How To Encourage Someone To Go To Therapy: Tips For Loved Ones

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated March 20, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Watching someone you love go through mental health challenges can be tough. It can be even more challenging if they are not receptive to something that might help them. 

For various reasons, some people don't feel comfortable seeing a therapist. Some people may have been raised in or exposed to an environment where therapy came with a stigma. They may see having a mental illness as some type of weakness. Other people may be dubious because they don't understand the therapy process or think it's a waste of time because it doesn't work. 

Encouraging someone you care about to go to therapy can be a delicate and important conversation. Below is a step-by-step guide that may help you navigate the process.

Online therapy can be helpful for anyone

Educate yourself

Before you have the conversation, it may be helpful to learn more about therapy and its benefits. You might take some time to research different therapy approaches and how they can help address various mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, phobias, and substance use. This knowledge may enable you to provide accurate information and dispel any misconceptions your loved one may have about therapy.

Choose the right time and place

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the time and place that you choose for a conversation about therapy may make a significant difference in the person’s receptivity. You might search for a suitable setting where you can have a quiet, uninterrupted conversation. Then, you can choose a time when the other person isn’t stressed and doesn’t have to rush to be somewhere.

Express your concern

Your loved one may be more receptive to listening if they see that you genuinely care for their well-being. You can convey your concern through body language by maintaining comfortable eye contact and leaning in. 

Also, it may be helpful to use "I" statements to avoid sounding accusatory when explaining specific concerns. For example, you might say, "I've noticed that you've been having a lot of stress lately, and I'm worried about you."

Communicate your observations 

You might consider gently highlighting specific behaviors, moods, or patterns you have noticed that indicate the person may benefit from therapy. When doing this, it may be best to avoid generalizations and instead provide concrete examples. Also, it may help to emphasize a compassionate tone and avoid statements that could be misconstrued as judgment.

Listen empathetically 

Active listening can be a powerful tool to show emotional sensitivity and communicate effectively. You can give the person an opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings before you contribute to the conversation. As you listen, you might make an extra effort to be attentive, non-judgmental, and empathetic. You can let them know you are there to support them and that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.


It can be challenging to show someone you're actively listening to them without blatantly telling them you're listening. During your conversation, you might try to:

During the conversation, it may help you both to be as physically comfortable as possible to have an actively engaged conversation. To show receptivity, you might try to face the person and maintain a relaxed, open posture. It may also help to maintain comfortable eye contact and respond with nodding or other occasional gestures that show you're listening. Also, you might try to keep your facial muscles relaxed and stay mindful to avoid expressions that may convey negativity. 

  • Paraphrase what they've said. 

Once they've expressed themselves, it may help to paraphrase how you heard what they said. This may not only show you were paying attention but also help solidify their thoughts in your own mind. You can try saying something like "It sounds like you're saying…" or "If I understand you right, you're saying…"

  • Ask questions or ask them to elaborate.

If you think they'll be receptive, you might encourage them to expand on their thoughts and feelings. This may help you avoid jumping to conclusions about what they mean, let them know you're actively engaged in the conversation, and convey your interest in their perspective.

  • Refrain from planning your response before they're done talking.

People often begin formulating what they will say while the other party is still conveying their thoughts. Before you decide how you'll respond, it may help to allow them plenty of time to communicate with you. You can also encourage them to finish their sentences before you contribute to the conversation. This can show them that you are taking the time to really listen to what they have to say.

  • Avoid giving unsolicited advice before you've heard everything they have to say.

It may be best to be strategic when you offer advice during the conversation. Not only can it seem insincere, but it may also be counterproductive if you interject, "I think you should…," or, "You really ought to…" Advice might be well-received depending on the language you couch it in, but you may have to be strategic and decide whether to include advice depending on how the conversation evolves.

Provide information and insight 

If you've already done your homework, your loved one may feel more inclined to start the therapy process. Once you've educated yourself, you can offer information about therapy options and available resources, including online therapy. Many people who are apprehensive about getting help find it's much easier to speak to a therapist via telehealth appointments from home.

You might mention the potential benefits of therapy, such as developing emotional management skills, gaining self-awareness, and improving overall well-being. You can provide brochures or website links to trusted mental health professionals or clinics. 

If you're in therapy now or have been in the past, now may be an excellent time to offer your insights on your own experience. Talking about your experiences with a therapist may make your loved one feel more comfortable about trying it themselves.

Offer to help them start therapy

If you think they're receptive, you might let your loved one know you'd like to help them start the process. You can offer to assist them in researching therapy options and finding a therapist. It may also help to work with them to make the initial appointment and offer to go with them for the first few sessions if they'd feel more comfortable with you there. 

Prepare to address resistance

Before you go into this conversation, it may be useful to prepare for resistance or concerns they may have. To prepare, you may have to put yourself in their shoes and imagine what reasons they may give for not going to therapy. Demonstrating empathy and understanding for their concerns may go a long way toward making them feel more comfortable talking about those concerns. You can also address misconceptions they may have about therapy and reassure them that seeking help is a common step toward personal growth and self-care.

Follow up and provide support

After the initial conversation, consider checking in with the person to see how they feel. You might remind them that they can choose a form of therapy that is comfortable for them and that you are there to support them during their journey. 

Respect their choice

Ultimately, the choice to attend therapy rests with the individual. Respecting their decision may show them that you care and that you are not trying to be judgmental. They may not be averse to seeking therapy forever, so you might let them know the option is always available whenever they feel ready. They may be more likely to be receptive later if you respect their boundaries now.

Online therapy may make your loved one more comfortable

If you’re loved one feels hesitant to visit a therapist’s office, they may be interested in trying online therapy. Some people experience various barriers to therapy, whether physical or emotional. For example, some people live in an area where there are few available therapists, or they have a physical sensitivity that makes it challenging to sit with a therapist in person. 

Online therapy can be helpful for anyone

Others may have scheduling challenges that make it difficult to set aside time for commuting, sitting in a waiting room, and participating in sessions. Still, others may assume they can't afford therapy.

Online therapy platforms tend to overcome these obstacles by matching clients to licensed, experienced mental health professionals from the comfort of their own homes. They can choose to participate in therapy in a way that’s most comfortable for them, whether by audio, videoconferencing, or live chat. Also, online therapy tends to be more affordable than in-office therapy without insurance.

Research shows that online therapy is just as effective as in-office therapy for treating a variety of mental health concerns. One literature review published in 2017 found that online therapy is effective for anxiety, depression, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and substance use disorder, among other mental health challenges.


Having a conversation is often the first step toward helping a loved one with a mental health condition. Because you might not be able to predict how your loved one will react to the suggestion of therapy, it may help to take some time beforehand to plan the conversation and educate yourself on the potential benefits of therapy.

If you are experiencing stress or anxiety because of a problem that a loved one is facing, you may also benefit from the support of a therapist. With BetterHelp, you can choose a therapist who has experience helping people who are deeply concerned about a loved one who is experiencing a metal health challenge. Take the first step toward getting support and reach out to BetterHelp today.

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