What To Do When Your Child Refuses Therapy


You may have noticed a distinct change in your child. Maybe they have had a stressful school year or have been impacted by divorce, bullying or the pandemic. No matter the cause, they may be withdrawn and moody, and you may worry that something beyond the normal teenage hormones is behind it and that they may benefit from having someone to talk to.

If you broached the topic of therapy previously but consistently get rejected, there are other ways to start a conversation with your child and get them the help they need.

Mental Health

Your child may benefit from therapy for several reasons. You may have noticed that your child is exhibiting different or unusual behaviours, such as:

  • Significant weight changes
  • Becoming withdrawn
  • Changing their friends
  • Performing poorly in school
  • Losing interest in hobbies or activities

Although these are also a normal part of being a teenager, they can indicate a more profound mental health condition.

Teenagers especially may cope with stress or mental health conditions by self-medicating with unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol, drugs, or self-harm.

If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, your doctor can offer support and may offer a diagnosis for your child and help signpost where to start looking for treatment and therapy. However, even without the diagnosis of a specific mental health condition, therapy can be helpful for all young adults.

Educate Yourself And Your Child

A major misconception that many children and young adults may have about therapy is that if they need to go they are broken or something is wrong with them. If you bring up therapy in the wake of an argument with them or after a bad report from school, for example, your child may think that therapy is a form of punishment.

Educate your child on what therapy is. Explain that they’re not being asked to attend because they are bad, and the goal of therapy is not to make them good – it is simply a useful tool that will help them feel better in the long run.

Be sure to present therapy as a normal experience, not something that is shameful or secretive. If you as a parent have attended therapy, share this with your child – they may be comforted by this fact and know that they can return to you with any questions or worries that they have.

Educate yourself on the various myths around therapy as well. It’s not just for people experiencing a mental health crisis – many use therapy to navigate the challenges of daily life; not just to cope with grief and trauma.

Don’t Force It

Forcing your child into therapy is not likely to make them receptive to treatment. Your child may resent you more for making them go, and their therapy sessions will likely be unproductive.

However, you may choose to make a deal with your child and encourage them to try a few sessions. If you are able to get them to attend a few times, their therapist will have the chance to set them at ease and show them that the experience can be a positive one.

Some parents desperation can result in them not telling their children that they are going to therapy. If they only realise on the way there or when they arrive, they may lash out and refuse to engage with the therapist at all, and this is also detrimental to their relationship with their child in general.

If your child is really resistant, keep the conversation going and allow your child to ask questions and express concerns. Eventually, you may have the breakthrough moment you need to get them to engage in the idea.

Communicate With Your Child’s Therapist

If you have selected a therapist for your child but they are still refusing to go, try liaising with your child’s therapist to see what can be done to encourage them. It is beneficial to keep this private from your child as they may feel embarrassed or ashamed to know that other people are discussing their problems.

Most therapists will also be open if they are not suitable for your child or family unit. If this is the case, they may refer you to another therapist with more experience in the issues that are relevant to you.

Be sure to openly communicate with your child’s therapist about their sessions and progress. However, it is also important not to overstep boundaries – your child must feel that therapy is a safe space for them to discuss their problems and emotions and that you will not interfere or put words in their mouth. Although you may think that you know what your child’s issues are, allow them to be the ones that lead the conversation. This act in itself gives your child a sense of agency and purpose and it may be all they need to encourage them to attend therapy.


Convincing your child to attend therapy can be a battle. However, although it may not be an easy road, by supporting your child and letting them know that therapy is a positive experience, you can help them access the treatment they deserve.

If you have a client or know of someone struggling their mental health, reach out to us at Khiron Clinics. We believe that we can improve therapeutic outcomes and avoid misdiagnosis by providing an effective residential program and outpatient therapies addressing underlying psychological trauma. Allow us to help you find the path to realistic, long-lasting recovery. For more information, call us today. UK: 020 3811 2575 (24 hours). USA: (866) 801 6184 (24 hours).