Why is the support of a friend or family member important in mental health care?

The Role of Non-Clinical Support

Peer support has been proven to be just as valuable as clinical support and guidance in an individual’s mental health journey. Family members and friends can be a great source of emotional support, practical assistance, and social connection. Peers are involved more regularly in a person’s life and can listen, provide encouragement, and help individuals maintain healthy habits, such as getting exercise and making time for self-care. 

Learn to Live’s TeammatesTM feature, which includes a friend or family member in one’s mental health journey, has been evaluated for its impact on progress and improvement. In one study, people who selected up to two friends or family members (“Teammates”) to support them as they completed cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) programs had significantly better results than those who did not. 

Including a Friend or Family Member in a Mental Health Journey

The support of a friend or family member can be important in mental health care for several reasons:

  • Emotional support: Having someone to talk to and share feelings with can be crucial in managing mental health issues. A friend or family member can provide a safe and supportive space for an individual to express their emotions and receive validation and empathy.  
  • Practical support: Friends and family members can also provide practical support, such as helping with daily tasks, which can reduce stress and improve mental well-being. 
  • Accountability: A friend or family member can provide accountability related to following through with treatment plans or self-care strategies. They care about the individual’s well-being and can motivate them to stay on track with their mental health program. 
  • Reduced stigma: Mental health issues can be stigmatized and individuals may be hesitant to seek professional help. The support of a friend or family member who is understanding and accepting can help reduce the stigma and encourage individuals to seek the care they need. 
  • Improved relationships: Mental health issues can have a negative impact on relationships. The support of a friend or family member who is willing to learn and understand can improve communication and strengthen relationships. 

Why Personal Support Matters During Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT can bring up various emotions and challenges as individuals work through their thoughts and behaviors. Having a supportive network of family or friends can help participants maintain motivation and perseverance. 

  • CBT involves setting and achieving goals, challenging negative thoughts, and practicing new behaviors. Family and friends can remind individuals of their progress, offer praise for their efforts, and help them stay focused and motivated, even during difficult times. 
  • CBT requires consistent effort and practice to make lasting changes. Friends and family can encourage participants to engage in CBT exercises, monitor progress, and provide gentle reminders when necessary.  
  • Another valuable part of CBT is practicing new skills or coping strategies in real-life situations. Added support can enhance the application of CBT techniques to everyday life. 
  • Mental health problems can be isolating, particularly if individuals are dealing with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues. Family and friends can provide a sense of belonging and social support. By being present, they can help individuals combat feelings of loneliness and foster a sense of connection and well-being. 

The support of friends and family during CBT can be instrumental in fostering a positive and successful therapeutic journey. Their support and social connection can greatly enhance the effectiveness of CBT. Don’t underestimate the power of supportive friends and family to grow strength and resilience, improve well-being, and foster lasting positive change.