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Can My Parents Force Me to Go to Therapy or Rehab?

Written by Evolve's Behavioral Health Content Team​:

Alyson Orcena, LMFT, Melissa Vallas, MD, Shikha Verma, MD, Ellen Bloch, LCSW, Lianne Tendler, LMFT, Megan Johnston, LMFT Meet The Team >

So- your parents are trying to convince you to attend a teen rehab center or mental health treatment center. They think you’re struggling with addiction or substance abuse. Or depression, anxiety, trauma, ODD, DMDD, ADHD, prodromal psychosis, or another mental health issue. The problem is, you don’t want to go to treatment. Whether it’s outpatient therapy, RTC, PHP, IOP—you want nothing to do with it.

Perhaps you don’t think you really have a problem. If you’re using substances, maybe you think you can quit on your own. Or maybe you do realize you have a problem, but you still cringe at the thought of “seeing someone”. Maybe you don’t want to miss school to enter residential treatment. Or maybe you’re embarrassed about going to a teen rehab center. (Perhaps you’re worried about what your friends think.) Whatever it is, you are refusing to go to treatment. Nothing your parents are saying can change your mind.

Now, your parents are threatening to force you into treatment, whether you like it or not. This makes you a bit nervous. Can your parents (or caregiver) actually make you enter treatment without your consent?

Under Age 18?

So, can your parents force you to go to rehab? First, it depends on how old you are.

If you’re under 18 – even if you’re turning eighteen in a month  – then technically you’re still a minor. That means your parents can still make decisions for you. If you’re under 18, your parents can legally bring you to treatment, whether it’s a teen substance abuse treatment center, mental health treatment center, dual diagnosis treatment center, or detox facility. Even if you refuse to get into the car, they’re allowed to physically carry you to treatment. Or hire a therapeutic teen transport service to bring you to treatment, and use intervention if necessary.

However, some states still require you to consent to treatment before it begins. Every state has a different law regarding this requirement. Laws vary based on the level of care, and the type of program. This means the laws vary depending on whether it’s a residential treatment center (RTC), partial hospitalization program (PHP), or intensive outpatient program (IOP). The laws also vary with regards to whether it’s a mental health treatment center, drug rehab center, dual diagnosis treatment center, or a detox facility.

Over 18?

If you’re over 18, even if it’s just a day past your 18th birthday, then technically your parents cannot force you to go to rehab. At this point, they can’t force you to do anything, whether it’s to live at home, go to school, etc. After 18, you are legally an adult. That means you get to make your own decisions about your life. Your parents cannot force you to get into the car to go to treatment. They can’t force you to get out of the car and enter the treatment center. And they definitely cannot force you to stay there.

The same is true when it comes to outpatient therapy. Your mom, dad, or caregiver cannot schedule an appointment on your behalf. You don’t have to go to therapy if you don’t want to. Even if you end up going to a therapist, they cannot call the therapist and discuss your issues without your consent. The therapist is not allowed to talk about you with anyone else, including your relative/parents, without your consent.

Think About Why You’re Resisting Treatment

While this may seem like good news to you, consider whether it actually is. Are you really doing a service to yourself by refusing mental health or substance abuse treatment? In most cases, your parents have your best interests in mind. They care about your health and wellbeing. Consider whether you’re resisting treatment to spite them.

Are you being self-destructive?

Also, consider the consequences of not going to treatment. If you live with an addiction or substance abuse problem, not going to rehab might mean overdose and even death. While you think these statements are dramatic, they’re not: teens have actually died due to not getting help for their substance abuse issue. The same is true for mental health treatment. If you live with depression, anxiety, trauma, self-harming behavior, suicidal ideation, or other mental health or behavioral issues, refusing treatment can also put your life at risk.

Our Behavioral Health Content Team

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