How to Help a Friend in Need

By Ben Barer, LCSW-C

Do you have a friend or family member that is going through a rough time? Would you like to reach out to them but you are not sure how to approach them or when is the best time to do so?

Together, we will explore several different strategies for supporting someone, no matter the situation. The goal is to offer assistance while at the same time respecting their privacy and boundaries. Sometimes, in our eagerness to help and provide comfort, we can overstep our role as a supportive friend and we want to make sure to avoid that trap.

When offering encouragement and general assistance to someone close to you who is struggling:

  • Show Empathy – If you are aware of what your friend is going through, before offering help, ask yourself what it would be like if you were in the same situation. What support would you appreciate and what would definitely not be helpful? Put yourself in your friend’s shoes and have a non-judgmental mindset when you offer support. Using phrases such as “I am sure that must be very hard for you” or “I am so sorry that this happened to you” lets your friend know that you are there if they need you.
  • Do Not Take Responses Personally – There may be times when you offer help to someone and they refuse to accept it. Tell yourself that it is ok they declined your request to help and it is entirely in their right to do so. It often has nothing to do with you but more likely has to do with what they are dealing with. Try not to be insulted with your friend’s refusal and let them know that you will be there when they are ready.
  • Establish Boundaries – When you offer support to a friend and they accept it, be clear on what you can offer and what you cannot. Do not offer something that you know you cannot provide and make sure to follow through with what you promise.
  • Help Them Find Resources – Your friend or family member might not be aware of the resources that are around them. Whether it is psychotherapy, medical services, or financial assistance, recommending these options could be very useful. Connecting them to resources shows them that there are other people that can be helpful and part of their support team. It also shows your friend that you know your limits and can recognize when a professional should be involved.

Now that you have guidelines on how to help a friend in need, think about adding your own “flavor” to these ideas and make them fit with your personality and character traits. Remember to also take care of yourself in this process so you can be there whole-heartedly for your friend when they need you!

Ben Barer, LCSW-C is a Clinical Therapist at Jewish Community Services

JCS is a comprehensive human services organization providing a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or call 410-466-9200.

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