How to Encourage Someone to See a Therapist

NOV. 20, 2017

By Mike Jones


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.

Show Support

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


SEP, 01, 2018 09:00:35 PM
Hi, I really need advice. My friend has really bad dreprssion to the point where she has become only school oriented, even though we just started. I really think she need professional help, but I’m not in the position to tell her or her family that, she’s become very ‘robotic’ almost. I love her a lot and I just want the best for her.

AUG, 24, 2018 01:11:40 AM
Jonathan Wiggins
Needs some help

AUG, 21, 2018 11:31:19 AM
GLORIA Tylenda
I was wrong

AUG, 03, 2018 11:37:14 AM
My mother suffers from mental illness. She has refused help for decades to the point of disowning everyone in her life. It’s hard because I am now an adult with my own career and life. Husband, no children but a home and responsibilities. And now my mother has decided to come back into my life. Which is great, but she has caused me so much trouble along the way. Running up debts in my name. Abandoning her apartments and leaving me to clean up the mess. Borrowing money off my family members, and then lying to me saying she didnt... so weird. and when I try to address these issues she takes off. I love my mom. I was raised with such a big heart. But when does someone have enough? When I offer to help her get help, she gets mad and defensive. So I’m at all wits end here. She also is being asked to move out of her current residents in a couple of months, and I can’t bare to watch my husband lose it if and when she tries to move back in with us after what she’s done to us in the past. I just want her to get better, but everyone in my life tells me she’s so toxic towards me. I’m lost

JUL, 16, 2018 07:44:23 PM
I have this friend who is depressed and she refuses to get help. She has resorted to praying excessively at certain times of the day- to the point of being unemployed. I have spoken to her before about getting help, but she refuses and thinks she does not have anything wrong with her. I do not know what to do.

APR, 22, 2018 06:12:29 PM
I have a friend who knows that he has depression and is fairly certain he has mild bipolar disorder, but he switches between super energized and super lethargic. He has been to several therapists before and had bad experiences or they didnt help at all. He also says that he has had medication before and it just made it sorse.We constanly ask him if he wants any help or if there is anything we can do but he always responds 'no' or 'i dont know'. We constaly tell him that we are always here for him and that we all love him, but he just doesnt want that love and support. He believes there is no one out there that really knows how to understand him and that no one will ever really live him. How can we help him?

FEB, 20, 2018 03:57:44 PM
Prudence Tolliver
I am sorry that you and your stepdaughter are going through this, but it will get better. Please see if your wife will go to treatment. My daughter was just diagnosed with borderline personality, it can be extremely difficult to communicate with her, but what I started to do is listen to her more. I tried my best not to give her feedback unless shed ask me to. Please ask your wife "what can I do to help you?" Please, tell me, how can I help you?" Please try to get some help for your stepdaughter.

FEB, 19, 2018 11:59:29 AM
Glenn M.
If anyone has any more suggestions I will be glad to listen. My wife has some mental health problems I have tried the hard line approach as well as the encouraging and supportive approach but she still insists that she does not have a problem. For several years I was on the receiving end of the abuse but now its mainly my stepdaughter who is 15. Without going in to details it has gotten to a point where the daughter is ready to leave her mom because of repeated verbal abuse and when the mom gets upset throws her things in the trash. All this to a girl who is fourth in her class and attends church at every opportunity. I have reached the end of my rope don't know anything else to try I am prepared at the next episode to take a warrant out for child abuse or at least its equivalent . Any suggestions?

JAN, 05, 2018 01:25:49 PM
Marie L.
To Francesca G who posted on 12/3/17 re a verbally abusive husband. I have found that getting the help I need to live mentally healthy; having support from close friends, group, therapist, etc has helped more than discussing spouse’s issue with him. Being able to love oneself, pursue a positive path for one’s own growth is sometimes the best way to lead. Finding out why we stay in a verbally abusive environment is also key. I have gained inner strength to act independently. Sometimes a couple can seek help under the mantle of a “communication” class or therapy together, rather than one partner trying to tell the other partner to seek help. Words & how we use them are important; but if you look at how most of us were raised, we really don’t have much skill in this area. I have wasted many years under verbal abuse. It’s so unnecessary.

DEC, 03, 2017 10:15:24 AM
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?

DEC, 01, 2017 11:31:38 PM
Susan Moore-Magee
Would like to discuss motivational interviewing skills for those suffering with addictions

NOV, 30, 2017 06:15:28 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.

NOV, 30, 2017 06:12:15 PM
Prudence Tolliver
Let's fight mental illness together. Fight the stigma of mental illness

NOV, 30, 2017 04:03:36 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.

NOV, 30, 2017 03:45:54 PM
Eileen Branda
Wonderful words of wisdom.
Thank you.

NOV, 30, 2017 02:38:35 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.....

NOV, 27, 2017 10:08:07 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.

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

NOV, 26, 2017 12:49:27 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.

NOV, 20, 2017 05:56:45 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.

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