How to get a resistant child into therapy


How do you get a depressed child into therapy when he just doesn't want to go? You can't force them, but there are some tactics that may help persuade them. GMA parenting contributor and author Ann Pleshette Murphy has advice for parents trying to get a resistant child into therapy.

How to get a resistant child into therapy
  • The biggest reason your child may be resisting therapy is the stigma associated with seeing a psychiatrist. You may well get resistance if your child thinks that you think he's "crazy." Make it clear that you don't think that, and try to normalize the experience of being in therapy. If you’ve ever seen a therapist, talk about it.
  • Tell your child that therapy is a gift…that it really can help them. And help them understand that mental health is as important as physical health and your family values good health in all respects. It’s no different than when they have a physical symptom.

If they still resist therapy:

  • You can’t physically force them into an office, but you can try to go as a family. If the depression manifests itself in rage, if moodiness is destroying family life, it is a family issue and can be treated as such.
  • One sign of depression can be drug use, which becomes a different set of problems, but don’t try to do an intervention on your own. Seek the advice of a professional.

KATRINA: I'm Katrina Szish for I'm joined by Ann Pleshette Murphy, parenting expert and author of The Seven Stages of Motherhood. Nice to see you Ann.

ANN: Nice to be here. 

KATRINA: How do you get a kid into therapy if they don't want to go? Because you know there's the old cliche, obviously, they have to want to be helped in order to be helped, but they might not want to do that. It might cramp their style or their image which is all important in the teenage years.

ANN: Well I think the biggest hurdle in getting kids to get help is that there still is a stigma associated with going to see a psychiatrist. You know, what do you think, there's something wrong with me? You know I don't have a big problem--I'm not a psycho, why are you wanting me to see a psychiatrist--so you absolutely may get that resistance. I think the important thing is to try and normalize it. Talk about your own experiences if you've ever seen a counselor or a therapist. To say how this is actually a real gift, I mean in fact if you can take care of your own mental health needs this is as important as taking care of you physical health. And that that as a family you value. So if you can, again, stress that you're not doing this because you think they're "mental" or that there's something really wrong with them, but you're concerned, and any more than if they had a physical symptom this is something you think merits attention. You can start with that.

KATRINA: If they still refuse after that, but you know that they need help what do you do? 

ANN: Well I think it's really hard, I mean you can't physically force someone into an office. One of the things you can try is say that you want to talk as a family and to try again, especially if the depression is manifesting itself in a lot of rage or you're having fights all the time or you think that the anger that's being expressed, the moodiness, is just destroying the family life.

KATRINA: Would that be considered an intervention essentially?  

ANN: Yeah I know it's very hard to stage an intervention. Again one of the signs of depression can be drug use and drug abuse. So, that, you know, becomes a whole other problem insteads of problems that have to be dealt with by having an intervention stage and not improvised. You need someone who can really show you and help you do that.

KATRINA: Okay Ann Pleshette Murphy thank you so much for all of your great advice.

ANN: Thanks.  

meet theexpert
  • Ann Pleshette

    Ann Pleshette Parenting Contributor, Good Morning America, ABC Ann Pleshette Murphy has been the Parenting Contributor for Good Morning America since November 1998, and her “American Family” segments are a recurring feature on GMA. Murphy is the author of The 7 Stages of Motherhood: Loving Your Life Without Losing Your Mind (Anchor Books) and travels the country speaking to mothers’ groups about such themes as striking a balance between work and family, wrestling with guilt and setting loving limits. She was Editor-in-Chief of Parents magazine from 19 more about this expert »

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