How to get my teen to attend therapy when they flat-out refuse?
What do you do if your teen is refusing to attend therapy? First understand you are not alone. You can feel powerless when you know your teen needs therapy, yet they refuse to go.
You can feel powerless when you know your teen needs therapy, yet they refuse to go. Often at this stage, parents have tried everything they can think of to help, yet the teen continues to struggle. As parents, we have the life experience and can see where this road will lead for the teen if they do not get help.
The way you approach the subject that your teen needs extra help is especially important. This will likely set the tone for your teen’s attitude towards getting therapy. Many young people may think it’s embarrassing or hard to admit they need help so it’s important to help them understand there’s no shame in seeking counseling.
If you have experience with therapy yourself or personally know others that therapy has helped, consider sharing that with your teen, this can normalize and remove some of the stigma.
Let them know why you believe counseling can be helpful, say something like, “I wonder if it would be helpful for you to have someone to talk to besides me.” Or say, “I don’t always know how to help you with problems so I wonder if it could be helpful for you to talk to someone who works with teens.”
If your teen is not listening to you, ask their doctor to make the recommendation to them personally. Especially if your teen has a good relationship with their pediatrician or family doctor, sometimes hearing the suggestion of how a therapist can help from an outsider has more of an impact on them than from their parent.
My Teen is Still Refusing Therapy
If your teen refuses to go to counseling, do not despair. You still have several options about how to get help.
Seek counseling on your own without your teen
Often, parent-training can be one of the most effective ways to help teens. A therapist may be able to teach you how to coach your child. If your teen knows you are going to counseling to talk about them, they might also be interested in going to share “their side” of the story. You are your teen’s greatest influence. In many cases the teen will eventually want to attend a session with you.
Speak with your teen’s school guidance counselor
Discuss whether there are any services available within the school system to help your child. A teen who will not meet with a counselor outside of school may be willing to speak with a guidance counselor. This is less intimidating for teens.
Create a contract with your teen
If it is a mild issue that you’re concerned about, create a contract with your teen. Tell your teen that they must go to a certain number of sessions before they can make a decision about whether to continue treatment. Explain to them that after these sessions are complete, if they really feel they are not benefiting from it, they do not have to go back. At this point, you can suggest it’s possible they could try another therapist they might have a better rapport with.
Consider online counseling
Sometimes, teens who will not speak to someone face-to-face may consider talking to a therapist online. Online treatment isn’t appropriate for every condition so it’s important to talk to a therapist or your teen’s physician about the potential pros and cons before you begin treatment. This can be tricky; be sure your teen has been approved for online therapy.
Consider residential treatment
Once you have exhausted your local resources, you are at your wit’s end and your teen is still struggling with mental health concerns — whether it’s depression, rage, screen addiction, anxiety or other disorders that is causing family discord and you feel like you are constantly walking on eggshells, learn more about why residential treatment works when home therapy is not an option or fails.
Contact us for a free consultation about how a therapeutic boarding school can help your teen that is refusing therapy.