Friday, July 28, 2006

Why and How to Offer Unconditional Acceptance to Support Someone with Agoraphobia

If you want to be a support person for someone with agoraphobia, your first job will be to establish a therapeutic relationship with the person who is suffering. It can be tricky to offer a safe, supportive relationship with a friend or loved one with agoraphobia, even if you had a good relationship with them before.

It is important to build a therapeutic relationship before you start trying to help someone with agoraphobia. Thats because a safe, supportive relationship is the vehicle through which real help can be offered.

Offering unconditional acceptance to someone who is suffering from agoraphobia is critical to building a healing relationship with them. Those of us who have had agoraphobia know that we are often self-critical and have a hard time accepting ourselves. Its even harder to accept yourself when you have agoraphobia and can't function normally. That is why it is so important to have people who accept us no matter what we do or go through. Experiencing the acceptance of others helps us to accept ourselves.

Offering unconditional acceptance means being non-judgmental and non-critical. It means not thinking of agoraphobia and the behaviors that go with it in terms of good and bad or right and wrong. It means not putting the person down or voicing disapproval when they do things you don't understand. It means letting the person know that you love them, care about them, and will not abandon them whether or not they recover from agoraphobia.

Offering unconditional acceptance means not only accepting the person with agoraphobia but accepting the condition of agoraphobia as well - at least for the time being. It means not trying to fix them all the time, refraining from constantly offering advice or suggestions, and not needing to always correct their irrational thinking. It means being able to relax and have fun with them - and talk to them about subjects other than what they need to be doing to get well. It means being willing to let the agoraphobic act agoraphobic - not that you don't want to help them get well - just that there is no pressure from you to hurry in doing so. Nobody wants to feel like a project or like they are letting someone down if they arent getting better fast enough.

People with agoraphobia need people around them who accept them just as they are. Just like someone suffering from a physical illness or injury - it takes time to heal. If you are able to show your loved one with agoraphobia that you care without conditions and will stand by them through the ups and downs - you will have taken a big, first step towards building a relationship with them that will contribute to their recovery from agoraphobia.

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