How to refer someone to counseling

Helping our loved ones can be a delicate business.  No one wants to feel judged or lacking but everyone, at some point in their lives, can benefit from having a neutral and safe person with whom they can talk openly about their problems.   A trained, educated and registered counseling therapist is that person.

If you feel that someone you know would benefit from seeing a counselling therapist, there are some key things to remember when suggesting that form of help.


1) Make sure you are suggesting seeking counselling out of a caring and loving place.   Use phrases like, “I care about you and want you to be happy.  Wouldn’t it be helpful to talk to someone who is neutral and who could help you?”

It is imperative to avoid using labels, judgment, comparison or threatening as these are not helpful to someone who is already struggling.   

2) Your conversation should be on your concern and on behavioral things you have seen or heard which cause your concern.   Try to be specific.  Phrases like, “I notice that…”  or “You seem unhappy when you talk about…”  or “Your body tends to tense up when you talk about…”  can show that you are genuinely concerned.  

3) If you feel limited in how to help, acknowledge it.  You may feel limited in your understanding but your support is just as important.   It is okay as a friend, teacher, parent, or other health professional to acknowledge that you don’t have all of the answers.  Ultimately you care about the person who is struggling and another person might offer fresh insight.

4) Offer to be their support.   Offer to book the appointment, or help them get to and from the appointment.  You may even let them know that you can come in with them for the first few sessions, or wait for them in the waiting area.  These can be the comforts that people need to seek out help.  

5) Be hopeful in your referral.  “You’ve been dealing with this a long time; maybe it’s time to try something different. Just a consult can’t hurt.”  

6) Remind them about confidentiality.  A counsellor will not discuss their concerns with anyone (not even you) without their permission.

We welcome your calls and questions about our counselling practice.