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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Stone, LMHC

Parents: So you want your adult child to attend counseling?

As a parent/guardian, you've been intimately involved with the care of your child(ren), right?

For the first 18 years of their life (and beyond), you've been responsible for keeping them alive, helping them learn and grow, checking on them, protecting them, worrying about them, and helping them get what they need, among other things.

If you've been thinking about counseling for your child...

Likely, you've been worried about your child for awhile and have tried numerous things to help. They're now over age 18 and still having difficulties with something, or maybe they're just now showing signs of difficulties (perhaps with life transitions - college, relationships, etc.). Of course, you want to help them feel better and potentially get connected with counseling. Chances are, you've discussed your concerns with them, recommended counseling (and/or psychiatric medication), and have repeated this again and again.

Things either go one of four ways:

  • Your kid outright declines counseling for any number of reasons,

  • Your kid says they don't want counseling but you insist and say you'll make an appointment for them,

  • Your kid says that they probably could use counseling but they're either unwilling or unable (due to anxiety, fear, etc.) to make their own appointment so you offer to make an appointment for them, or

  • Your kid says that they probably could use counseling, and they make it happen (best case scenario, right?!?!).

Here's what you need to know:

  • Unless an adult (or minor) presents with imminent danger to themselves or others, treatment cannot be required. [If that's the case, call 911 or take them to the nearest emergency room for treatment.]

  • Counseling only works when an individual is invested in it, so forcing it rarely works.

  • Adults (18+) must provide consent for their own treatment if they are mentally fit to provide consent.

  • Given that they must consent, it's also generally expected that they initiate counseling by requesting an appointment themselves as that's the first step in being invested in their treatment.

  • Clients are afforded the right to confidentiality (with few limits), meaning what's said in counseling stays in counseling.

  • Due to confidentiality, counselors cannot acknowledge whether or not they know, have had contact with, or otherwise treat an individual without their express written permission on a document called a "Release of Information." Clients have the autonomy to choose if they want someone to know certain information about their treatment, and they have the right to revoke that authorization at any time.

How you can help them:

Since you can't provide consent for them, they need to initiate their treatment, and they have the right to confidentiality, you can:

  • Encourage them,

  • Provide support and understanding,

  • Help them navigate searching for a provider and/or understanding insurance coverage,

  • Respect their privacy if they don't want to talk about what happens in therapy.


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