Hallie Condit, MSW, LICSW

Kirkland, Washington

(425) 462 2799


Help a Friend

How to Help a Friend

If you are reading this, chances are you’re concerned about someone in your life. You may feel afraid, angry, and/or helpless. These feelings are natural, but know that you’re doing the right thing by looking for ways to help! Sometimes it is difficult to know what will be helpful. This Web page is designed to give you some ideas about what to do. In most instances the problems people experience are not emergency situations. Everyone feels stress at times. However, stress may be of concern if you observe the any of the following:

  • Excessive alcohol or drug use
  • Depressed or lethargic mood
  • Hyperactivity and/or rapid speech
  • Social withdrawal
  • Disturbances in sleep patterns
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Unusual or exaggerated emotional response to events

    What to do

    If you choose to approach the person you are concerned about or if that person seeks you out, here are some suggestions:

    Talk in private when both of you have time and are not preoccupied. Give your undivided attention. It is possible that just a few minutes of listening may be enough to help her/him feel comfortable about what to do next.

    Be direct and non-judgmental. In a supportive, and gentle, but straightforward way, share what you have observed and what your concerns are. For example, say something like: "I've noticed you've been avoiding your friends lately and have been oversleeping and missing work. I’m really concerned and would like to talk about this.”

    Listen sensitively. Listen to thoughts and feelings in a sensitive way. Communicate understanding by paraphrasing what you’ve been told. Try to include both the content and feelings. For example, "It sounds like you miss your family and are really feeling alone." Remember to let your friend talk and be prepared for the possibility of strong feelings/reactions from the person (i.e. denial, anger, confusion).

    Refer for help

    Toward the end of the discussion, point out that help is available and seeking help is a sign of strength.

    Follow up

    Check with your friend later to find out how he or she is doing. Provide support or encouragement as appropriate.

    Hearing about someone else’s struggles can be difficult and can leave you feeling emotionally drained. Your well-being is just as important as your friend’s. The following may be helpful for you as you deal with your friend:

    You do not have the power to:

  • Make your friend change
  • Control how your friend will respond to you

    You do have the power to:

  • Be genuine and supportive
  • Be concerned about your friend
  • Determine how to express your caring and concern
  • Be honest with yourself about the amount of time and effort you can expend in helping your friend
  • Get support yourself
  • Be aware of your own needs and find ways of meeting them, e.g., seeking people who can give you emotional support
  • Maintain healthy boundaries

    Here are some resources that can be helpful to your friend:

    Anxiety Disorders Association of America http://www.adaa.org/

    National Institute of Mental Health http://www.nimh.nih.gov/

    National Mental Health Association http://www.nimh.nih.gov/

    The Feeling Good Website http://www.feelinggood.com/

    Psychological Self-Help http://www.mentalhelp.net/

    Hallie Condit, MSW, LICSW http://www.eastsidecounselingservices.com


    Feeling Good by David Burns, MD

    Anxiety, Phobias, & Panic by Reneau Peurifoy, MA

    Ten Days to Self-Esteem by David Burns, MD

    When Panic Attacks by David Burns, MD

    The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns, MD

    The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook by Martha David and Matthew McKay