultation, so a good strategy is to research a few therapists that seem good, give each of them a call, and then book a session with the one that seems like the best fit.

If you start seeing a therapist and they don't actually end up being a good fit, that's okay – just find someone else! You'll know it's a good idea to look for a new therapist if you really don't get along with your therapist at all in the first session, or if you don't see any progress by the fourth session.

There's no such thing as a perfect therapist, but most therapists are pretty good. So if you or your friend are really struggling, reach out to a therapist today.

That's all for Part 2: The Long Term. Next up is Part 3: Take Care Of Yourself

Next: Get support for yourself