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How To Convince Someone To Go to Therapy & Get Help

How To Convince Someone To Go to Therapy & Get Help

How To Convince Someone To Go To Therapy

Seeing a loved one struggle with their mental health is difficult. It can become even more challenging when you are aware that they would benefit from professional therapy. Unfortunately, it can be tough to tell someone they need therapy, and the improper approach could irritate the person or render them downright hostile.1

You can take steps to help and motivate someone to begin treatment, even when you can’t simply convince someone to go to therapy. There is, however, a productive way to tell someone they need mental help. Here are some actions you can take to explain to your loved one the advantages of going to therapy:

  • Show support: Social stigma exists due to misconceptions about mental health and therapy. Your loved ones might be aware of their need for assistance, but they may be reluctant to ask for it if they fear you will reject them or treat them differently. Be gentle in your approach and listen. It’s crucial to avoid using stigmatizing language while discussing mental health. Instead, ensure you’ll be there for them during the counseling process.
  • Go to therapy yourself: Don’t just tell. Show. Instead of telling the person how important counseling is, describe how the benefit of therapy affected you. Shifting the emphasis from an experience that is “wrong” to one that is normal, natural, and that others have handled aids in destigmatizing therapy. In addition, if you can share with someone the benefits of your own counseling experiences, that can assist in soothing any concerns.
  • Be sensitive to timing and location: Both physical and emotional sensitivity are necessary when you need to tell someone they need therapy. “Where” and “how” you present the subject could affect how someone responds to your recommendations. You shouldn’t begin this sensitive discussion in front of or at a place where others can overhear because that can be uncomfortable. And refrain from assembling a conversation a la intervention-style, as seen on TV. Allow the person you are trying to convince to decide if they want other people to know. Then, they’ll feel appreciated and in charge of their own care. Always approach the person when they are at ease, in a good mood, and unoccupied.
  • Prepare for resistance: Not everyone who hears about therapy will be open to giving it a shot. If your loved one rejects your advice, you must be ready to argue your point. You can do the following to emphasize the benefit of therapy:
    • Lovingly, try to use your connection as leverage. Tell your loved one how much you value the relationship. Avoid ultimatums.
    • Mention what you find admirable in them because it’s easier to win someone over by praising them. You could inspire them to take the required actions to develop themselves even further by highlighting their strengths.
    • Explain specific instances of problematic conduct, keeping in mind that most people who reject counseling can assert that they don’t have a problem. You can assist them in understanding the necessity of obtaining professional help by focusing on specific issues without coming across as judgmental.
  • Offer help: You can try to urge someone to seek treatment, but unless you’re prepared to provide substantive assistance, it may not convince someone to go to therapy. When seeking professional help, some are unsure of where to begin. Depending on their preferences, assist them in locating a therapist in their neighborhood or suggest telehealth therapy options. Research demonstrates that online counseling can be just as helpful for many mental illnesses as in-person therapy.2 In addition, you could speak with outpatient therapy clinics on their behalf. You can also research the reputations and evaluations of professionals to find them a qualified therapist. And if you have the means to do so, offer financial support. Unfortunately, not everyone has mental health insurance coverage, and money could likely be the very thing stopping an individual from seeking treatment. Furthermore, some are hesitant to participate in support groups or solo therapy sessions. Until they feel at ease, offer to accompany them. During their initial sessions, you can wait in the lobby. Assure them that you won’t eavesdrop on their conversations unless they specifically request it.

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What to Say & What Not to Say

Your loved one will likely respond defensively, so make a sincere effort to maintain your love and support rather than getting upset.3 When you suggest therapy to a friend, continue to use encouraging and supportive language and avoid certain phrases or terms.

The following is a list of what to say and what not to say when attempting to get someone to go to therapy:

use “I” statements, like “I love you very much, and I am concerned that things aren’t okay.” “You” statements, like “You seem depressed. You should go to therapy.
Here are all of the things I love about you: (list their best qualities).”You’re not yourself lately. I miss (list their positive attributes).”
Framing your recommendation as optional is helpful: “It’s really up to you.” or “I’m unsure if I’m right. It’s just a thought.”I know I’m right, and you should really take my advice.”
Make it clear that therapy may or may not help. For example, “Although there is no guarantee it will be worthwhile, the only way to find out is to give it a shot.”I promise therapy is exactly what you need.”
I know the name of someone I believe might be able to help. Would you like me to give their information to you?”I gave your information to someone I think might be able to help.”
Make it known that going to one session isn’t necessarily a long-term commitment unless the person wants it to be: “Meet with the therapist and decide if you’d like to meet with him again. The first session or sessions can help you decide if you think he might help.” You have to commit. One or two sessions won’t be enough.”

What Do You Do When Someone Won’t Go to Therapy?

Even though it is painful to witness someone you care about suffer, unless the person is in immediate danger of self-harm, all you can do is offer encouragement and reassurance. Remind that person that you are there for them at every turn.

You can feel helpless to take action if the person doesn’t consider your suggestions. However, you can still be there for your friend or loved one; you may simply need to change how you provide assistance.4

Can You Force Someone to See a Psychiatrist?

While you can’t force someone to see a psychiatrist, there are certain laws in place during a mental health crisis in the state of Tennessee.

According to Tennessee’s commitment statute,5 if a person fits all of the following criteria, they can be detained against their will and without a court order during a mental health crisis:

  • A person needs care, training, or therapy because of a mental health condition or severe emotional disturbance.
  • The individual poses an “instant considerable likelihood of serious harm.”
  • All less-severe options are insufficient in meeting their needs.

How to Be Supportive Throughout & After the Process?

First and foremost, it’s important never to be judgmental. Instead, always approach conversations with care and concern. Everyone needs emotional and mental support at some point in their lives. Judging someone’s behavior or needs will only discourage and not convince someone to go to therapy.

Below are a few key ways to remain supportive throughout and after the process:

  • Make yourself available: Keep being supportive. When your friend needs to talk, pay attention to them.
  • Continue to offer help: If and when your friend contacts you and requests advice, offer suggestions.
  • Become informed: Research the services in your area that might be useful to your friend. In this manner, you can direct them to whom to see if they decide they are ready to seek therapy.
  • Talk to someone yourself: You must take care of yourself as well. If a friend refuses help, it can be irritating and leave you feeling powerless. Talk about your feelings with a family member or trustworthy friend. Consider seeking treatment yourself, as this allows you to offer advice from experience.
  • Set boundaries: It won’t be possible for you to be there for everyone all the time—set limits for what you will and won’t do, and keep them.
  • Don’t press the issue: Even though your intentions may be good, if you try to coerce or force a friend to seek therapy, it may have the opposite impact of what you intended. It may even discourage the friend from ever attending therapy.
  • Don’t avoid your loved one: Your loved one will probably feel alone if you avoid them. It might also render them insecure when approaching you for support if and when they’re prepared to do so.


  1. Jones, Mike. “How to Encourage Someone to See a Therapist | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness.” National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), NAMI, 20 Nov. 2017, www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/November-2017/How-to-Encourage-Someone-to-See-a-Therapist.
  2. Pescatello, Meredith S., et al. “Treatment Engagement and Effectiveness of an Internet-Delivered Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Program at a University Counseling Center.” Taylor & Francis, Informa UK Limited, 6 Oct. 2020, www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10503307.2020.1822559?journalCode=tpsr20
  3. By Maury Joseph, PsyD, GoodTherapy.org Topic Expert. “How to Refer Someone to Therapy (and How Not To).” GoodTherapy.Org Therapy Blog, GoodTherapy, LLC, 21 June 2018, www.goodtherapy.org/blog/how-to-refer-someone-to-therapy-and-how-not-to-0621184.
  4. “What to Do When Someone Doesn’t Want Help.” ReachOut.Com, ReachOut Australia, au.reachout.com/articles/what-to-do-when-someone-doesnt-want-help. Accessed 27 June 2022.
  5. Bliss, Jessica, and Anita Wadhwani. “How Tennessee’s Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Law Works.” The Tennessean, Tennessean.com, 18 Nov. 2018, eu.tennessean.com/story/news/2018/11/18/mental-illness-involuntary-psychiatric-commitment-tennessee/1580525002.

If you suspect that you or someone you love suffers from mental health disorders, contact Athena Care today.

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