What to Do If Your Child Refuses to Attend an Assessment
Published On: April 14, 2017|Categories: Treatment|

If your child refuses to attend an assessment for their substance use, it can be frustrating and stressful for you. How do you overcome the “no” and get your child into an assessment?

If you respond angrily to your child’s refusal or outbursts, it’s going to make them dig their heels in further. It’s better to stay calm and keep your tone caring and not judgmental or critical.1 Stay in control and take the following steps to help overcome your child’s refusal.

Overcome Lack of Awareness

Your child may be refusing to cooperate because they don’t see the problem. In fact, they may be totally unaware there is an issue. Respond to this by giving your child specific examples of their behavior. Explain why these behaviors indicate the need for an assessment.

Combat Denial

Denial is a common reaction in both adults and children. Even with awareness, your child may deny the issue by believing that it isn’t a big deal. Your child may acknowledge that there is an issue, but claim that it will work itself out.

To counter this, enlist the help of close friends and family members your child respects and trusts. Have these people echo the same message you’re trying to get across to your child. When they hear it from more than one person, they may start to realize that there’s a more serious issue at hand.

Work Past Resistance

You’ve gotten your child past denial. They acknowledge there is an issue, but insist that they can handle it on their own. An analogy may work well as a response to resistance.2 Point out to your child that if they had an ear infection, they would need a doctor to prescribe antibiotics to get rid of the infection. Then explain that an assessment is like going to get a prescription. It’s a necessary step to begin to take care of the issue at hand.

Take it further by talking about how that ear infection would take much longer to go away without medicine. Add that refusing antibiotics puts a person at potentially greater risk for getting sicker and feeling more pain. Using age-appropriate language, ask your child, “Why not use all the remedies at your disposal now?” Emphasize that getting an assessment speeds up the recovery process.

Encourage Acceptance

Once your child agrees to an assessment, they may still be hesitant. Information is a powerful tool. Put your child at ease by describing how an assessment works.

Child refuses to attend an assessment

Explain that an assessment is simply seeing a counselor who will ask questions in order to learn more about their emotions and thoughts. Spell out that a physical exam may be needed as well. Discuss with your child that some parts of the assessment will happen one-on-one with the counselor, and for other parts you’ll be there.

If you’re still having difficulty overcoming your child’s refusal or hesitation, contact the staff where you’re planning to have an assessment. They may be able to provide advice to make things easier.


  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/view-the-mist/201610/when-someone-refuses-treatment
  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/struck-living/201110/convincing-the-stubborn-accept-mental-health-care
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