How to Encourage Someone to See a Therapist

By Mike Jones | Nov. 20, 2017


It’s hard to watch someone you care about struggle with their mental health. It’s even worse when you know they could benefit from professional help. Approaching an individual and encouraging them to seek therapy can be a tricky situation. If done the wrong way, you could aggravate the person or turn them against the idea entirely. However, there is an effective way to have this conversation.

Here are some steps you can take to tell your loved one about the benefits of seeking therapy.

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Misconception about mental health and therapy has intensified stigma in society. Your loved one may be aware that they need help, but may be afraid to seek it if they think you will judge or treat them differently. Therefore, it is essential to use non-stigmatizing language when talking with them about their mental health. Assure them that you will support them through the therapy process.

Demi Lovato is one of the most vocal celebrities about her mental health issues. She mentioned on multiple occasions how important it was for her to have people around that really care about her wellbeing. She credits her support group for being able to go through everyday life. Demi asks for advice from her loved ones and asks them to let her know when they feel something’s off: "So whether it's with my management team or with my friends, every choice that I make, I run by people. And that's what's really helped me—vocalizing what you need."

Be Sensitive to Timing and Place

Talking to someone about mental health requires emotional sensitivity as well as physical sensitivity. The “where” and “how” the topic is presented may determine how a person reacts to your suggestions. Your loved one may not be as bold as Kesha when she shared her condition and struggles with the world while receiving an award.

Don’t start this delicate conversation in front of other people or where others can hear as this may cause discomfort. And avoid grouping up in an intervention-style conversation as people do on TV shows. Allow the person struggling to decide whether they want others to know. This way, they feel respected and in control of their own treatment.

Also: Avoid talking to someone when they are in a bad mood, tired, have tight deadlines at work or if they’re doing something important. They may dismiss you or disregard the weight of the topic. Approach the person when they’re in a good mood, relaxed and undistracted. Try as much as possible to keep the conversation private, friendly and relaxed.

Prepare for Resistance

Not all people who hear about therapy will be willing to try it out. You need to be prepared to make your case if your loved one resists your suggestion. Here are some ideas that you can use to highlight the importance of therapy:

  • Try to use your relationship as leverage, in a loving way. Whether you’re their sibling, friend, spouse or relative, tell them how important your relationship with them is to you. And how it could benefit from their seeking therapy. However, avoid giving an ultimatum as it can cause emotional distress.
  • Name their admirable qualities. It’s easier to appeal to someone by pointing out what you like about them. When you point out someone’s positive qualities, they will be motivated to take the necessary steps to better themselves even further.
  • Explain specific areas of problematic behavior. Most people who refuse therapy may claim that they don’t have a problem. By pointing out specific problems without coming off as judgmental, you can help them see the need for seeking professional help.

Offer to Help

You can try to embolden someone to go to therapy, but unless you are willing to offer meaningful support, it’s not going to encourage them. Some people do not know where to start when seeking help. Guide them in finding a suitable therapist in the area, depending on their preferences. You can contact offices on their behalf or research various professionals, their credibility and reviews.

Some people are scared of seeing a therapist alone or signing up for group therapy. Offer to go with them until they’re comfortable. You can sit in the waiting room during their first few sessions. Make sure to assure them that you won’t ask prying questions about the counseling unless they want to share.

Seeking therapy is one of the best steps that a person with a mental health condition can take. However, it’s an effort that requires great strength and courage. Share your suggestions as openly as possible and leave them to make the decision that best suits their needs. Above all things, assure them of your continued love and support throughout the process.


Mike Jones, owner, and contributor at Schiz Life, is fighting against mental illness stereotypes. He has immersed himself into the schizophrenia community and is offering advice regularly on specific treatments, tips for diagnosis, and differences between this condition and other mental disorders. Mike is passionate about fitness, clean eating and sudoku. You can follow Mike on Twitter @mike_jones35

francesca Galeffi
i tried to convince my partne of 20 years to go to the doctor in the best way I could. He has become verbally abusive toward me and after coming back from visiting my family he started yelling me to get the f...k out of the house. The he ates me and he if i love him I should leave...immediately.
Every time I approach him nicely telling him that i am concerned and I love him he starts yelling and telling that I am crazy and just like his parents (that were and are abusive and not loving and don't call him anymore). i guess form is too late i didn't see the signs of whatever is happening to him earlier when we were still talking. Anyway I can still help him?
12/3/2017 10:15:24 AM

Susan Moore-Magee
Would like to discuss motivational interviewing skills for those suffering with addictions
12/1/2017 11:31:38 PM

I recently attended a Mental Health First Aid Training Class in which how to approach and help an individual struggling with Mental Illness and Suicidal thoughts in seeing a Mental Health Professional was discussed. It was noted that we may not always be the right person to vocalize concerns. We can find someone the struggling person is receptive to, as this may make the difference of embracing the counseling versus opposing it. I really appreciate how wording comes into play. By recognizing mental illness as separate from the individual, we subconsciously create a line drawn between them and the illness. For example, saying someone HAS Bipolar Disorder as opposed to they ARE Bipolar makes a giant difference in how we conceptualize ourselves.
11/30/2017 6:15:28 PM

Prudence Tolliver
Let's fight mental illness together. Fight the stigma of mental illness
11/30/2017 6:12:15 PM

Ginger Nettleton
My husband and I are currently going for counseling on this particular subject for our loved one who doesn't see the need and refuses to get help. We went through the 12 week NAMI Family to Family support group and now in private counseling. Right now we can't bring the subject up. We are ready though for the future and hopefully we will have the opportunity later. Wish there was more magic help.
11/30/2017 4:03:36 PM

Eileen Branda
Wonderful words of wisdom.
Thank you.
11/30/2017 3:45:54 PM

Connie Lavallee
My comment is frm a different angle. I am the one who needed help. I now see a therapist occasionally and see a psychiatrist every month for my meds. But the problem is my husband is not very understanding or compassionate. Hd kept telljng me I needed to get some help. My mental issues has caused me not yo be abke tk wirk. I haven't worked in over a year. Diagnosed with adult ADD, depression, & PTSD along with skne medical problems. I am labeled as disabled but not getting any disability benefits as of yet. I have become a burden to my husband. The upsets I have to go thru every month just to get him to pay for the dr visit and my meds is ridiculous. Everything but refused last month. Seems like it causes my mentalto be unhealthy. I have been a nurse for 40 years and now I feel worthless.
Like you said if someone needs help, be very kind, compassionate, patient, and understanding after they has sought out help. Unless you are walking in their shoes at that moment don't try to fix them or act like they should be showing signs of improvement.
Just saying.....
11/30/2017 2:38:35 PM

Lizanne Corbit
I think this is a wonderfully honest, insightful, and helpful read. Seeking/seeing a therapist can be a hesitant process for many. Patience and support are so critical at this time, and throughout the process. Helping a person to make their own decision, is empowering.
11/27/2017 10:08:07 PM

deborah j. walden
Wow...this is very helpful as i try to support and be there for family member(s) . Thanks a mil!
11/27/2017 12:13:22 PM

Sandip Chattopadhyay
This is a very helpful discussion. Talking with someone with mental illness about his or her illness is very delicate and needs to be handled as such. Empathy, love and patience are very valuable tools. Overcoming anosognosia is hard.
11/26/2017 12:49:27 PM

Lizanne Corbit
I think this is such an important topic to discuss and this post is wonderfully helpful. I think the biggest keys here are being sensitive to timing and preparing for resistance. This can be a very delicate process so it's important to be mindful that your timeline may differ from theirs. Patience, understanding, and support are all "must-haves" during this process. Wonderful read.
11/20/2017 5:56:45 PM

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