How to Help a Friend With Depression in 5 Supportive Steps

A good friend is there for you when you’re feeling blue; laughs with you when you’re happy; and, of course, is always game to act as a top-notch wing-woman.

What a good friend doesn’t do, however, is act as a therapist.

If you have a friend with depression, you may want to get in there and help them directly. But while you should remain supportive, it’s far more helpful in the long run to get them set up with professional support. Here’s how to do exactly that.  

Step 1: Open up a conversation about your friend’s depression

A nonjudgmental, open-ended conversation not only gives your friend the opportunity to talk about what’s on their mind, but also shows how much you care about them.

Here are some tips to gently start a helpful conversation about a friend’s depression:



Step 2: Know what you’re (generally) planning to say in advance

Open the conversation gently, and in an open-ended manner. Adapt these examples to fit your own style and personality:

Not sure what to say? Put yourself in their shoes! How would you like someone to approach you about a situation like this? Maintaining compassion for your friend is key for the conversation to go well.

It’s also very important to listen to your friend fully and let them tell you what’s on their mind. You might be the first person to hear their thoughts, which is a great privilege in a relationship and definitely significant to keep in mind while you react to their words. Show them that no matter what they say, how badly they might feel, you’ll be there for them when they need you.

Step 3: Offer to help them find help

If you feel comfortable bringing up the topic of therapy or seeking help, encourage your friend to reach out to a professional! You might also help them find that professional:

Keep in mind that therapy is does not look the same for everyone – just because one therapist helped someone doesn’t mean that they would be effective for your friend.

There are many dimensions of effective therapy – the type of therapy treatment, the personality of the therapist, the personality of the client, etc. – so make sure your friend picks out professionals who sound fitting for them, as they know best.

For example, your friend may respond well to a therapy approach in which they learn skills and tools to overcome their depression, like cognitive behavioral therapy; or they may prefer an approach that helps them understand and identify where the depression stems from, like psychodynamic treatment. There’s no right or wrong with therapy preferences!

Step 4: Help your friend prepare for treatment  

Once you’ve narrowed down some options for therapists and the timing is right, offer to help your friend prepare! Here are a few ways to do that:

Figure out payment

Are they going through insurance, paying out of pocket, or using out-of-network benefits? Either way, your friend has options! Read up on these different options in order to help your friend figure out the best way to afford therapy:

Prepare for the initial phone call

The initial phone call is a great opportunity for your friend to assess fit with each therapist they're considering. Help them prepare for the call with the following:

Questions to ask each therapist:

Questions the therapist might ask them:

Shopping around for therapists is essential in attaining the right therapeutic alliance. Having a conversation with your friend about how the interaction went after each new clinician may help them explore their personal preferences.

Know where to go, and what to do

Your friend may benefit from a checklist of what to know and where to go, like:

Step 5: Be patient and encouraging

The best thing you can do as a friend is to simply be there in a way that effectively communicates that you care – there is no rushing when it comes to supporting a friend with depression.

Having multiple conversations about depression and its treatment before your friend takes action is completely okay! Even after treatment begins, know that the length of a depressive episode can vary by person, and it can be recurring through life for many people.

Therapy doesn't yield instantaneous results, so ongoing treatment and patience are important. Your support throughout their time in therapy can go a long way.

As your friend embarks on their journey towards better health, check in every once in awhile and let them know they’re on your mind. And remember: People with depression often feel isolated and alone – one of the most important things you can do as a friend is to let them know that they’re not.