Giving Appropriate Advice by Rodney Orders LCSW-C

All of us at one time or another have been called upon to give advice or offer support to friends or family members who are going through emotional distress. Most times, we respond to these situations well. However there are times when we don’t have the answer or wish there was something else we could say or do. For example, How would you respond if your friend or family member told you he or she had a serious medical condition, mental illness, marital issue, or an addiction? What would you do if your friend or family member could not take the initiative to carry out any of your suggestions?

During your life time it is likely a friend or family member is going to come to you for help and you may not be able to help them on your own. In those instances being a good friend or family member may mean referring them for professional assistance.

Situations in which a referral to a licensed professional would be appropriate include:

1) Your friend or family member behaves in ways which you find disturbing, or other people come to you with concerns about that person.
2) Your friend or family member talks/writes explicitly about hopelessness or suicide.
3) You notice yourself feeling angry, helpless, mystified, or frightened with regard to your friend or family member.

Listed below are a few tips to help you give appropriate advice without damaging your relationship;

1) Share your CONCERN

Let your friend or family member know you are concerned. For example, you could say “I know this is a concern for you and it is worrying you. You need to talk about this. This is just the sort of thing a counselor would be good to talk with about.” Another ex- ample: “I am really worried about your drinking, and I hope you won’t just blow me off, or think I am just putting you down…I don’t want to wreck our friendship…”

2) LISTEN actively

Listening “actively” does not require that you necessarily agree or disagree with your friend. The important part is that you accurately hear what your friend is saying, so he or she feels heard and understood. One way to communicate that you are listening and understand is to paraphrase what your friend says, from their point of view, and to then to restate your observations and recommendations.


“I really wish you would go talk to someone about this problem…see if you do have a problem. I think you should talk with a counselor… I’ll go with you if you like…

For more information about this topic, or to set up an appointment, please contact Orders Counseling at 571-308-8392 .

References: Hsiung, Robert (2007)


About Orders Counseling

Orders Counseling provides psychotherapy for teens, couples, and individuals in the Washington, D.C. metro area. My mission is to help you reach your full potential so you can achieve lasting change.
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