6 Ways to Help a Loved One Realize They Need Therapy

Content medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet, PMHNP-BC, on February 18, 2021.

If someone you love is living with an untreated substance use or mental health disorder, it's essential to help them get therapy to turn their life around. But, when learning how to convince someone to seek counseling, the actions become more challenging than the intent. First, you need to know that they need help. Watch out for signs of an addiction or mental health issue, such as struggles at school or work, temper outbursts, lack of self-care, withdrawing from others or mood swings. Once you see that your loved one needs help, start the process of convincing them by starting independent research.

How to Tell Someone They Need Therapy

Before you sit down with your loved one or family member for an intervention, gather as much information as you can. You want to speak with facts and kindness when you discuss your concerns. To lessen the chances of your conversation turning into a confrontation, apply the following to your method.

1. Do Research Into Their Behavior

Learn as much as you can about the substance your loved one uses. For instance, if they misuse alcohol, find out about the symptoms of alcohol use, the physical and mental consequences of not getting treatment and how addiction therapy can help. The more you know about how the substance affects your family member's body and mind, the better you can embrace them with caring and love instead of anger.

Also, when addressing their behavior, be specific about the problem and how it worries you.

2. Start the Conversation at the Right Time

Be sensitive about the timing of your conversation. Try not to bring up the topic when you or your loved one is upset. Entering into a delicate discussion about therapy when one of you is already in a heightened mood can increase the chances of emotions steering the discussion.

Bring your loved one to a quiet, private place where there's no chance of anyone else overhearing. Also, make sure they are physically, mentally and emotionally comfortable before beginning. You don't want to try convincing them to go to therapy if they're distracted because they are tired, hungry, thirsty or stressed.

3. Use "I" Rather Than "You" Statements

When you talk about your concerns, choose to use "I" as the subject instead of "you." For example, rather than saying, "You embarrassed the family when you got arrested for drunk driving," say, "I was so worried and scared when I heard you'd gotten a DUI." Changing the statements to be about your feelings takes the shame off your loved one. They may be more willing to listen if they don't feel you are blaming them.

4. Don't Use Judgmental Language

Stigmatizing language about mental health issues, such as "crazy" or "abnormal," is not healthy to use in society or when talking to family members about therapy. Avoid using these terms. Instead, express your concern in non-judgmental ways. Let them tell you their side of the story and listen without interrupting.

5. Demonstrate Support and Concern

Show that you will support them through the recovery process by starting with addressing your concerns for their well-being. Let them know that you want them to go to therapy because they need help and you love them. Keep reminding them that your advice about getting treatment for a substance use disorder or mental health condition is a show of compassion and concern.

6. Offer to Go Together

Therapy can be intimidating for someone who's never seen a professional counselor before, and cost can be another barrier to treatment. Offer to accompany them to their first few therapy sessions or even to pay for their initial treatment. Showing your support in this way can remove these excuses.

How to Help Someone Who Refuses Therapy

In many cases, your loved one may feel defensive and deny that they need therapy. However, you should persist and use gentle ways to nudge them toward getting help. Don't give up on trying to get mental help for your loved one. They deserve to find support for their condition.

If your loved one lives with you, consider leveraging privileges such as not letting them use the car to go on social outings. Don’t forget to mention how much you treasure your relationship, and how sad you'd be if something happened to them because they didn't get help. If you need support from other family members or loved ones for this process, be careful. You don’t want to overwhelm the person you are trying to convince or make them feel that the family is "ganging up" on them. Use your discretion when choosing how many people to invite to participate in the discussion.

When using gentle prodding methods to encourage a family member or loved one to get help, don't rely on making ultimatums. This tactic will result in your loved one feeling trapped, and you will have to fulfill your promise if they persist in refusing treatment.

Can You Force Someone to Get Mental Help?

In rare instances in California, you can have a loved one involuntarily committed under Section 5150. However, this law only applies after someone meets specific criteria.

First, your loved one must have a severe psychiatric condition that causes them to be a danger to themselves, others or have such a grave disability they cannot care for themselves independently.

Designated mental health professionals and peace officers are the only ones who can make an on-site assessment and fill out the forms for involuntary confinement. Therefore, you would need to call the police, your loved one's doctor or a local hospital if you need advice on whether you can have your family member involuntarily committed. These contacts can put you in touch with the appropriate authorities in your area to get your loved one the help they need.

Only peace officers or mental health professionals the county has appointed to the task can transfer the person to a facility for up to 72 hours. During their 72-hour stay at a mental health facility, they will undergo evaluation and assessment.

What Happens Once You Convince Someone to Go to Therapy?

If your family member or loved one needs therapy and finally feels convinced that they need to go, contact us at Diamond House Detox in California. We have several addiction therapy programs available to meet our clients' many needs. Explore these options to help those with substance use issues to find the right choice to suit them. One of the hardest parts of recovery is convincing someone to go to therapy and having them accept your suggestion. After that, treatment and the road to healing can begin.


  1. https://diamondhousedetox.com/contact-us/
  2. https://diamondhousedetox.com/addiction-therapy/
  3. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displayText.xhtml?lawCode=WIC&division=5.&title=&part=1.&chapter=2.&article=1
Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner at Diamond House Detox
Vicky is a board certified Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. She began her nursing career in healthcare by working in the intensive care unit, and then an inpatient psychiatric hospital. After realizing the mental health needs of both the patients and the families she served, she became a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Throughout her experience working with clients, she has developed a passion for those with dual diagnoses and specializes in helping individuals recognize the issues driving their substance use. This recognition has been crucial to the individual’s success in treatment. Vicky opened Diamond House Detox so that she can address these issues early on in a therapeutic environment to allow clients to transition to the next level in their recovery.
Vicky Magobet
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