How can I persuade my husband that he could benefit from therapy?

DEAR DOCTOR K:

I’m convinced my husband is depressed, but he refuses to seek help. What can I say to convince him that he could benefit from therapy?

DEAR READER:

Most men don’t like to ask for help or to talk about their feelings. That’s not going to be easy for your husband. However, doing nothing could make it harder for him. If he is suffering from depression and doesn’t get help, it could threaten everything important in his life, starting with family, friends and work.

Left unchecked, the symptoms of depression can make a person miserable. The sadness, lack of energy, loss of interest in sex, difficulty thinking and constant feeling of stress can cause serious problems at home and at work. They may even lead to destructive behavior like alcohol or drug dependence.

Your husband likely recognizes these negative feelings and changes. But he may not know the root cause, or if he does, what he can do about it. You need to gently help him recognize that he is unhappy, and that it is causing tensions at home and at work (assuming that’s true). And you need to assure him that help is available, and what that involves.

You might explain to him that, generally speaking, a therapist will help establish treatment goals and then outline a strategy to meet them. This may include a combination of therapy during regular sessions and “homework” in between visits. After a series of initial treatment sessions, your husband might return periodically for “booster” visits to prevent a future relapse.

If you’re able to convince your husband to try therapy, he’ll need to find a therapist. A primary care physician is a good place to start. Your husband can speak with his PCP about his situation, how he feels and his symptoms. The doctor can recommend therapists who can help.

If your husband would prefer not to go through his PCP, there are other resources. Many employee health care plans offer confidential help lines where you can ask questions and find therapists in your network. Another source is the National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline (1-800-950-6264).

Finally, once you get him started, encourage your husband to stick with therapy, even if he does not feel a strong connection with the first therapist he tries. Advise him to try someone else and not get discouraged.