Can My Teenager Refuse Mental Health Treatment? A Parent’s Guide

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can a teenager refuse mental health treatment?


Navigating a teenager’s mental health journey can be daunting for any parent. When faced with the challenge of convincing a resistant adolescent to seek professional help, questions arise: “Can my teenager refuse mental health treatment?” Understanding their rights and available options becomes crucial. In this guide, we delve into the complexities of adolescent mental health treatment, exploring indicators that may warrant compelling a teenager into treatment, strategies for initiating conversations about therapy, and the potential benefits of interventions. Whether you’re grappling with concerns about your teenager’s mental well-being or seeking ways to support their healing process, this resource aims to provide insight and guidance on the path to recovery.

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Can Mental Health Treatment be Declined by Teenagers?

When a teenager grapples with a mental health disorder, parents naturally seek professional care promptly. Yet, not all adolescents may consent to this plan. This leads parents to ask, “Can a teenager refuse mental health treatment?” The answer varies, contingent on the state’s laws. Certain states mandate minor consent for entering treatment programs.

However, in cases where a teenager poses a clear danger to themselves or others due to a mental health crisis, they can be compelled into emergency treatment, such as a brief stay in a psychiatric hospital or ward, typically lasting about 72 hours. The aim is to stabilize the individual for safety while devising a continued treatment plan in a residential or outpatient setting.

Parents might persuade their teenager to attend therapy sessions, though therapists may be wary of working with resistant teenagers unwilling to engage in therapy’s demands unless appointed by a court. Parents may also convince their teenager to participate in outpatient or residential programs, with success hinging on the child’s willingness to open up and participate, along with the therapists’ experience in handling initially reluctant teenagers.

Indicators That Warrant Compelling a Teenager Into Mental Health Treatment

Adolescents are known for experiencing mood swings due to hormonal changes and the trials of adolescence. However, certain symptoms may indicate a teenager requires specialized treatment from mental health experts. These indicators include:

  • Continuous feelings of despair and hopelessness
  • Suicidal ideation or behaviors
  • Persistent anxiety
  • Episodes of panic attacks
  • Experiencing hallucinations
  • Fluctuating moods, from profound depression to manic euphoria
  • Withdrawal from social interactions
  • Academic underachievement
  • Difficulty maintaining healthy relationships with peers and family members
  • Engaging in irrational or violent behavior
  • Disrupted sleep patterns, either excessive or insufficient
  • Alterations in weight or eating habits
  • Resorting to alcohol or drugs to alleviate mental health symptoms

Conversations with Your Teenager Regarding Entering Treatment

While teenagers may have the right to refuse mental health treatment in certain circumstances, parents can still take proactive steps to persuade them of the benefits. Initiate discussions with your child in a calm setting, emphasizing treatment as a constructive solution rather than a punishment. Conduct thorough research beforehand to familiarize yourself with available options, alleviating any misconceptions they may hold about therapy, outpatient programs, or residential facilities. Encourage open dialogue where your child can express their fears and concerns.

Offer the opportunity for family therapy sessions to ensure everyone understands the treatment process and can collaborate effectively. Address any apprehensions your teenager may have about prescription medications, reassuring them that finding the right medication can involve trial and error, with temporary side effects.

For teenagers experiencing symptoms of mental illnesses like schizophrenia or personality disorders, navigating paranoia can present additional challenges in accepting treatment. In such cases, seeking guidance from a therapist can aid parents in developing effective strategies for approaching their child about treatment.

Is Intervention Beneficial in Seeking Treatment?

While most are familiar with interventions for severe addiction, they are also valuable for individuals struggling with mental illness, impairing their ability to lead fulfilling lives. Led by a family member or a professional interventionist, these gatherings aim to persuade the individual to seek immediate professional help.

Teenagers, known for their stubbornness, may initially resist such efforts. However, interventions can illuminate the severity of their condition and the available treatment options. Moreover, they underscore the love and support of their family, emphasizing the collective desire to aid in their healing and enable them to reach their fullest potential.

Locate Teen Mental Health Treatment in Atlanta

Are you a concerned parent noticing signs of mental health issues in your teenager? Do you find it challenging to convince them to seek help? Many parents wonder, “Can my teenager reject mental health treatment?” While the answer varies, certain programs excel in engaging resistant teenagers.

At New View Wellness in Atlanta, we specialize in adolescent mental health programs. Our offerings include Adolescent Partial Hospitalization Programming and Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Programs. Our team is skilled in communicating with young individuals, fostering their willingness to participate in healing.

If you’re seeking solutions to encourage your child to engage in therapy and begin their journey toward recovery, visit our admissions page today. Let’s explore strategies together to facilitate your child’s involvement in therapy sessions and their path to healing.


In this blog, we’ve learned that while teenagers have the right to refuse mental health treatment in some cases, there are ways for parents to help them understand the importance of seeking help. We discussed indicators that may suggest a teenager needs professional treatment, strategies for talking to them about therapy, and the potential benefits of interventions. By initiating calm discussions, offering support, and exploring available options, parents can play a vital role in guiding their teenagers toward mental health recovery. Remember, seeking help is a positive step towards healing and reaching one’s full potential.


Q1. What to do if someone is mentally unstable and won’t get help?

A1. If you’re concerned about someone’s immediate safety but they won’t seek help, you can reach out to local social services. They can arrange an assessment to determine the best course of action. You can usually find the contact information for social services on your local council’s website.

Q2. At what age do teenage mood swings stop?

A2. Teenage hormones typically kick in between ages 10 and 13, causing physical and emotional changes. These changes continue until the early 20s. For girls, higher levels of estrogen during puberty can increase the risk of depression.

Q3. What is the hardest mental illness to live with?

A3. A borderline personality disorder is considered one of the most challenging mental illnesses. Individuals with this disorder often struggle with intense and fluctuating emotions, making it difficult to cope with daily life.

Q4. Can a mentally unstable person be cured?

A4. Treatment for mental illness usually involves a combination of medication and therapy. While most mental illnesses cannot be cured completely, they can typically be managed effectively to reduce symptoms and improve daily functioning.

Q5. What is the most curable mental illness?

A5. Anxiety disorder is considered one of the most treatable mental illnesses. With proper treatment, including therapy and sometimes medication, symptoms of anxiety disorder can be significantly reduced, allowing individuals to lead more fulfilling lives.

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