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Breaking Down the Walls of a Reluctant Patient

July 14, 2022

Not everyone in treatment will be happy about being there. Some people may be attending to make their families happy, while others may be court-ordered to undergo some kind of addiction treatment. Even if someone is in attendance due to their own choice, they may still be reluctant to engage with a professional in the field for a variety of reasons. Some may simply not want to talk due to the inherent vulnerabilities involved in this kind of discussion.

Other people may be open to the idea of discussing their drug and alcohol use, but only with people who have gone through the experience themselves and may not be very receptive to a professional who may be educated about the experience but hasn’t suffered from an addiction. Either way, reluctant patients each pose their own unique challenges, almost always in terms of communication.

Plan Ahead

Much of the therapeutic process is very fluid, with both the professional and the patient dancing back and forth through the conversation in order for both parties to best understand each other. However, reluctant patients may not be willing to waltz. While each patient requires a degree of planning ahead in order to continue working towards their own goals and recovery, the planning phase becomes even more important for these reluctant patients.

Having a plan and a recognizable pedagogy behind the session can help provide the structure that someone needs in order to be a more active participant in their session. With structure, there is less time spent wondering or trying to get a topic going and more time spent addressing one particular facet. Particular statements from the patient may propose a topic change depending on what they divulge and how much.

It will be up to each professional at that moment to decide if they want to abandon the existing structure to pursue a topic change or to continue with the structured development and create a plan based on the new information for the next session. Planning ahead and knowing the topics that are going to be addressed can help mitigate some of the issues of talking itself.

By having a rigid, thought-out plan, someone can be more confident in the information that they are presenting. This can take a lot of the “um’s” and “ah’s” out of a conversation, creating a more direct approach for the patient.

Won’t Listen? Let Them Talk

Listening and talking are both key parts of communication. However, if someone’s body language or posture are indicating that they are not receptive to hearing what a professional is suggesting at the time, it can help to take a step back and let them talk instead. Let them ramble and rant, if needed. This kind of unhindered approach to allowing them to speak can have a few benefits.

While it will be necessary to reign in the conversation at a certain point as to remain in control of the appointment, allowing patients to talk at length can give them the outlet needed for emotional expression. Sometimes, there will be a few key aspects that someone can latch onto in order to better understand the patient and the issues that they face. Other times, they may simply lack an outlet for someone to listen overall and may need to expel this built-up energy.

Making a Connection

Mental health therapy and addiction recovery can involve a lot of difficult or abstract topics. While connecting over someone’s recovery and their goals is important, it can be helpful to simply connect in any way possible with a reluctant patient. Make things personal on some level. These connections don’t necessarily have to be directly related to the therapy at hand; rather, the purpose they serve is to humanize both the professional and the person.

Simply making a connection over enjoying a particular kind of food or sport can make both parties feel more at ease for the more difficult conversations to come. If things are becoming too difficult for a patient, these are always topics that someone can go back to in order to regain some stability that the patient may need. Not only can these connections help break down the walls around someone from a professional point, but they also allow the professional to be able to work backward to get the most out of their time with a patient.

These unique interests and connections can be injected back into explaining the pedagogy behind some therapeutic elements, allowing the patient to better understand how a particular strategy may help them specifically. Reluctant patients can be difficult, but their reasons for attending are still very real to them and it is important to try to meet them where they are, rather than where someone wants them to be.

Meet each patient on a personal level first, so that following therapy sessions and the lessons instilled can be that much more potent for each person. While breaking down these walls, avoid assuming what may happen or assuming anything about the patient’s situation. Let the walls fall on a personal level and build up with the strategies and topics that are pertinent to them and their own goals.

Each person is unique, with their own challenges, experiences, and goals. At Alta Centers, their programs champion the individuality of each person and use these unique stories to help the group reach a common goal. Each program can be personalized depending on the needs of each patient, all while creating a strong sense of comfort and community in their luxurious facility. For more information on how Alta Centers can help you call today at (888) 202-2583.