10 Reasons Troubled Teens Resist Treatment

Understanding Why Some Troubled Teens Resist the Therapy They Need

Convincing a troubled teen she needs help can be complicated.
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It's common for a troubled teen to resist therapy, refuse to take medication, or ignore suggestions from adults. That type of resistance leaves many parents feeling hopeless and helpless.

After all, you can't physically force your teen to take medication. And you can't drag your teen into a therapist's office. 

But, before you give up on trying to get your teen help, it's important to understand the most common reasons troubled teens resist getting the professional help they need.


Here are some of the reasons troubled teens may be reluctant to get the professional help they need.

1. Social Stigma

Although there is increasing acceptance of emotional problems and mental illness, there is still some teens are often painfully aware there is some social stigma attached. Anything associated with therapy or mental health issues may be perceived as taboo by teens.

2. Defiance

Some teens get so caught up in being rebellious they refuse anything suggested by someone in authority. For some teens the problems they are suffering from, such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder, contribute to their refusal to get help.

3. Poor insight

Many teens have a limited capacity to recognize the seriousness of their behavior. They may underestimate adults responses and they may struggle to see how problematic their choices are. 

4. Fear

Fear is almost always part of a teen's resistance to therapy. Teens may experience fears they are 'crazy', that others will perceive them this way or that they won't get any better.

Some teens are fearful of the prospect of having to take a deeper look at themselves or their problems.

5. Embarrassment

Embarrassment and a sense of shame can make teens want to avoid addressing the problems. Accepting help from others can be difficult for a teen to do.

6. Denial

Some teens struggle to face the problems they have because they are too painful or overwhelming.

Sometimes denial is part of the illness they suffer from, as is often the case for teens involved in substance abuse

7. Misconceptions

Many teens are confused about how psychotherapy works, what will be expected from them in treatment, fears that what they tell a therapist will be shared with their parents, and other misinformation can prevent a teen from agreeing to go to therapy.

8. Concealing

It's common for troubled teens to want to hide their problems, rather than face them head-on. Teens who are abusing substances, or those who cut themselves, for example, may not want to acknowledge that problems exist. 

9. Lack of Motivation to Change

Many troubled teens to problems, drugs they've come to depend on or self-destructive behaviors that have become a habit. If these are the best ways a teen has come up with to cope, the idea of giving them up can be frightening. Teens may feel more in control with their current coping methods than with the idea of trying something totally new and different.

10. Feeling Unworthy

It's common for troubled teens to feel as though they don't deserve help. A teen with depression, for example, may feel worthless and consequently, may not feel like he deserves help.


Resistance to therapy

Your teen's resistance to therapy may stem from a combination of issues. Understanding why your teen doesn't want to get help can be the first step in determining how to proceed.

Just because your teen says she doesn't want help doesn't mean you can't get support. If your teen refuses to go to therapy, seek help for yourself. A mental health professional can advice you on how to best assist your troubled teen. 

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