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Your Life: Helping people help themselves

Charlotte Lankard: Helping someone who has gone through trauma typically involves asking a series of questions that will help the person help him or herself.
BY CHARLOTTE LANKARD Published: March 25, 2013

Sort solutions

Your job as a friend is to help sort out solutions, not to provide them with answers.

Too often we say: Gee, that's too bad; now, now, everything is going to be all right; don't cry; don't worry; hang in there. None of which will hurt anyone if all they want is sympathy.

But if you think the person really wants help, try this simple, easy-to-follow process.

Here are the questions:

• What do you want for you?

• What are you feeling?

• What are you doing to get what you want?

Some follow-up questions might be:

• Will you do it?

• When will you do it?

• How will you do it?

• Will you let me know how it goes?

Your role is to take this person seriously, treat him or her tenderly and listen.

Charlotte Lankard is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. Email her at


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