Best Type of Therapy for My Depressed, Unemployed Son?

My son is 29 years old and has recently left his job. He is depressed and suffers from anxiety and is having much difficulty making decisions about his life. He tends overall to be negative when suggestions are offered and when he does make a decision, his anxiety builds and he will second guess it to the point of not following through. What kind of therapy would be best for him? - Considerate Kin
Dear Considerate Kin,

Thank you for writing in with such a thoughtful question. I know how painful it can be for parents to see their children suffering and how helpless and frustrating it can feel to make suggestions, only to have them shot down, one by one. You love your son and probably just want to see him living a happier, healthier, more fulfilling life.

It sounds like there is a dialogue happening between the two of you, since you indicate you are making suggestions. I will therefore assume that your son acknowledges and agrees with your assessment of him as being depressed and anxious. I will further assume that he is open to the idea of participating in therapy. The latter assumption is particularly important because therapy is a bit like going to the gym, in that you get out of it what you put into it. If you go to the gym infrequently and the only time you break a sweat is in the sauna, you probably aren’t going to meet your fitness goals. Likewise, therapy requires a dedication and a willingness to take risks and discuss painful issues to be most effective. People who feel pushed into therapy may not be willing to fully engage in the process; however, developing a solid therapeutic relationship with a therapist can help bring even a reluctant therapy-goer around to the process.

I believe – and a growing body of research backs up this belief – that the relationship that develops between a client and a therapist is what facilitates positive outcomes in therapy. If your son feels an authentic relationship based on deep understanding and non-judgment has been established, he will likely feel safe enough to explore some of the darkest, most painful issues and fears in his life. Difficulty with decision making may stem from a lack of trust in one’s abilities or a fear of making the “wrong” decision. These types of issues are often deep-seated and require the safe space that a strong therapeutic alliance can provide in order to explore them fully enough to foster insight, ultimately leading to the positive changes you desire for your son.

For the best possible outcome, I would recommend that your son look for a therapist who he feels like he can connect with in an authentic way. Many therapists have profiles and websites that allow people to get a sense of who they are and how they work. He can even do an initial consultation with a couple of therapists and select the one to whom he feels most connected.

Finally, I’d like to suggest that you also take some time to focus on yourself. It seems clear that you are quite concerned about your son and as I mentioned at the beginning of this response, that can be incredibly taxing on a parent – as I’m sure you well know. Make sure that you are taking care of yourself – tap into the support of friends and family, eat well, exercise, be kind to yourself and if you are still experiencing an uncomfortable level of worry for your son, consider entering your own therapy. You’ll not only be getting the support you need, but you’ll also be living proof, to your son, of the positive effects that therapy can create.

Take care,

Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in working with people who are struggling through depression, anxiety, trauma, and major life transitions. She approaches her work from a person-centered perspective, always acknowledging the people she works with as experts on themselves. She is honored and humbled on a daily basis to be able to partner with people at such critical points in their unique journeys.
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  • Aaron

    January 18th, 2013 at 9:15 PM

    Tell your son to hang in there,try a few therapists. Once he finds one he can really connect with, he will (I hope) be on the first step toward recovery as a great positive connection with a therapist will give him reason to get up and go see her on time.One that really connects with him will motivate him to want to change as I have and continue to do. I know cause I also battle chronic depression. Be warry of shrinks who want to do meds only and once per month visits.They if necessary should only be part of the equation.

    Best of Luck to you both

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