How to Convince Someone to Go to Therapy (Plus Scripts to Use!)
Whether it’s your partner, a friend, or a family member, encouraging someone you love to go to therapy is never easy.
Seeing a loved one in pain can be distressing. It can also be frustrating when someone refuses to work on their negative behaviour.
As an intake specialist, I’ve heard it all. Loved ones come up with all kinds of reasons not to go to therapy:
- “I’m fine”
- “Therapy won’t work on me”
- “I don’t have time to go to therapy”
- “I’ve tried therapy before and it didn’t help”
- “I don’t need therapy, I have people I can talk to”
If you’ve heard someone you care about say that, you may feel exasperated.
In this article, you will learn what steps you can take to encourage someone to go to therapy. By the end, you’ll have a better idea of what you can do to avoid defensiveness, shame, or resistance from the other person.
2 Reasons You May Try to Convince Someone to Go to Therapy
Those struggling to convince someone to get therapy are usually in one of two positions:
1. If you think someone close to you is struggling with anxiety, depression, or another mental health condition, you likely want to help relieve their pain.
2. You may believe someone’s negative behaviour is the result of their mental health, and although you love them, you find yourself getting more resentful or frustrated when you’re around them.
Regardless of the situation, getting help for mental health is a touchy topic that must be handled with patience and care. Let’s break down five steps to have a meaningful and constructive conversation about getting therapy.
How to Approach Someone You Love About Getting Help
Approaching someone in the wrong way can do more harm than good. Here are 5 steps to make sure you increase the chances of your loved one attending therapy.
1. Be mindful of the time and place
This is one of the most overlooked but important steps when talking to someone about attending therapy.
Avoid bringing up the topic when you’re in the following circumstances:
- When you’re in an argument
- When you’re in a public setting (e.g., a family gathering)
- When one or both of you are angry, actively stressed, or very upset
- When they’re dealing with time-sensitive things (e.g., a tight work deadline)
Approach the person when you’re both relaxed, in a good mood, and a private place.
Before starting the conversation, check in. Questions like, “do you have time to talk?” can help set you both up for success.
2. Frame therapy as a resource, not as ammo
Unfortunately, we live in a world that stigmatises mental health. As a result, many people see therapy as a negative, shameful thing.
Even when the conversation is approached with the best intentions, it is easy for someone to hear, “there’s something wrong with you” when the topic of therapy is broached.
If you’re frustrated by your loved one, your frustration may also transform into judgement.
When you approach your loved one about therapy, try to be nonjudgmental, and emphasize that this is not an attack.
A good approach is to echo their sentiments. If they’ve told you about issues they’ve had for a long time, repeating their words back to them in a compassionate manner may be eye-opening.
Touch on what you’ve seen, and how therapy could help. Using ‘I’ instead of ‘you’ statements can be useful.
“You’ve been so angry and out of control lately. You need to go to therapy.”
“I’ve noticed that you mentioned work has frustrated you a lot lately. I think therapy could help relieve some of those feelings.”
For couples counselling, try using a carrot-and-stick approach. This doesn’t mean presenting ultimatums, it means highlighting the benefits of therapy, and the potential downsides of not attending.
“If we don’t go to therapy, I’m moving out.”
“I think therapy could help us have more constructive conversations. Arguing less often would make me feel less stressed, and be more loving towards you.”
“I worry that if we continue arguing the same way, I’m going to grow more and more resentful and distant.”
3. Prepare for defensiveness
Whether it's your first time bringing up therapy, or you’ve spoken about it before, your loved one may be defensive.
If your loved one shows resistance, try to avoid a ‘you versus them’ dynamic. Highlight the fact that you are on their side and coming from a place of love.
It may be useful to emphasize your relationship. Stating how important they are to you and how much you care about them may help diminish their defensiveness.
It is also helpful to name their strengths. When approaching someone about mental health, they may feel belittled.
A common misconception about therapy is that it is for people who are weak or incapable. Letting them know that you know they’re smart, capable, and strong can help offset that resistance.
4. Help them set up a session
If a loved one is struggling with their mental health, they may not have the energy or capacity to go through the process of finding a therapist.
If you’re able, helping out with the logistics can help. Making phone calls, setting up appointments, or even driving them to a session can relieve their stress. This may make them more likely to begin their therapeutic journey.
Let them know if you’re willing and able to lend a helping hand. Do not surprise them with a booked session; talk through things first.
5. Don’t force it
When you care about someone, it can be hard to watch them go through mental health issues without addressing them. Unfortunately, there’s only so much you can do, and you may need to accept that they won’t attend therapy sessions.
Pushing the matter past someone’s breaking point may do more harm than good. That doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do. Oftentimes, people need time to wrap their minds around the idea. If your loved one doesn’t want therapy try:
- Sharing your own experiences with therapy to reduce shame and stigma
- Remaining open if they ask questions about therapy in the future
- Sharing other resources, like podcasts, blogs, or books
While it may be difficult to accept, you will need to recognize when it's time to stop trying.
The exception is if you believe your loved one may be in crisis and a danger to themselves or others. In this case, reach out to your local emergency services.
Accepting that your loved one won’t go to therapy can also be a good time to start focusing on your self-care. If their condition actively causes you frustration, exhaustion, or deep sadness, it may be time to consider what steps you need to take to improve your mental health.
Do you need to set better boundaries? Do you need to focus on your goals? Perhaps you need to consider whether you would benefit from therapy.
The Next Steps to See Your Loved One Thrive
Therapy is a tricky subject to discuss that only gets trickier when you try to convince someone else to attend sessions.
It can be exhausting to feel like your words are falling on deaf ears, and it can be painful to see someone you love going through a difficult time.
Using the strategies in this article can help you better express your concerns and recognize when it’s time to stop trying.
Here at KMA Therapy, we provide a nonjudgmental space to talk through your problems. We’ve worked with clients who are hesitant about therapy, and with the support of our therapists, those clients have come up with goals and strategies to overcome their issues.
Whatever they choose, we want to see you and your loved one succeed.
If you want to share more information with your loved one, try one of the articles below:
- Is Therapy Worth the Cost?
- Will Psychotherapy Help Me?
- Will Couples Counselling Help My Relationship?
- What Should I Expect in an Introductory Therapy Appointment?