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How do I get my child to get professional help when they are unwilling to go?


​What if you know your child needs help but won't willing go? Can you force your child to go? And how much does this usually cost a person?


professional help

Getting that process started can feel overwhelming. You did not mention your child's age, yet if you feel they need help, now is the time to get started. 

Try to understand significant behavior changes do not happen overnight and, at times, can feel like two steps forward and one back…or even one forward and two back. Align support for yourself and anyone else involved in parenting. This can be spouses, friends, relatives, support groups, school counselors, etc. We also recommend attending a parenting class. This is not to say you are a bad parent, you would not be reaching out if you were. Your son is presenting concerning behavior, and a change in your parenting approach will be a part of the structure he will need. The saying, “If we keep doing the same things the same way, things stay the same," certainly applies in this situation. You can do an online search for parenting classes in your area.

Reach out to your physician and school counselor to discuss what the next steps might be and to obtain referrals. You can also do an online search for mental health services in your community. If drugs and alcohol are involved, a drug and alcohol evaluation will help to determine the type of treatment needed. If you feel there are other mental health issues involved, a mental health evaluation would be reasonable. If there are underlying issues that need to be addressed, a mental health professional can help with that.

Concerning costs, do you currently have health insurance? If so, look to see if it offers mental health benefits. If so, they will likely have a group of preferred providers that will be more cost effective for you. 

If you do not have health insurance or Medicaid, many providers will work on a sliding scale, meaning fees are based on income. 

Can you force him to go? Likely yes if you are his parent or legal guardian and he is a minor. Yet, the effectiveness of treatment will correlate to his engagement with it. So, in addition to establishing control about him going, you want to establish and grow connection with him. The more he sees a “what's in it for me," the more likely he will be to engage. Remember, while this is not easy as a parent, it is not easy for your son either. There can be lots of fear involved starting mental health treatment and behavioral change, and that can be expressed in many different ways. 

You might want to check out our email series called Boys Town's Parenting Principles; it offers helpful guidelines to support your parenting efforts.