Navigating Teen Resistance To Therapy

The teenage years can be marked by a whirlwind of conflict, transitions, and challenges. When these challenges become overwhelming, therapy can be an effective tool to learn coping skills and to help manage mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress. However, it’s not uncommon for teens to resist therapy, either due to stigma, fear, or a reluctance to open up about their struggles. Additionally, teens may feel pressure to appear “normal” or may believe that they can handle their problems on their own. It’s important for parents and caregivers to recognize and validate their teen’s feelings while also gently encouraging them to consider the benefits of therapy.

Openly Communicate About Mental Health

Parents and caregivers can address teen resistance to therapy by creating a safe, non-judgmental space for open communication about mental health. Active listening, empathy, and validation can help teens express their discomfort. Many teens have misconceptions about what therapy is. They might not think they need therapy or that if they go to therapy they won’t know how to put their feelings into words. They might feel that it’s a criticism of them. Explain that therapy is a supportive tool to cope with the stressors of life and that healthy people often use therapy to improve or maintain their well-being; and that needing therapy is not a mental health diagnosis.

Include Teens In The Decision-Making Process

Empowering teens to have a say in their own mental health care can increase their willingness to participate in therapy. Parents and caregivers can involve teens in a decision-making process, offering them choices and alternatives that align with their preferences and comfort level. This collaborative approach can help teens feel more ownership over their mental health journey. 

Consider Alternative Therapeutic Modalities

In some cases, traditional talk therapy may not resonate with teens, leading to increased resistance. In such instances explore alternative approaches to therapy, such as therapeutic art, animal-assisted programs, or wilderness therapy, which may better align with their teen’s interests and preferences. The key is finding a therapeutic modality that feels comfortable and engaging for the teen.

EYS therapists and counselors specialize in working with teens and families. EYS families can participate in traditional and alternative methods of therapy including reiki, animal-assisted activities, wilderness training, art practices, tae kwon do, and other physical activities.


Seek Guidance From A Professional

If teen resistance to therapy persists, it may be helpful to seek guidance from a mental health professional who specializes in working with adolescents. A therapist can offer insights, strategies, and support tailored to the unique needs of your teen and family dynamics, helping to facilitate constructive conversations and navigate any underlying issues contributing to resistance.

Navigating teen resistance to therapy can require patience. With proactive communication and a willingness to have a conversation over several days, parents and caregivers can help their reluctant teens overcome barriers and access support. 

Ehmke, Rachel 2023, Helping Resistant Teens into Treatment, Child Mind Institute. <>
Evolve Treatment 2020, Five Ways To Convince Your Teen To Go To Mental Health Or Drug Rehab (When They Don’t Want To). <>
Blivas, Ryan 2023,13 Reasons Why Teenagers Are Resisting Therapy,Key Healthcare. <>