How to Help Someone Refusing to Attend Therapy

One of the most powerless feelings in the world is seeing someone you love struggling with their mental health and not being able to help them. Our natural inclination is to encourage, or sometimes even demand, that they access the therapy that we believe they will need to feel better. However, when it comes to mental health, it’s not always easy to convince our loved ones to see their path to healing as clearly as we may see it ourselves.

Opening the Door

The most effective way to encourage someone to see a therapist is to gently open the door to the idea and let them take the first step. To facilitate this process, you could do some of your own research and narrow down a list of therapists or clinics in your area that you feel might be a good fit. There are many factors to consider when choosing a therapist such as cost, location, experience and training. The therapeutic relationship will likely be very important for someone who is reluctant or ambivalent about the idea of attending therapy. Many therapists provide a detailed biography or video introduction on their website or may offer a free consultation to help figure out if they may be a good fit for your needs. Sticking with therapy will take some effort and energy and this process will be made easier if the therapeutic connection is established early in the process.

Choosing The Right Therapist

It is also important to acknowledge that there are multiple ways to access support and individual therapy is not the only option. Engaging your loved one in coming up with a plan together can help them feel more empowered and is more likely to lead to a successful outcome. Of course, it’s always a bit easier if your loved one recognizes that they are struggling and asks for help. In this situation, you can listen, be present and reassure them that they aren’t alone and you are there for them. It is more difficult when you witness them struggling with their mood or behaviours, but any attempts to bring it up are met with resistance. In these situations, you can express your concerns through your lens, explaining why you are worried and how you would like to help.

Get Your Own Help

I often encourage concerned individuals to participate in their own therapy sessions even if their partner or loved one is reluctant or refuses to attend. This provides you with the opportunity to explore the impact of your loved one’s mental health struggles on you and your relationship. By getting your own help, you can model healthy behaviour and normalize that everyone needs help sometimes. If your loved one continues to struggle with their mental health and is not willing to engage in treatment or solutions, you may need this support to continue to protect your mental health and wellbeing.


If you are concerned about someone’s mental health and functioning, know that you are not alone and there is help available to support you. Understanding the supports and resources that are available for you and your loved one is an important part of the process. You don’t have to wait until they hit ‘rock bottom’ in order to facilitate the process of accessing mental health care. Your willingness to be there with them as they experience distress in their lives is probably the most valuable resource that they already have.  You can also visit our resource page to learn more about local resources in our area and to meet our therapists.

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