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A therapist in Santa Clarita discusses how to handle difficult discussions that arise when friends’ stress brings them to a breaking point.

Kristina de Bree, a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT), often speaks with people living through stressful life experiences. Recently, the Santa Clarita therapist discussed how people can comfort friends when they reach out for help.

The first thing a person might wish to do when contacted by a friend in crisis is to let them know that you’re sympathetic to them, said de Bree. The first thing to say should set the stage for them to feel comfortable sharing their emotions, she continued.

Related: How Do You Know When It’s Time To See A Therapist In Santa Clarita?

One way to build this trusting atmosphere, de Bree said, is to start by saying, “‘Thank you for reaching out to me. I’m really proud of you for allowing yourself to be vulnerable and to feel safe enough with me.”

The Santa Clarita therapist further advised that when comforting friends in times of crisis, people should focus on building an emotional connection, since “healing begins with connection.”

Depending on the depth of a friend’s crisis, de Bree noted that they may benefit from speaking to a professional therapist. However, the Santa Clarita therapist warned that people must be careful about how they phrase this suggestion.

“I think when people say things like, ‘Hey, you need to talk to a therapist,’ that can be very shame inducing,” said de Bree. Because of this, when suggesting that a friend seek therapeutic help, it’s very important to use tact.

de Bree said that one way to steer the conversation in a positive direction is to say something like, “‘It seems like you’re in a lot of pain right now and you’re really struggling. I’m wondering if there’s some support that we can enlist to help.’”

The Santa Clarita therapist said that sometimes it may be important to note the difference between a friend who’s willing to listen and a therapist who can help someone navigate through difficult life events and extreme emotional distress.

One way to phrase this, said de Bree, might look like, “‘I’m not a professional and I’m not always sure what the right things are to say, so I’m happy to continue to be here as a friend, but if you feel like you need something more, I think this would be a good time to think about that.’”

Sometimes a friend in crisis may be open to the idea of seeing a therapist, but might not have the energy or motivation to begin their search on their own. For these people, it may prove beneficial to offer them help making that first step.

de Bree advised that people in this situation first ask their friend what kind, gender and age of therapist their friend would feel most comfortable seeing before beginning their search.

“Maybe they say, ‘I don’t know (what kind of therapist I want).’ Maybe you have personal referrals that you can give them,” de Bree said.

For those whose friends aren’t interested in seeing a therapist, de Bree suggests following up the initial conversation by letting them know that they have someone with whom to discuss their worries. de Bree modeled this sentiment, saying, “‘I’m here for you if you need to walk through anything. Let’s just take things one step at a time.’”

For those interested in more information about therapy, for themselves or as a resource for others, de Bree offers a free 15-minute phone consultation. You can contact the Santa Clarita therapist through her website or via phone at (661) 513-4857.