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Tips for Helping your Child when they Refuse Help

Canva Grayscale Photo Of Girl Sitting On Bench Near Wall
Canva Grayscale Photo Of Girl Sitting On Bench Near Wall

Though awareness around mental health continues to grow, there is still much stigma around seeking help for a mental health issue.

Attending therapy takes dedicated time and energy, which can feel daunting and often the symptoms of depression itself can make getting help feel very overwhelming.

Being depressed causes us to feel tired, unmotivated, foggy-headed, and hopeless that things will get better. Often, we need someone outside of ourselves to help us navigate our way out of the “fog.” Getting help for depression can be a difficult task at any age. But what happens when the depressed person is your child and they are refusing help?

There are many reasons why a child may not want to attend therapy. Along with the reasons listed above, they may feel afraid or nervous that going to therapy means they are “bad” or have done something wrong, as Clair Mellethin, a child and family therapist, explains (Tartakovsky, 2018). They may also mistakenly think they are seeing a medical doctor and be fearful of uncomfortable or painful procedures they associate with those visits (Tartakovsky, 2018), among other reasons.

So what can parents do to encourage their child to engage in therapy? Here is a list of tips to consider:

1) Speak to your child in advance of the therapy appointment about why you want them to go – give them the opportunity to ask questions, to express concerns, and follow up with some reassurance that you are there for them along the way.

2) Be honest and straight-forward about your reasoning. For example, “We are going to therapy because _____ happened in our family. This is a special place where you can talk about your worries and your feelings in a safe place” (Tartakovsky, 2018)

3) Build a partnership with your child’s therapist – you are your child’s primary support person and will play a big part in their road to recovery.

4) Breakdown stigma around therapy by normalizing the experience. We all need help sometimes! Let your child know they can talk to you about their therapist and their experience in therapy, if they feel the need to do so – they can also keep it private if that feels better.

Keep in mind that healing and change happen in and outside of the therapist’s office – work together with your child’s therapist to implement strategies at home and report back on what is and is not helpful; once again, you are an important part of their recovery!

Reference: Tartakovsky, M. (2018). When your child doesn’t want to go to therapy (but needs to). [Website]. Retrieved from

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