How to get a loved one with mental illness to accept treatment? One path has the research to prove itself reliable: the LEAP method developed by Dr. Xavier Amador.
So many people with mental illness have a brain-based inability to understand that they are sick. Dr. Amador, whose brother had schizophrenia, developed the LEAP method to overcome this.
LEAP stands for:
If you know what you are afraid of hearing, it can help you to stay on the LEAP path and not become reactive.
Instead concentrate on what your loved one says. Do not try to follow your own agenda for the conversation. Instead, repeat to the person what you think they are saying. Ask questions instead of making statements in response. Be open to having your loved one correct you.
If your loved one asks for your opinion, delay answering three times. One way to delay is to say: “I’m more interested in what you think about this” or “What I think doesn’t matter as much as what you think.”
Once you have delayed three times, you can answer the question. Start by apologizing, as in “I hope this doesn’t upset you.” Tell them that you could be wrong and that you want to agree to disagree, if necessary.
Good examples of this are found on the LEAP Foundations video page here.
You don’t have to agree with a delusion. But arguing against it is pointless. It’s all real to your loved one.
So response by normalizing. When they tell you that they are terrified by the voices or the delusions, say: “I think I would feel that way, too.”
It’s not hard to feel empathy for a person who is in torment. So allow yourself to do so.
Let your loved one set the pace of the discussion. Don’t push them.
What you have heard gives you information that you can use to move into discussing treatment. Your loved one may not think that they have a mental illness. But they may want to sleep better. Or to feel less anxious. Or to be less afraid.
Approach treatment from this perspective: Offer to partner with them to deal with the problems that your loved one thinks they DO have. They don’t want to see a psychiatrist because you think they have schizophrenia. They may be willing to see a doctor to get help sleeping better.
You can agree to disagree. “I don’t you don’t want to go to a doctor. But that’s the only way we can get the medicine to help you sleep.” You can also suggest peer groups, therapy and community services as next steps.
You also can try to correct misinformation gently and with love.
Move from agreement on a goal to partnering to get the help needed. You may need to cycle through the LEAP steps more than once.
Phases that help your loved one feel safe and in control include:
- Would you mind if I …
- I can see why you feel that way.
- Would this be all right?
- Can we make this call together?
- I’d be happy to go with you.
Dr. Amador’s book – “I’m Not Sick. I Don’t Need Help!” — has been a lifesaver, literally, for many families. A link to a PDF is here. I highly recommend reading it and watching the videos linked above.