When we notice someone in our life, especially a family member, struggling with mental health in some shape or form, we often feel inclined to ask them if something is wrong. If we notice odd behavior changes, we usually try to get to the bottom of it in order to help them in whatever way we can.
We might assume that anyone who is struggling will want our help – but what if they don’t?
For parents, this can be a deeply difficult question. When your child is refusing to accept any help, but is clearly struggling with mental health, what should you do? How can you support your teen and be a good parent to them when they’re refusing to accept treatment?
My teen won’t see a therapist – what do I do?
Despite what you may have seen in movies or tv shows, packing your child into the car and driving them to a therapist’s office against their will is the last thing you should do. Change only occurs in one’s life when they desire it – in other words, you can drive your child to therapy all you would like, but you are not going to see any difference in their behavior until they desire this change themselves.
You may be thinking, ‘Great, so then what?’ What tools can I use to encourage my teen to seek mental health treatment?
We’re glad you asked.
How do I encourage treatment?
At the end of the day, all you want is for your loved one to feel better. But getting your son or daughter to want that, too, can be a task in and of itself. Luckily, there are ways you can encourage your teen to seek treatment that doesn’t make them feel coerced, but instead allow them to more or less choose treatment for themselves.
Overcoming lack of awareness
Your child may be refusing to cooperate because they don’t see the problem. Mental health conditions, including substance abuse, can happen subtly, and your child might believe that their behavior has not changed, that their actions with their friends aren’t affecting anything else in life or that they’re just acting in the way a normal teen should.
This can be a hard argument to try and contradict. The best method to use here is responding to your child’s denial with specific examples of their behavior. Tell them you noticed when they were acting differently after spending time with certain friends; bring to attention their grades or school attendance, which may have dropped in a short amount of time. Don’t make your child feel bad about this behavior; simply use them as an example to say, “Hey, I’ve noticed a difference here – can we talk about what’s going on?”
By bringing to their attention certain, consistent shifts in behavior, you may be able to open their eyes to a problem they were not fully aware of.
Denial is a common reaction in both adults and children when they are presented with the reality that they are struggling with some level of mental illness. Even with awareness, your child may deny the issue by believing that it isn’t a big deal. They may acknowledge certain bad habits, but claim that it will work itself out and insist that therapy is overkill.
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.
Handling resistance to treatment
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. Point out to your teen that if they had an ear infection, they would need a doctor to prescribe antibiotics to get rid of the infection. Certain illnesses we simply can’t ride out on our own.
Addiction and mental illness are like this – if we try and manage it without the help of a mental health professional, it’s not going to get better. Even if we are eating well, sleeping enough, meditating and exercising, some things still need to be addressed with a professional who knows exactly how to combat it. You can explain to your child how, by accepting a psychologist’s help, they are actually choosing to enhance their quality of life overall and speed up the entire healing process.
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.
Explain that an assessment is simply seeing a counselor who will ask questions in order to learn more about the child’s emotions and thoughts. Their job is to help their client, but the only way to do that is through a deeper understanding of who their client (your child) is. The therapist will ask many questions, not to make your teen uncomfortable, but to get a clear idea of what forms of treatment will best boost recovery and enhance the quality of life. It’s important to get your child to understand this.
Need additional help?
The staff at the treatment center is experienced with guiding parents through getting their teens to accept treatment. If you have tried all you can, but simply can’t convince your teen of the value of therapy, consider enlisting the help of a treatment center.
High Focus Centers provides support to their families both before, during and after treatment, from advice that encourages treatment acceptance to family therapy sessions during active treatment. No matter where in the recovery process you and your family is, High Focus Centers is here to help. Contact us by calling 800-877-3628 to get the help you need today.