How can I support others…and how can they support me?

Are you worried about how best to support a friend, colleague or family member? Are you unsure as to what advice you should give or what you can actually do? Or perhaps you are supported by people around you but feel that their well-meant words aren’t what you need.

This time of year, often more than others, can be hard for many people.  The shorter darker days and busier lives. Pressures of family, social engagements and appearing upbeat.  Often it brings a time of reflection of memories and loss.

It can be hard to know how to support someone who is finding life tough; to know what to say, do or offer.  Often the very best thing you can do is very little.  That is not to say that there is not lots to do, however the ‘doing’ isn’t about fixing, pacification or distraction, it is about making space to allow expression of whatever is going on in that moment.

Find the time and space to listen.  And then listen some more. Really tune in to what they are saying and truly get a feel for what life is like for them right now.  Sit with them, however uncomfortable the expressed emotions might be. Try to avoid feeling like you have to find a solution; fixing, giving advice or comparing their situation to your own. Let them know that you have heard what they are saying, acknowledge the difficulties, discomfort and uncertainty.  This can offer a sense of validation and acceptance; the knowledge that their worth is seen and felt by you.

Being heard and acknowledged is the equivalent of doing a lot.  This is the doing, and this the greatest gift to offer.

If it is you who struggles with being understood and heard by those around you, consider the words above.  Would you feel able to express this to others, or perhaps ask them to read this to help understand.  In this way I hope that you too will find the space you need to express yourself and feel the support of those around you.

Professional counselling offers all of the above in a safe environment, at a time and pace to suit you. 

If you feel counselling might be beneficial, take some time to consider the right counsellor for you.  You can search for counsellors by specialisms and locality on a reputable website for example or

Our guest writer rachel has a private practice in Chalfont St Giles, and offers free telephone consultations.  You can read more about Rachel and her practice via her website 

Take care of yourself and those around you.