When a friend is in trouble or struggling with personal challenges it is normal and appropriate to worry and want to help. Being a friend in a time of need is one of the most important roles we can play in our lives. It is important to know and recognize our limits
- Your Job is to Care
- You Will Not Know how to Handle it All, nor should you…
- Remember that You are Not a Counselor
- Know Your Resources
- Take Care of Yourself
- Do No Harm
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
- Get Rest and Sleep
- Reduce your Workload
- Learn to say "no" or "later"
- Recharge Your Battery
- Have Fun!
While you are not a counselor there are some basic skills that can help you to help your friend.
Active Listening is composed of two primary components, the non-verbal and the verbal. By mastering these basic skills you will be able to learn a lot more about your friend and the struggles they may be facing.
Non-Verbal Active Listening
You non-verbal listening skills indicate to your friend that you interested in them and what they have to say. They also help show that you are truly paying attention and engaged in the conversation. Some basic non-verbal skills include:
- Eye Contact
- Facial Expression
- Open and Attentive Posture
- Facing the other person
Verbal Active Listening
Sometimes you have to talk (minimally) to show someone that you are listening. The easiest way to do this is with some basic verbal cues that indicate that you are still paying attention and understanding. These verbal cues also serve to encourage your friend to keep talking and sharing. Some verbal cues include:
Open Ended Questions
Another important skill and approach to helping a friend can be to use open ended questions. Open-ended questions are important because they help to encourage dialogue and cannot be easily avoided with one word answers. Some characteristics of open-ended questions include:
- Cannot be answered simply by stating "yes" or "no"
- Encourage additional discussion and sharing
- Move the conversation forward
Remember that you not a mental health professional or counselor. Sometimes the best way to help your friend get help is to help them connect with someone that has expertise in the area where they are struggling. It is important that you not get in over head when trying to help a friend and that you know when and how to refer someone to campus or community resources.
Common Defenses to Referrals
There is still some stigma about receiving help for emotional and mental health concerns in our culture. Know that you may face some resistance and defensive behavior when you choose to refer a friend to help is something you should be prepared for. Below you will find several common defenses to a referral. Think about how you might respond to each of these:
- "I don't know what they could do to help."
- "I want to deal with the problem myself."
- "I don't want anyone to know."
- "I hate to call to make an appointment."
- "I feel funny about going in there and talking to a stranger."