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In this article, I am going to help show you how to tell your parents you need therapy. Telling loved ones you want to get help is not an easy conversation, you are not alone in having a tough time telling your parents you need therapy.
- How to tell your parents you need therapy
- Choose an appropriate time to tell them
- Talk about how you’re feeling
- Talk about why you think therapy could help
- Help them better understand what therapy is
- Prepare yourself for questions
- Expect mixed reactions and be prepared for resistance
- Remind them that this is about you
- Hear them out
- Be patient
- Show them that you’re taking this seriously
- Encourage them to research therapy
- Be open to other options
- Keep trying, keep talking
- Thank them for listening
- Keep your parents in the know
So many of us reach a point in life where we feel like we just can’t do it alone anymore. Whether that’s just making it through until the end of each day or trying to improve our lives but getting nowhere. Once we get to this point, even though we aren’t the only ones going through it, it can feel incredibly lonely.
When the going gets tough, and all we start to notice are the people around us carrying on with their lives, it’s easy to feel like the odd one out. No matter how loving or supportive you’ve always considered your parents to be, that doesn’t make it any easier to open up about the fact that you’re so different from everyone else. While this is hardly the case, it may be how you feel, and your feelings are valid.
What if I disappoint them?
What if they already know?
How awkward will that be?
What if they brush it all off and don’t take this seriously?
What if, after all this, they don’t agree to help me seek therapy?
These are just some of the questions that might be circling your mind right now, making you feel worried, anxious, or afraid. As you work up the courage to tell your parents you need therapy, remember that the only thing worse than how alone you feel right now would be dealing with this alone. And you already know that otherwise, you wouldn’t be here seeking advice on how to tell your parents you need therapy. And that’s a really big step!
It can be scary to open up about your feelings, but it’s also great news that you want to get better. Your needs may or may not be different than any your parents have dealt with before, but if you want help, and your parents want what’s best for you, the only thing that’s left to do is decide how to tell your parents you need therapy – and we have 15 tips to help tell your parents you need therapy!
How to Tell Your Parents You Need Therapy
Below is a list of 15 helpful ways to broach your parents on the topic of needing to go to therapy. If you are struggling from situational anxiety, crippling depression, stress, BPD or any other mental health struggle a professional therapist or counselor is a good friend to have.
1. Choose an appropriate time to tell them
Make sure you plan to have enough time to talk with them – not on a night when you know your parents have plans. Make sure you are in a place where you won’t be distracted or interrupted and that you don’t interrupt a serious conversation or argument. Other than that, try not to overthink it or wait for the perfect time!
2. Talk about how you're feeling
Your parents will appreciate your honesty and openness, so try to be as upfront as possible. It’s okay if you don’t have all the answers or labels to explain what’s going on with you.
You can start by sharing any negative thoughts or feelings you’ve been having. For example, “I’m not feeling like my usual self these days. I feel sad and discouraged all the time, and I know that something isn’t right.”
Don’t feel like you have to share everything, either. It’s okay to keep some things private if you’re not ready to talk about them yet – or at least not with them.
3. Talk about why you think therapy could help
If you can, try to articulate why you think therapy could be helpful for you. This doesn’t have to be a long explanation – just let them know why this is something you’re interested in and what you’re hoping to get out of therapy. Our article on how to get the most out of therapy can help you with this.
4. Help them better understand what therapy is
Explain that therapy is a way to get help without relying on or jumping straight to medication. This will reassure your parents that you want the most holistic and lasting approach to getting better.
Let them know that therapy isn’t just for people dealing with big problems and crises – it’s also a great place for people to go when they’re feeling generally happy but want to explore their emotions and get some extra guidance.
5. Prepare yourself for questions
Your parents are likely to have questions for you, so it’s helpful to prepare some answers in advance. This will show that you’ve put thought into this decision, and it will also make the conversation go more smoothly.
Give them some background about why you’re seeking therapy now – if there’s any reason, in particular, that has prompted this decision, share it with them. Help them understand why you feel therapy is urgent and the most viable solution.
6. Expect mixed reactions and be prepared for resistance
Not everyone will react the same way to the news that you need therapy – your parents may be supportive, or they may be hesitant. Try not to take their reaction too personally.
Your parents might not be thrilled with the idea of you going to therapy, but know that this might just be coming from a place of worry, shock, or denial. It’s important to be prepared for some pushback and understand that they may need some time to come around to this idea.
7. Remind them that this is about you
Make sure to stress that this is about getting help for yourself and not about them. Therapy is about you, not them.
Use “I” statements – For example, “I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately” or “I’m not sure how to stop feeling this way.”
Reassure them that they haven’t done anything wrong to cause this but that you are curious to know what is.
8. Hear them out
The best way to approach telling someone you need therapy is by thinking about it as a conversation rather than a one-way disclosure.
This means that it’s important to start with listening to what your parents have to say – what they might already know and how they feel about it. You can start by seeing if there’s anything your parents want to ask you about first before you jump into the other details.
9. Be patient
It may take some time for your parents to come around to the idea of therapy. Be patient and keep talking to them about it – eventually, they may be more open to it.
10. Show them that you're taking this seriously
Let them know that this isn’t something you’re taking lightly – you’ve thought about it long and hard and believe therapy is something you really believe could help you.
If your parents are still unsure about therapy, show them that you’re taking this decision seriously. Once you start therapy, be sure you attend all of your appointments and take your therapy homework seriously. It might go without saying, but do this first and foremost for yourself!
11. Encourage them to research therapy
Encourage them to do their own research on therapy. This can help them better understand what therapy is and how it could help you.
It might also help to reference a friend or family member who’s been in therapy if that person has openly disclosed that information. This can help them understand that therapy is a common and accepted practice.
12. Be open to other options
If your parents just aren’t comfortable with the idea of therapy yet, try to be understanding. Talk to them about other ways to get support and see what they say – for example, maybe they would feel better if you talked to a school counselor or other trusted adult.
No matter what, you can still talk to a trusted mentor, counselor, or teacher to help you take the next steps forward.
13. Keep trying, keep talking!
If things don’t go as you had hoped the first time around, plan another time for you all to sit down and talk. Let your parents know that you’d like to set aside time to talk again, and ask them when they will be free.
14. Thank them for listening
At the end of the conversation, thank your parents for listening. Let them know that you appreciate their support, even if they aren’t quite there yet.
15. Keep your parents in the know
Once you start counseling or therapy, be sure to keep your parents in the loop. Make sure to keep your parents updated on any progress you’re making, as well as any challenges you’re facing. This will help them feel more connected to your journey, and it will also make them more likely to be supportive in the future.
If your parents are still hesitant or unsure, encourage them to talk to your therapist. This will give them a chance to ask any questions they have, and it will also help your therapist build a relationship with them.
Can A Therapist Tell Your Parents Anything?
You might be afraid that a therapist will just spill all of your secrets to your parents but don’t worry, they won’t. Therapists are bound by legal and ethical rules that protect your confidentiality (privacy) within the therapy sessions.
However, one exception is if your therapist believes you are a danger to yourself or others. For instance, if you have threatened suicide, they would be obligated to inform a parent or guardian or consult with a doctor or psychiatrist to coordinate care. In these cases, they would need your written permission first.
That said, confidentiality is one of the foundations of therapy. Still, it’s okay to feel unsure or uneasy about opening up. No matter what, you can always ask your therapist any questions you have about their confidentiality policies before you start.
Do You Have To Tell Your Parents About Therapy?
No, you do not need to tell your parents about therapy.
There’s no legal or ethical obligation to tell your parents that you’re seeking therapy – as long as you are at least 18. You will need a parent’s permission in many states if you’re under 18.
Even if you don’t need your parent’s consent, it’s a good idea to check in with them first if you want them to support you – whether emotionally, financially, or both.
In some cases, you might not feel safe talking to your parents about therapy. Or, after applying the below tips on how to tell your parents you need therapy, they still may not get behind it. In either of these instances, know that you still have options!
If you’re a minor and don’t talk to your parents because you don’t feel safe, or they refuse to sign off on sessions for you after asking, you can seek help from a licensed counselor, such as one at your school, without their consent. If you don’t want to speak to your counselor, they can still help you find a solution to your situation.
How Do I Tell My Friends About My Need For Therapy?
Sometimes it might seem helpful or necessary to talk to others about your need for support, such as your friends or colleagues. For instance, maybe you’ve been avoiding them lately because you’ve felt so anxious or depressed, and you feel like they have a right to know. Remember that you don’t have to share anything you’re not ready to, so just start by assuring them it isn’t personal.
If you want to explain a bit more but aren’t sure what to say, talk about how your current struggles make you feel. Focus on your symptoms and explain how they’ve been affecting your life. For example, “I wake up feeling so discouraged, tired, and unmotivated that it’s been difficult for me to make an effort with everything – not just friendships – but I want that to change.”
Some of you may just want to communicate that you need some space and time to yourself. In either case, it still helps to be as open and specific as you are willing to be. Whether friends or co-workers, you might start by sharing that you feel overwhelmed and need time to focus on yourself.
You could also talk about friends or co-workers who may have gone through therapy and ask what that was like for them. It can be a tremendous source of encouragement and comfort to not only know you aren’t alone but to possibly recognize in their stories some ways therapy might help you too.
The best way to tell your parents you want to go to therapy is to bring it up in conversation when you all are together and not in a rush to do anything else. Give your parents time to digest what your asking and let them ask questions to help better understand.
No, therapists do not tell your parents what you say. What you say to your therapist, legally stays with them.
Yes you can go to therapy without telling your parents.
Yes, you should tell your mom you need therapy. Let her support you in your therapy needs.