Adolescence is a time marked by a multitude of challenges. When adolescents feel overwhelmed by those challenges, it is important that they have access to supportive services. Since they tend to develop an increased need for privacy and self-sufficiency, many adolescents will not seek help if they have to involve parents or guardians. Letting teenagers seek counseling services without parental consent may increase the chance that they get the care they need, and Michigan law does allow for it, to some extent.
Most adolescents under the age of 18 are considered to be unemancipated minors. This means, according to the U.S. Public Health Service, that parents and guardians are legally responsible for the control and supervision of a teenager’s actions. However, adolescents still have the right to make some health-related decisions on their own. In Michigan state, the law allows children who are 14 years and older the right to get up to four months or 12 weeks of counseling without parental consent.
Usually, when a person is in therapy, it is illegal for her counselor to tell anyone what has been discussed. There are exceptions, though. If someone indicates to a counselor that she might be a danger to herself or others, this has to be reported. If a young person has been abused or threatened, that will be reported as well. Parents have the right to be notified when there are situations that might prove threatening for their child.
It is important that teens and their counselors discuss how the law will affect the course of treatment. Since Michigan law requires parental permission after adolescents have received either four months of counseling or 12 counseling sessions, minors will need to get consent at that time. If a teenager does not want to inform his parents or guardians or he will not give his consent, then the counseling visits will have to come to an end.
Under Michigan law, minors are automatically emancipated when they get married, turn 18 or go onto active military duty. Additionally, teenagers who are completely self-supporting and at least 16 years old can have a court hearing to become emancipated. Although emancipation is uncommon, once obtained, it means that the minor will be considered as an adult and, therefore, does not need parental consent for counseling.
By law, teenagers who seek counseling on their own are responsible for paying the bills for it. Unless a young person has insurance coverage for counseling, it will probably be necessary to look for free or low-cost services. Many schools have school counselors that can provide some treatment for free, or they can give out community referrals. Other low-cost options include local mental health clinics, teaching hospitals or colleges and universities.