Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Monday, February 2, 2009

Your Friend Is Going Through Something: To Intervene or Not to Intervene?

As we get older, our lives often get more complicated and we become wrapped up in the tribulations of our own daily lives. Sometimes, though, when we take a break from our own obligations and melodramas, we catch a glimpse of what’s really going on with a friend. When you realize that your friend is going through a rough patch and acting in unhealthy ways, what should you do? What is your definition of being a good friend to this person in such circumstances?

There are two primary camps of people when it comes to this issue – those who say “stay out of it” and those who say “it’s your job to step in and voice your concern.” I fall somewhere in the middle on this issue.

If your friend is going through something and acting out in ways that are self-destructive, I believe wholeheartedly that it’s important to broach your concerns with your friend. After all, something bad could happen and you don’t want your own inactivity to induce a guilty conscience later.

If your friend is simply in a bad way but not necessarily self-destructing or being destructive with others, I believe you must tread carefully in dealing with this issue. Ultimately, you can’t control another’s actions, so you need to understand that from the get-go. With that in mind, wait to see if the phase your friend is going through truly reflects a pattern. In other words, is the phase lasting longer than you think is normal?

If the phase is lasting long enough that you know your friend is not acting like his or her optimal self, you can acknowledge the issue with your friend in a very delicate, nonjudgmental way. Simply check in with your friend. Ask your friend “Is everything okay lately?” It’s okay, I believe, to say “I’m here if you ever want to talk – you know I love you and am here to support you in any way I can.” You don’t necessarily need to name the problem or say how you think your friend should do things differently.

Letting a friend know that you care enough to notice what’s going on with him or her will ultimately be appreciated. Hopefully, the support you offer and your friend’s own efforts to get back on track will culminate in the phase passing and your friend returning to the true friend you’ve always known and loved.

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