Helping your loved ones embrace therapy: Effective strategies

Are you worried about a loved one? Maybe they show signs of depression, are having trouble coping with a recent loss, or simply appear to be stressed out of their mind. Whatever the case, you might be considering the benefits of talking with a mental health professional and want to encourage them to seek therapy. However, it can be tricky to broach the subject without stepping on their toes or eliciting a negative response. 

While this can be a difficult road to navigate, you can talk with your loved one about your concerns and encourage them to seek professional help respectfully and effectively. Just follow the tips below and read on for more information on how you can approach this conversation.

What If My Partner Does Not Want to Go to Therapy?

If your partner is reluctant to attend therapy, it’s essential to approach the situation with empathy and open communication. First, try to understand their reservations without judgment. Ask them about their concerns and fears regarding therapy, and listen quietly and compassionately to their perspective. 

Make sure to respect their feelings and boundaries, as forcing therapy can be counterproductive. Though it can be difficult to listen to stigmatized opinions and reasoning, it’s incredibly important to make your partner feel safe, validated, and understood without being judged.

Next, share your reasons for wanting therapy, explaining how it can benefit both of you and your relationship. It’s also important to acknowledge that while vulnerability can be incredibly scary and daunting, the potential positive outcomes — such as improved communication, understanding, and a healthier partnership — are worth putting in the work. 

Emphasize that therapy is not a sign of weakness but a valuable tool for personal growth and relationship enhancement. Consider offering to research and choose a therapist together to ensure they feel comfortable with the choice. 

You might also propose a trial period or a limited number of sessions to ease them into the process. If your partner remains resistant, consider individual therapy for yourself to address any personal issues or possible coping strategies. This can have a positive impact on the relationship even if your partner doesn’t participate. 

Ultimately, patience and understanding are crucial. Avoid ultimatums or pressure tactics, as they can strain the relationship further. Give your partner time to come around to the idea and reevaluate the situation periodically. In some cases, they may eventually see the value in therapy and become more willing to participate. Facing the stigma and uneasiness that many have regarding therapy takes time, so be patient, but make sure to put your needs first in the end. If the issues that require therapeutic help are too severe, your partner continues to resist therapy or other help, and the issues aren’t improving, it may be time to consider parting ways.

The Impact of Stigma and Misconceptions

Stigma and misconceptions surrounding mental health issues significantly deter many individuals from seeking therapy or counseling. These societal attitudes and misunderstandings can create a significantly hostile environment that causes people to avoid addressing their mental health. 

Stigma is rooted in stereotypes and discrimination. This prejudice puts labels on those who seek therapy, calling them “weak” or “crazy” and causing people considering getting help to feel shame, often driving them to hide their struggles — their mental health worsening as a result. 

Because of this, it’s challenging for many to openly discuss and address mental health concerns. 

Misconceptions further exacerbate the issue. False beliefs about therapy, such as the idea that it’s only for severe mental illness or that it involves judgment and criticism, can dissuade potential clients. Additionally, misconceptions about the efficacy of therapy may discourage individuals from pursuing it as a viable solution. 

The combined impact of stigma and misconceptions can lead people to internalize negative self-perceptions, resulting in a reluctance to seek help. This delay in seeking therapy can make mental health issues worse, leading to more severe and prolonged distress. 

To counter this, efforts to destigmatize therapy and promote accurate information about its benefits are essential. If you know people who might need mental health treatment or assistance, try to encourage more open conversations by sharing personal experiences and challenging misconceptions. This can play a vital role in making therapy more accessible and socially acceptable. 

By addressing these issues, we can foster a more understanding and supportive environment, making it easier for individuals to seek the help they need and ultimately improve their mental well-being.

How Do You Help Someone Who Doesn't Want to Go to Therapy?

Supporting someone who is reluctant to go to therapy requires empathy, patience, and a gentle approach. Start by having an open and non-judgmental conversation with them to understand their concerns and fears. When having this conversation, think of these pointers:

  • Listen actively and validate their feelings: Let them know it’s okay to be hesitant and help them through their doubts and preconceived ideas about therapy. By working with them instead of against them, they’ll be more likely to understand the benefits of therapy and find their own reasons for going rather than fight against it.
  • Provide information about the benefits of therapy: Tell them about how people experience improved mental health, coping skills, personal growth, and more overall satisfaction and fulfillment in their lives. Share success stories or testimonials from people who have benefited from therapy. 
  • Emphasize that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness: Stigma can be a powerful influence, so try to gently combat stigmatized ideas by highlighting how difficult it can be to be vulnerable and work toward change. This can make them feel validated in their fear and hesitation while still adjusting their perspective on therapy.
  • Offer to help them find a therapist who aligns with their needs and preferences: Finding a therapist for the first time can be a daunting process. Offer to look with them and address any specific concerns they may have about the process as you search. Assure them that they can start with a trial session and make decisions afterward. 
  • Encourage self-help and coping strategies: Habits like journaling, mindfulness, or self-help books can work as a temporary measure to address one’s concerns and improve their mental health until they feel more comfortable with the idea of therapy. 
  • Respect their autonomy and don’t pressure them: Let them know you’re there to support them, but make it clear that the decision ultimately rests with them. 

Continue showing your support, understanding, and willingness to listen, as it may take time for them to come around to the idea of therapy. Be patient, and remind them that their well-being is important to you.

How Do I Convince My Partner to Go to Therapy? Strategies for Approaching the Conversation

To persuade your partner to attend therapy, it’s essential to approach the conversation with empathy, sensitivity, and a focus on the potential benefits. You can convey your message effectively by following these steps:

Consider the Timing

First, you should pick the appropriate time and place to have this conversation, to ensure it goes as well as possible. Avoid presenting your observations and suggestions during times when your loved one is likely to become defensive, such as during an argument, family gathering, or in a public place. This will help you frame therapy in the best possible light and hopefully help them be more open to what you have to say.

Broach the Subject

Begin by asking for their consent to discuss the topic. Then, express your love and concern for your partner. Acknowledge that you care deeply about their well-being and the health of your relationship.

Then, the best thing to do is share your feelings and concerns openly. Be honest about how certain issues or conflicts in your relationship have been affecting you emotionally and how therapy can help both of you address and resolve them. 

Try to avoid blaming language and sentiments, as this can put them on the defensive and make them doubt your intentions. A great way to do this is to use “I” statements when expressing your feelings and concerns.

Empathetic Listening and Validation

It’s also important you prepare yourself for how they might respond, as they may take offense to your concerns. Prepare yourself as much as possible for a wide range of emotions and responses to your request. Keep in mind that the last thing you want to be is defensive — try to show respect by listening quietly and compassionately.

Handle Objections and Concerns

Address any fears or misconceptions they have about therapy. If your partner has reservations about therapy, calmly address their concerns and provide information about the therapeutic process. Assure them that it’s a safe, confidential, and nurturing space, and provide them with any information you can about a normal therapy session, such as what clients and therapists might talk about, what questions might be asked, or how long sessions last.

Provide Information on Therapy Benefits

Highlight the positive aspects of therapy as well and emphasize that therapy is not a sign of weakness but a valuable tool for personal growth and relationship improvement. Mention that many successful individuals and couples seek therapy to enhance their lives.

Encourage Further Action

If your loved one listens to and validates your concerns, then it’s likely safe to offer further information and encourage further action. Be prepared to help them find possible options for counselors or therapists that are available. It can be especially helpful to look for a suitable therapist together if you plan on attending couples, group, or family therapy together. 

Giving them input and allowing them to choose with you can make them feel more secure in the decision and allow them to take ownership of this choice rather than feeling like they were pushed into it or see you and the therapist as an opposing team ready to attack them.

Offer Continued Support

If at all possible, make yourself available to take them to their first appointment, find a therapist who accepts their insurance, or pay for the first session or two if necessary. This can help eliminate typical excuses for avoiding therapy such as not being able to afford it or not having adequate means to get there.

Offer support and reassurance. Let your partner know that you’ll be there with them every step of the way, attending sessions together if needed, and working as a team to overcome challenges.

You can also suggest a trial period for therapy. Propose attending a few sessions together to see how it feels and evaluate its impact on your relationship. This allows your partner to have a more tangible sense of therapy’s potential benefits and more control in such a new and uncertain situation.

Support Their Decision

Ultimately, convey that attending therapy is a personal decision and that you will support whatever choice they make, but that you genuinely believe it could be a positive step forward for both of you. However, it’s important to encourage your partner to seek and participate in professional treatment without trying to take on the role of a trained counselor or therapist yourself.

In the end, it’s up to you to assess the severity of the situation and, if you believe that your partner is in a more serious or harmful mental state or condition, be prepared to take equivalent measures.

Talking with your loved one about any concerns you may have isn’t an easy feat—in fact, it can be very difficult. You must take care of yourself as you move forward with this mission as well.

What Can You Say to Someone Who Needs Therapy but Refuses to Go?

Convincing someone to seek therapy when they are resistant can be challenging, but it’s important to approach the conversation with empathy and understanding. Here are some things you can say to someone who needs therapy but refuses to go:

  1. Express your concern: Start by expressing your genuine concern for their well-being. Use “I” statements to communicate your feelings. For example, say, “I’m worried about you,” or “I care about your happiness.”
  2. Listen without judgment: Ask them to share their reasons for not wanting to go to therapy. Be a good listener and avoid interrupting or passing judgment. This will help them feel heard and understood.
  3. Offer support: Let them know you’re there to support them through the process. Assure them that seeking help is a sign of strength and that they won’t be going through it alone.
  4. Share information: If they are hesitant because they don’t know what to expect from therapy, provide some basic information about how therapy works and the potential benefits it can offer. If you yourself have attended therapy, perhaps speak on what you were initially nervous about or preconceptions you had that were not actually true.
  5. Share success stories: If you know of someone who has benefited from therapy or have personal experience with therapy, share those success stories to help reduce the stigma and fear surrounding it.
  6. Discuss your perspective on the impact on their life and yours: Help them understand how their reluctance to seek therapy might be affecting their relationships, work, and overall well-being. Gently point out the potential positive changes that therapy could bring.
  7. Respect their autonomy: Ultimately, the decision to seek therapy is theirs. Respect their choice even if it’s not what you would prefer. It’s essential to respect their autonomy and not pressure them.
  8. Offer to help find a therapist: If they are willing to explore the idea further, offer to help them find a suitable therapist. You can assist with research, provide recommendations, or accompany them to the first appointment if they feel more comfortable with your support.
  9. Reiterate your support: Let them know that you’ll be there for them, regardless of their decision, and that you’ll continue to offer your support and understanding.
  10. Give them time: Sometimes, people need time to come to terms with the idea of therapy. Be patient and open to discussing it in the future if they’re not ready at the moment.
  11. Create your own boundaries: If the issues behind your encouragement for your loved one to go to therapy affect your own mental health, you may have to draw some boundaries on behaviors that are negatively affecting you or put limits on how much time you spend with that person. You may want to help your loved one, but your own well-being should always come first.

Remember that ultimately, the decision to seek therapy must come from the individual. No one can make them change — they alone can make that decision.

If they remain resistant, it’s important to respect their boundaries while still offering your support and understanding. In some cases, they may eventually reconsider their stance when they’re ready.

Why Do Most People Avoid Therapy? Common Reasons for Resistance

People avoid therapy for a variety of reasons, with stigma and misconceptions about mental health often being significant barriers. 

First, societal stigma often surrounds seeking therapy, leading to fears of judgment or being perceived by others as weak. The prevailing belief that one should handle their problems privately can dissuade individuals from seeking help. 

Furthermore, there are misconceptions about therapy, such as the idea that it is only for severe mental illnesses or “crazy” people, leading people to underestimate its potential benefits for everyday life challenges. Cultural and religious factors can also play a role, as some may be discouraged by their community or faith from seeking psychological help.

Additionally, accessibility can be a substantial deterrent. Financial concerns can play a big part, as therapy can be expensive and may not be covered by insurance. Physical accessibility is another issue, as many people, especially in rural areas, may lack access to mental health services. The time commitment required for therapy can also be daunting, making it challenging for those with busy schedules to prioritize it. 

Finally, many people find the idea of opening up and discussing deeply personal issues with a stranger to be incredibly intimidating. 

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Is It Normal to Not Want to Go to Therapy?

It’s normal for some people to have reservations or not want to go to therapy for various reasons. Seeking therapy can be a significant step, and it’s not uncommon for individuals to feel hesitant or reluctant for several reasons, including:

  • Stigma: There is still a societal stigma, in many cultures or communities, associated with mental health issues and therapy, causing many people to fear being judged and deterring them from seeking help.
  • Fear of judgment: Some individuals also worry about being judged or misunderstood by a therapist, which can make them hesitant to open up.
  • Cost: Therapy can be expensive, and financial concerns may prevent someone from seeking treatment.
  • Denial or minimization: Some people may downplay the severity of their issues or convince themselves that they don’t need therapy, even when it might be beneficial.
  • Lack of time: Busy schedules can be a barrier to seeking therapy, as people may feel they don’t have the time to commit to regular sessions.
  • Fear of change: Therapy can lead to personal growth and changes, which can be intimidating for many people.

It’s important to acknowledge and address these concerns about therapy. However, if you are struggling with issues affecting your mental health, therapy can be a valuable resource and can vastly improve one’s mental well-being. 

If you’re reluctant to seek therapy, consider discussing your concerns with a trusted friend or family member who can provide support and encouragement. Additionally, you might want to explore different types of therapy or therapists to find the right fit for you, as the therapeutic relationship is a crucial factor in the success of therapy. You can also start by researching and learning more about the benefits of therapy and speaking with a mental health professional or counselor to help you make an informed decision.

Ultimately, though, the decision to go to therapy is a personal one, and it’s important to prioritize your mental health and well-being. 

Should I Force My Friend to Go to Therapy? Is It Wrong to Force Someone into Therapy?

There are very few times and occasions when someone can “force” another person to go to therapy. Unless they are in extreme mental or emotional distress, their life is in danger if they do not seek proper mental health treatment, or their therapy attendance is government-mandated, it is unlikely that you will be able to force someone you love into therapy. 

Additionally, forcing someone into therapy may lead to resistance and hinder the therapeutic process. Whether or not to encourage a friend to go to therapy is a complex and delicate issue that depends on the specific circumstances and the nature of your relationship. It’s essential to approach this with empathy and consideration for your friend’s feelings and autonomy.

First, it’s crucial to recognize the signs that your friend may benefit from therapy. If they are experiencing emotional distress, struggling with their mental health, or facing challenges that impact their daily life and relationships, gently suggesting therapy as an option can be helpful. 

Rather than forcing your friend, you should express your concern and support, explaining why you believe therapy could be beneficial. Offer to help them find a suitable therapist or provide information about available resources. 

However, you must respect their decision, as therapy is most effective when the individual is willing and committed. If your friend refuses therapy and their situation is not life-threatening or rapidly deteriorating, consider offering alternative support, such as listening, being a consistent presence, or helping them explore self-help strategies. Ultimately, the choice to seek therapy should be theirs.

Respect your friend’s autonomy while maintaining an open, non-judgmental, and supportive stance. Encourage them to make their choice and assure them that you’ll be there for them regardless of their decision.

How Do You Help Someone in Denial?

Helping someone in denial can be challenging, but, as with any delicate and emotional situation, it’s essential to approach the situation with empathy and understanding. Denial often occurs when a person is unable or unwilling to accept the reality of a particular situation, whether it’s related to addiction, a health issue, or a personal problem. Here are some steps to assist someone in denial:

  • Listen and empathize: Start by actively listening to their perspective without judgment. Make an effort to understand their feelings and concerns, which can create a sense of trust and openness.
  • Choose the right time and place: Find a suitable, private setting to have a calm and non-confrontational conversation. Avoid addressing the issue during emotional or stressful moments.
  • Express concern: Gently share your concern for their well-being. Use “I” statements to convey your feelings and observations without placing blame or sounding accusational, such as “I’m worried about your health” or “I’ve noticed changes in your behavior.”
  • Provide evidence: Offer factual information or examples that support your concerns. Be specific and non-accusatory, emphasizing your intention to help rather than blame.
  • Ask open-ended questions: Encourage them to reflect on their situation by asking open-ended questions. For instance, “How do you think this is affecting your life?” or “What do you see happening in the future if things continue this way?”
  • Suggest professional help: Gently recommend seeking expert advice or therapy. Assure them that professionals can provide compassionate and informed guidance and support.
  • Offer support: Let them know that you’re there to support them through the process, regardless of their decision. Reiterate your concern and willingness to assist.
  • Respect their choices: The decision to acknowledge the issue and seek help is theirs. It’s essential to respect their choices while maintaining your boundaries.

Helping someone in denial requires patience and understanding. It may take time for them to accept the reality of their situation, so be prepared for resistance. Continue to offer support, and if their denial puts them at risk, consider involving a professional or a support group to assist them in the journey towards acceptance and recovery.

Also, make sure to take your needs into account as you support them or remain in relationship with them. It’s important to support those you love, but if their refusal to help themselves starts hurting your own mental health and well-being, you may need to take a step back and draw some boundaries for yourself in the relationship.

How Do You Help Someone Who Won't Help Themselves?

Supporting someone who won’t help themselves, in terms of mental health and in life in general, can be difficult, but if you wish to continue supporting them, it’s important to approach them with patience and compassion. Here are some steps to help you assist them:

  1. Open communication: Begin by expressing your concern and willingness to listen without judgment. Encourage them to share their feelings, fears, or anxieties.
  2. Educate yourself: Learn about their specific mental health issues, if possible, to better understand their struggles and needs. This will show that you genuinely care and give you a better idea of how to approach the situation.
  3. Offer resources: Provide information about available mental health resources, such as therapists, support groups, or hotlines. Offer to help them find suitable options.
  4. Small acts of support: Offer assistance with daily tasks or activities that might be challenging for them. Sometimes, just taking small steps together can build momentum.
  5. Avoid pushing: While it’s important to encourage seeking help, avoid pushing them to take actions they’re not ready for. Respect their pace.
  6. Normalize seeking help: Share stories of people who have benefited from seeking professional help. This can reduce the stigma they feel around mental health treatment.
  7. Set boundaries: Maintain healthy boundaries to protect your well-being. You can’t force someone to seek help if they’re not ready, but you can express your own limits.
  8. Suggest self-care: Encourage them to do self-care practices like meditation, exercise, or journaling. These can be simple ways to start improving mental well-being.
  9. Seek support for yourself: Dealing with a loved one’s resistance to help can be emotionally taxing. Consider seeking support or guidance from a therapist or support group for caregivers.
  10. Emergency situations: If the person poses a danger to themselves or others, don’t hesitate to seek professional help or contact emergency services.

Remember that individuals struggling with their mental health may resist help for various reasons, including fear, shame, or denial. Be patient and continue offering your support. Though the decision to seek help has to come from them, your support can be a vital factor in their recovery journey.

Benefits of Therapy

Therapy, also known as psychotherapy, offers a wide range of benefits for individuals seeking support and guidance for their emotional and psychological well-being. 

Firstly, therapy provides a safe and confidential space for individuals to express their thoughts, feelings, and concerns without judgment, allowing them to gain a deeper understanding of their own experiences and their authentic selves. Therapists are trained to offer valuable insights and coping strategies, empowering clients to develop healthier ways of managing stress, anxiety, depression, and anything else they might be struggling with. 

Therapy can help individuals enhance their self-awareness, self-esteem, and interpersonal skills, ultimately leading to improved relationships and communication. Through this process of self-discovery, therapy can also help people identify and address unresolved traumas and emotional wounds, enabling them to work through past issues and find healing. 

Finally, therapy is also an effective tool for managing and preventing mental health disorders, promoting resilience, and building a foundation for overall emotional well-being. In summary, mental health therapy serves as a valuable resource for personal growth, emotional resilience, and the pursuit of a happier, more balanced life.

Though not everyone will be open to going to therapy, by doing what you can to encourage your loved ones to seek help, you are giving them a chance to improve their relationships, emotional well-being, and overall life experience. It’s difficult to stand by and watch your loved ones choose not to face their fears and get help, but continuing to offer support in any way you can is one of the best things you can do to help them. Choosing to change is a deeply personal process, and sometimes it takes time to come to terms with one’s situation. 

Table of contents

What If My Partner Does Not Want to Go to Therapy?

The Impact of Stigma and Misconceptions

How Do You Help Someone Who Doesn't Want to Go to Therapy?

How Do I Convince My Partner to Go to Therapy? Strategies for Approaching the Conversation

What Can You Say to Someone Who Needs Therapy but Refuses to Go?

Why Do Most People Avoid Therapy? Common Reasons for Resistance

Is It Normal to Not Want to Go to Therapy?

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Theresa Lupcho, LPC

Theresa Lupcho is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) with a passion for providing the utmost quality of services to individuals and couples struggling with relationship issues, depression, anxiety, abuse, ADHD, stress, family conflict, life transitions, grief, and more.

Kate Hanselman, PMHNP in New Haven, CT

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Kate Hanselman is a board-certified Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP-BC). She specializes in family conflict, transgender issues, grief, sexual orientation issues, trauma, PTSD, anxiety, behavioral issues, and women’s issues.

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Hannah DeWitt

Hannah is a Junior Copywriter at Thriveworks. She received her bachelor’s degree in English: Creative Writing with a minor in Spanish from Seattle Pacific University. Previously, Hannah has worked in copywriting positions in the car insurance and trucking sectors doing blog-style and journalistic writing and editing.

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  • Corrigan, P. W. (2002, February 1). Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness. PubMed Central (PMC).

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  • Originally published on February 27, 2018

    Author: Taylor Bennett

  • Updated on November 16, 2023

    Authors: Hannah DeWitt; Theresa Welsh, LPC

    Reviewer: Kate Hanselman, PMHNP

    Changes: Updated by a Thriveworks clinician in collaboration with our editorial team, adding sections on how to talk to partners and friends that don’t want to go to therapy, how to help people in denial or who refuse to go to therapy, the impact of stigma and misconceptions, whether it’s normal not to want to go to therapy, whether or not you should force someone to go to therapy, and the benefits of therapy; article was clinically reviewed to double confirm accuracy and enhance value.

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