Supporting Your Relative/Friend In Recovery

Recovery is a personal journey and therefore there is no definitive guide on how to support your relative/friend through this process. However, we can tell you about strategies that may help, based on what other relatives have told us, clinical experience, and research evidence. None of these strategies are easy to do, so think of them as things to aim for. Remember that other people may be able to help and that you also need to look after yourself.

1. Trying to find a balance between providing support and fostering independence. When someone is very unwell, they need a lot of support, but as they start to recover, they need the space to regain their independence. This may require taking more risks and trying things they were previously unable to do. This can be scary for relatives and friends. Finding the right balance is really hard. Talking it through with your relative/friend might help.

2. Looking for positive changes and celebrate them. When someone has been unwell, they often lose confidence and stop noticing when they are making progress, especially if progress is slower than they would like. Having someone else stay positive and point out where progress is being made can really help maintain a sense of hope.

3. Focusing on the bigger picture. Clinical services tend to focus on the mental health problem and maybe not enough on the whole person. As a relative / friend you can help to make sure other aspects of the person are highlighted and continue to develop. This might involve supporting them to maintain outside interests or hobbies, or just doing fun stuff together.

4. Accepting new and changing goals. We often share aspirations and goals for our relatives and friends. It can feel like a big loss if the development of mental health problems gets in the way of these happening. But these experiences can lead to new goals, and open up different opportunities. Support may involve helping your relative/friend to explore these new goals and make the most of new opportunities.

Watch Helen provide tips for other relatives


For many people supporting their loved ones through this process this can be an emotionally exhausting journey. In addition to helping their loved ones through this, many relatives may have actually experienced highly traumatic events themselves as a part of their support whilst supporting someone and may well have their own recovery journey to undertake.

Finding the time to look after yourself and process difficult experiences can be one of the biggest challenges faced by relatives; however it is vitally important that you learn strategies to support your own wellbeing needs as well as those of your relative.