I’m under the Age of 18; Does My Parent Have to Give Permission for Me to Go to Therapy?

Different states have different laws when it comes to seeking therapy as a minor. You may or may not need your parent or guardian’s consent depending on where you live and your state’s legal definition of mature. Here, several therapists explain how this works in different states, and offer advice on who you can ask within your state about seeking therapy as a minor:


Somerstein-LynnLynn Somerstein, PhD, E-RYT
: People under the age of 18 need parental consent for medical and psychological treatment. This law is devised to protect minors, although there are some variations in the United States depending on the state where you live. Some people under the age of 18 may be considered “mature” by legal standards and so don’t need parental consent. These people may be married or in the military.

A good way to find help is to go to your school’s guidance counselor and ask. Alternatively, you can speak privately with your pediatrician, religious or youth leader, or a trusted teacher who will perhaps direct you to someone who can see you for therapy, although legal consent is still an issue.

Payment, of course, is also an issue. Usually the parent pays. This is difficult for everybody, because the parents will feel entitled to information that they are paying for, that is their legal right. The clinician will have to develop appropriate approaches, consulting the parents and the child under 18, to protect the child’s privacy.

Risi-AndreaAndrea M. Risi, LPC: Each state can differ slightly on this rule. In regard to mental health treatment in Colorado:

  • “A minor who is fifteen years of age or older may consent to receive mental health services to be rendered by a facility or a professional person. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 27-65-103(2).”

In regard to treatment of addiction to or use of drugs in Colorado:

  • “Minors may voluntarily apply for admission to alcohol/other drug abuse treatment, regardless of their age, with or without parental or legal guardian consent providing the treatment agency demonstrates adherence to its policy regarding admission of minors without parental or legal guardian consent. …Minors’ signatures shall suffice to authorize treatment, releases of information, fee payment (if minors have personal control of adequate financial resources), and other documents requiring client signatures. 6 Colo. Code Regs. § 1008-1 (15.225.2)1”

To summarize, in Colorado minors older than 15 years may seek mental health counseling without consent of a parent and any minor may seek treatment for substance abuse. Remember that when parents do give permission for you to attend counseling, that doesn’t mean they have access to your counselor’s records, nor can they talk to your counselor without your consent. I usually tell minors I am providing therapy to something like, “Everything we talk about is confidential unless you talk about hurting yourself or someone else, but we may want to include your parents on occasion with your permission.”

Hirschhorn - DebDeb Hirschhorn, PhD: According to a document produced in 2004 by the New York Civil Liberties Union, minors can obtain therapy without parental permission provided they have the ability to understand the “nature and consequences of a proposed treatment, including its risks, benefits and alternatives, and to reach an informed decision.” This is called informed consent.

The minor is entitled to confidentiality as well, meaning that the substance of the treatment, and the fact of being in treatment, is not disclosed without the person’s consent.

New York, however, includes a catch. There are three conditions, any one of which needs to be met:

  1. There is no parent or guardian
  2. Including the parent or guardian would be detrimental to the therapy
  3. The parent or guardian has refused to consent and a physician (medical doctor) decides that the therapy is necessary. The physician must notify the parents, but only if he or she thinks doing so is “clinically appropriate.”

An exception to these requirement is if the minor is living independently (called “emancipated”), married, pregnant, or the parent of a child.

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  • 9 comments
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  • Tracie C

    Tracie C

    December 2nd, 2015 at 2:54 PM

    I work at a High School, I have a young lady that has confided in me that she feel’s like she needs to talk to someone and her mother will not assist in helping her get the help she need’s. What can I do to help this young lady

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

    December 2nd, 2015 at 3:14 PM

    Dear Tracie,

    Thank you for your question. GoodTherapy.org is not qualified to offer professional advice, but the young lady in question can search for a therapist using our website.

    A list of local therapists and counselors can be obtained by entering a ZIP code here:

    https://www.goodtherapy.org/find-therapist.html

    It may also be helpful to encourage her to speak to the school guidance counselor.

    If the young lady is experiencing a crisis situation, information and resources can be found here:

    https://www.goodtherapy.org/in-crisis.html

    We hope this helps.

    Kind regards,

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • Beth M

    Beth M

    December 12th, 2015 at 8:50 PM

    Hi
    My school counselor has referred me to a mental health therapist. What does this mean?

  • Madelyn G

    Madelyn G

    April 27th, 2016 at 2:49 AM

    I’m 16, almost 17 years old, and I wanna talk to a therapist but I don’t wanna tell my mom and worry her, so is it possible for me to seek help by myself in Las Vegas? Or am I required to have a parent/guardian with me since I am under 18

  • Annsleigh E

    Annsleigh E

    February 5th, 2017 at 7:41 PM

    I am a Highschool Freshman and I want to talk to a therapist, but I don’t want to tell my parents, because of past events of them basically saying they don’t believe me. Is there any way for me to seek help without my parents having knowledge of it or having to give consent?

  • Chevelle

    Chevelle

    March 22nd, 2017 at 11:59 AM

    I’m 16 years old, I live in PA. I was wondering I’ve been seeing the same therapist for over a year now, due to very personal family problems, and I never wanted to start seeing her. Can I make the choice to be discharged or is that on my guardians (or in my case, a CYS Case Worker)??

  • Daniela

    Daniela

    April 9th, 2017 at 1:25 PM

    I’m 14 and my mom doesn’t believe in therapy since she didn’t have one for her problems but my doctor told us that I have depression and we need to look for therapists. And I live in Las Vegas, Nevada.

  • Amanda

    Amanda

    April 27th, 2017 at 9:11 AM

    I am a high school teacher at an alternative school in Texas. I have several students who see counselors who are contracted through the school. My question is: If students DO NOT want to see these counselors and their parents Have NOT consented to it, do they HAVE to go?

  • Mark Mirante

    Mark Mirante

    May 5th, 2017 at 10:33 AM

    In Washington state a child of 13 years old may request mental health counseling without their parent’s consent.

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