Kids Mental Health Awareness
General Wellness

How should children seek mental health treatment?

March 30, 2020

What happens when a child(minor) who is struggling with mental-health issues faces a parents fear, and unwillingness to accept their psychological problems? What happens when a minor bury their emotions because of the social stigma ascribed to mental illness? Having no support from the parents’ side can make children(minors) feel rejected, condemned, and desperate.

To develop a feeling of security and stability within the psyche, children need the unswerving presence of parents, their protection and support. A parent’s unconditional love gives children an avenue to take risks and feel safe with the awareness that if they slip off, parents will be there with their arms open to accept and support them.

Unfortunately, not all parents can give their children unconditional affection and support; Or sometimes, parents don’t have enough knowledge to provide vital(essential) advice, and that’s another condition that speaks volume of parental effect on a child’s psychological well-being.

They are ordinary people with their vulnerabilities, mental health issues, emotional difficulties, hurting life events, or problems. That’s why it’s essential for a minor(child) to have someone to lean on to in difficult life situations.

However, there may also be cases when teens cannot ask a parent about getting help because of how sensitive the question is. For instance, teens who are experiencing abuse or an LGBTQ youth who is struggling with identifying their sexual orientation can feel uncomfortable talking about it his/her parents.

So, let’s find out what children should do when they need mental health treatment.

  • Alarming signs indicating a child needs mental health help.
  • A child talks about wanting to hurt him or herself or engages in unsafe behaviour.
  • Childs emotional difficulties provoke problems at school, home, or with other people.
  • A child feels overwhelming fear for no reason, sometimes with a racing heart or fast breathing.
  • A child lacks energy, motivation, and the ability to concentrate.

READ: Preventing Food Allergies in Children

In what cases should a child needs parents permission to go to therapy?

In most states, there’s a legal age of 18 years permitted to attend therapy. Children(minors) under that age will need a parents permission to seek mental health help;

This is because of the treatment — medical or psychological — that may require a patients consent to be prescribed.

Children under the legal age will need a parents approval to see a therapist.

As to the first therapy session, it may be required that children visit a therapist with parents. If they don’t mind their child attending regular therapy sessions on his or her own, parents will need to sign an appropriate form to confirm the fact of approval. If parents are divorced, both parents have to sign off on consent when there is joint custody.

Are there any cases where a child doesn’t need a parents permission?

In most US states, children can give their consent for therapy only in specific situations. Examples of these are as follows:

Type of treatment. Children can have the right to consent to treatment for such things as substance abuse, mental health care, and birth control. In several states, in California, for example, this right is granted to minors(children) as young as 12.

Court-ordered emancipation(freedom). Children under the age of 18 who live independently without parent support and make their own daily decisions may petition the court for freedom(emancipation). If granted, the minor(child) will have the same legal rights as an adult, including the right to consent to (and refuse) medical treatment.

Mom was calling the girl, but she did not want to leave until she saw me with the camera –
Photo by Victor Xok on Unsplash

Situational emancipation. Depending on the particular state, minors may have the right to consent for treatment where no parent or guardian is readily available, and a delay in treatment may result into harm to the minor(child).

If minors are in a situation in which delaying treatment while waiting for parental therapies consent would put them in danger, such as suicide or self-harm, they can also earn approval for themselves.

It is essential to know that although a minor(child) may meet the legal criteria for granting an approval, a therapist should make sure that a patient is mature enough to comprehend what he or she is consenting to.

READ: Teaching Your Children Kindness

What about confidentiality under 18?

Confidentiality is a bit more complicated if a patient is younger than 18 years old. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is the primary federal law governing medical privacy. It protects minors from disclosures to third parties who are not their parents. However, some states extend some fundamental privacy protections beyond HIPAA for patients under the age of 18.

For example, California gives minors(children) the right to control their health care information. When a state offers a child more privacy rights than the child has under federal law, a therapist must follow the state law.

In some cases, parents may not have the right to information about their children’s treatment. Those might include:

  • When a parent has signed an agreement to respect the confidentiality between the health care provider and the minor.
  • When a parent has lost or given up their parental rights.
  • When a court prohibits the parent from accessing the child’s information.
  • When the child is emancipated.

It’s the therapist’s goal to make sure the parents understand the importance of confidentiality in therapy. When parents understand that this is the key to effective treatment, they may be more willing to respect their children need for privacy. Therapists should also reveal the circumstances under which they would disclose information the child shared in therapy.

What to do if a minor’s parents do not allow them to go to therapy?

First, it makes sense both for children and parents to talk openly and honestly about the phobias and feelings of all the people involved. Why does a child want to go for a therapy? Why don’t parents want them to do it? For children, it’s significant to share their feelings and emotions. For parents, it’s essential to understand why children want their permission to attend therapy.

If it’s not safe for a child to talk with a family, it may be better to consult another trusted adult on what can be done in a particular situation.

If parents still don’t want to sign off on their child’s therapy sessions, minors still have some available resources. Children can start seeking for therapy in their schools. Most schools offer licensed school counsellors available throughout the day. So, any student can schedule a therapy session, and ask licensed counsellor questions.

Additionally, minors can also research state laws regarding consent for mental health support in their particular state. It may open more opportunities, as some states allow minors at the age of 12 and older to seek psychological (mental) health care for either a limited number of sessions or for specific life-threatening circumstances.

Another option to consider is getting emotional support, such as an emotional support animal for a child. Animals, especially domestic dogs, and cats are especially receptive to people’s physical and emotional needs.

That’s why psychologists, physicians, and other mental health professionals prescribe emotional support from animals as a stand-alone kind of help or as a part of a treatment plan along with counselling, medical treatment, following a particular lifestyle, etc.


Childhood development is a process that involves change. That’s why it can be difficult for parents to understand when family members can help a child on their own or when a licensed counsellors help is needed. Some people have prejudices and concerns about the stigma associated with mental(psychological) illness.

These may prevent parents from seeking mental health help for a child who has emotional or behavioural disorders. In this case, minors who need mental health help should know how to seek for mental health with or without parents permission; But they should do so only from a licensed professional, and after they have done a bit of research on state laws on the subject.


Please note the information above does not constitute medical advice. It is purely to raise awareness for mental health in children and provide some guidance around the topic. Please speak to a health care specialist or registered therapist for more accurate diagnosis and treatment.

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