When People Are Mandated to Treatment

Sometimes people with addiction are mandated to complete a substance abuse program. This usually occurs after they have been convicted of DWI or been found guilty of drug possession or when an employment agency recommends it so they are allowed to return to work. Whatever the reason, the individual is forced into treatment even though he or she does not want counseling.

When people are asked to attend counseling without having an interest in participating in treatment, they usually become resistant and reluctant. They spend a lot of their time trying to justify their past substance use and rationalizing how they do not belong in treatment. Quite often these individuals become angry, frustrated, and occasionally disrespectful.  When individuals are mandated, it is very hard to convince them of why they belong in treatment. What makes it worse is that for the person in treatment, it feels like a waste of time, and he or she may resent the time spent in a counseling session, which interferes with the person’s daily routine.

Here are some suggestions to help those people mandated to counseling to view it in a more positive light:

  1. Recognize why you were mandated in the first place. If you had a past DWI offense or have a history of using alcohol or drugs, chances are that you are mandated to treatment to learn about changing your behavior and making  better choices. If you did not do anything that did not warrant counseling or have you reflect on your choices, you would not be mandated in the first place.
  2. Trust your referring source. The person who mandated you has seen other people who are in your position. They have mandated people with similar backgrounds numerous times and have achieved positive results. If they did not feel that people benefited from treatment, they would not continue to mandate people to treatment.
  3. Learn to be humble. Take it as a learning experience. Learn about other people’s experiences; be happy that you are only mandated to treatment and not sentenced to jail or fired from your job. Practice gratitude.
  4. Learn to respect decisions other than your own. When people are upset that they are mandated to counseling, it is usually because they do not agree with the terms. Begin learning from other people’s opinions and not just your own.
  5. Most importantly, learn about yourself. Learn about your emotions, feelings, and what brought you here. Learn about how you can change your life for the better and educate yourself on a life without substances. Learn about the cause of your substance use and why life is better when you remain free from all mood-altering substances. Be open to feedback.

Counseling does not have to be a stigma, especially when it is not your choice. It is not something that could ruin your life; rather, it is something that can help you in the long run. Instead of thinking that it is a waste of time, remember to always try and make the best of each counseling session so that your time is not wasted.

Related articles:
What Is Recovery?
Do I Really Have a Drinking Problem?
Identifying and Treating Addiction and Substance Abuse Problems

© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by JLipack Mental Health Counseling, PLLC, therapist in Village Of Garden City, New York

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • lindley


    July 11th, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    If they are presented with this mandate as something that could change their lives for the better and not as a “punishment” for their crime, then maybe they would be able to better tolerate having to be a part of it and hopefully will pick up something good from it along the way.

  • Rochelle


    July 11th, 2012 at 12:36 PM

    I work with clients who are mandated to treatment and those who aren’t and the motivation behind seeking treatment makes a HUGE difference in that persons attitude, the therapeutic relationship and whether they’ll continue or suffer the consequences. But I do think there can be successes if the therapist can align with the client and help them to see any patterns and its effects

  • P.L


    July 11th, 2012 at 1:32 PM

    I was sent to a treatment facility by the judge once for a drug offense.I was very opposed to it initially but after some talk over there I did understand how it was an attempt to help me and didn’t think of it as a punishment.Although I cannot say I loved going there,there were quite a few things I learned there that I can use for a long long time to come.

  • Yasmine


    July 11th, 2012 at 3:31 PM

    If someone actually wnats to be treated for their addictions then that is one thing. But to me making it mandatory or as a stipulation of part of an early release program or something like that, those kinds of situations never work. There is no sense spending my tax money sending someone to therapy and counseling when they don’t want to be there or will not even acknowledge that they have a problem. So let’s make more of an effort to pour that money into services that willimg people want and deserve and not continue to invest in the lives of the offenders until they are ready to do the work and take some responsibility for their actions.

  • Chandral


    July 21st, 2017 at 6:47 AM

    People initially does not want to do counseling but once they begin that counseling, they begin to see the light. It is like when you don’t read a book but as you start you will want to go on and on. Make sense?

  • Jake


    July 12th, 2012 at 4:20 AM

    How willing are most of us to do something and do it well when it is something that we are being forced to do? I know that when my back’s against the wall and I feel like someone is making me do something that I am not ready to be a part of or that I am not interested in, then in all likelihood I am not going to be my best and brightest. You can;t force someone to change something about themselves that they are not ready to change, and that’s the bottom line. I realize that most of them probably do need some sort of treatment, but there are just others who probably made a mistake and could get by without the mandated care.

  • Bernard Hopkins

    Bernard Hopkins

    July 12th, 2012 at 5:11 PM

    would we rather them have forced treatment and hope that something gets thru to them or would we rather they just sit around in prison and learn even more creative ways to break the law? i say send them to treatment whether they want to go or not and hope that ultimately there will be a breakthrough. i wouldn’t like it if someone gave up on me so soon, and i am sure that many of these guys just want someone to believe in them and cheer them on too.

  • Debbie Bowie

    Debbie Bowie

    August 15th, 2014 at 4:33 PM

    Sometimes being mandated into treatment saves a persons life. Also it can be an insurance issue when coverage is only paid when treatment is mandated.

  • Lillian S

    Lillian S

    November 10th, 2016 at 9:24 AM

    This is some great information, and I appreciate your suggestion to trust your referring source when mandated to counseling. I got a DUI, and the court is making me go to counseling for it. I’m trying not to be bitter about being forced to go, and I’ll try and keep in mind that they have experience with people like me and know what’s best. Thanks for the great post!

  • Francesca


    January 8th, 2017 at 2:43 PM

    Very sorry to see something like this on what I thought was a website about therapy ethics. Clearly, any “therapy” that is forced on someone is not therapy at all but something else, discipline or punishment.

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

    January 9th, 2017 at 9:22 AM

    Hi Francesca,
    Thank you for your comment. Please note, as stated in the disclaimer above, that GoodTherapy.org does not necessarily share opinions expressed in any article. In this case, the author is addressing a situation (mandatory therapy) that may be court ordered or otherwise assigned to someone as a result of their conduct, illegal activity, or other reasons. The author appears to be neither advocating nor condemning mandatory therapy, but rather making suggestions as to how someone in this position might be able to accept therapy sessions in order to make progress through it. Because mandatory therapy currently often goes hand-in-hand with court sentencing and issuing formal punishment by a judge or jury, it is worth exploring how therapists can ethically better serve individuals who may be attending therapy against their will.
    We hope that clarifies some of the points brought up in this article. Again, we appreciate hearing your thoughts!
    Warm regards,
    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • Francesca


    January 9th, 2017 at 10:36 AM

    In my opinion, the best way to serve these “patients” could be to stand up to the court system and say “this has nothing to do with therapy, I will not pretend to ‘treat’ someone as part of their punishment”. I understand that it is not within everyone’s capacity to take part in activist activities like this, and I take your point that that this website is neutral with regard to these issues… however it does say on the top of your website “advocating for good therapy”.

  • unicorn hairs

    unicorn hairs

    January 9th, 2017 at 5:32 PM

    Just because therapy is mandated, automatically it’s not, and cannot be, good therapy? I’m not a therapist, but just taking a guess — you’re probably absolutely right that it’s a rare therapist who is able to reject someone simply because they show up to fulfill their mandatory therapy appointment. Say a good therapist, a member of this website, takes part in this “activist activity” to reject someone, because that therapist believes its their responsibility to fight the system or something by refusing to serve someone ordered to get therapy. Where does that person turn? Likelier than not, they are shoved down in the system and their chances of getting a good therapist become slim to none. Would you rather have a good therapist take this person on as a client, and use the tips in this article to help them feel comfortable and facilitate a therapy experience that is as compassionate, cooperative, and mutually beneficial as possible? Or would you like a therapist who is just as grumpy to have to accept this unwilling participant as the participant is to be there? Personally, I’ll take the former any day of the effing week, no matter how bitter I am that I ended up in therapy.

    Also, did you know there’s a whole *employment sector* for court-appointed therapists? Like, these people are not in private practice and don’t get to make decisions like that. Their *whole job* is to take on cases primarily of people who have been ordered to therapy. Are you saying these therapists just shouldn’t have jobs anymore? Or they should all find a way to be in private practice, which I hear is pretty damn difficult these days?

    Like, yeah, it sucks that people are being *made* to go to therapy. BUt also… if they’re serving time, or if they’ve been found guilty of illegal activity, don’t you think they might just benefit from therapy anyway?! I agree with you that it’s distasteful to force anyone to go to therapy. However, I also think that creating a better world sometimes means mentally healthy people are able to make decisions in the best interests of those whose mental health issues have led to run-ins with the law, damage to family and loved ones, and who knows what else. Those people need somewhere to turn, and it can’t always happen on their own clock (or it’ll never happen).

    I’m willing to bet you that mandated therapy has kept at least, oh, a couple hundred people (how’s that for a conservative estimate) off the streets and out of jail cells they don’t belong in. Huzzah, I say. And thank god there are saintly therapists out there who do GREAT therapy with these people and help them lead healthier, more compassionate lives (despite their best efforts, in some cases).

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