Helping the Reluctant

Unfortunately, not all who come through the doors are ready or willing to receive the help being offered. There could be several reasons for this. They may be forced by friends or family to seek therapy, be court-mandated, or feel like there isn’t anyone who can understand them. Reluctant patients are not always antagonistic towards the practice or practitioner. Still, they do each present unique challenges when trying to address the reason that they walked through the door in the first place. Getting someone to open up in a meaningful way is challenging, even with the most cooperative patients. Reluctant patients can introduce even more hurdles before the process gets started.

Setting the Pace

Reluctant patients still feel the pressure and stresses of beginning treatment. They could be experiencing an enormous amount of guilt, shame, embarrassment, and confusion about what they are doing or why they need treatment. As a result, it is not likely that someone will open up about all of their vulnerabilities at first. While it is crucial to guide them to the point of opening up, by demonstration or environment, the pace is ultimately set by them. Things will start slow, so reward the things about themselves that they do share, and let them come to their own decisions about what is too much on any given day. Attempting to force someone to open up will be met with even further resistance.

Non-Verbal Responding

While someone may be reluctant to speak, other ways of expression can be employed to carry a meaningful interaction. Artistic expressions, like drawing or other methods of art therapy, can be used to create that crucial first meaningful interaction. Allowing for body language or usage of music to create expression also works. Encourage them to show and listen to songs that they relate to on a personal level. If they are having trouble thinking of these things during the session, prepare them by letting them know what will be addressed in the following session. Allow them time to prepare something on their own. Some patients may prepare with artistic expression, while others prefer to write out what they want to say.

Leading by Demonstration

Professionals often have to toe the line between personal and professional to get another person to want to open up about their vulnerabilities. Reluctant patients often come in thinking that they are about to be judged in some way, or under the impression that everyone feels that there is something “wrong with them”. When asked questions, they can begin to search their brains for what may be the “right” answer, even if such a thing does not exist. Demonstrating how to share is essential. Reminding them that they are, first and foremost, talking to another person rather than a white coat is important.

Share a mistake that you have made in the past. This can create a dialogue, even if the mistake or embarrassing event is ultimately inconsequential. It can be impossible to tell what someone may latch on to, or what will encourage them to open up. However, demonstrating that mistakes don’t have to ruin your entire life can be a helpful lesson.


Reluctance is reinforced when a patient feels unsure of what is happening behind the scenes. Spend time describing what the process looks like and the agency that the patient still holds. This can be invaluable in getting a reluctant patient to come back to the treatment facility. Most providers will still do this when asked, but there is never a guarantee that a patient will even ask about this kind of prospective path. Beginning with a reluctant patient, this should be at the top of the priority list.

Not only does it give them a bit more comfort in how they may want to interact with their providers, but it may also open a dialogue itself. They may have a question about a particular practice. Thus, they may divulge some information about themselves in an attempt to understand precisely how it will help them. Anything they can latch on to, no matter how small, may form the cornerstone of their recovery program.

Reluctance is a hurdle that will not be going away any time soon. Each person has a different reason for seeking help in the first place. As such, it is the facility’s responsibility to encourage the individual to come back. You can lead by example by demonstrating the kind of safe dialogue and environment available for the patients. Forcing someone to return to a facility is often fruitless if they don’t want the help offered. However, having different methods of expression and understanding can create a place that they may want to come back to. At that point, the meaningful dialogue can then be accessed in a real first step towards recovery.

Alta Centers provides a place for anyone to begin their recovery. Providing a fun, safe community for detox and aftercare, Alta Centers creates a positive environment for a person to start to open up about their vulnerabilities and unique addictions. If you or a loved one are ready or willing to try the first step to your own personal success, contact Alta Centers today at 1-888-202-2583.

About Alta Centers Detox

Alta Centers Detox is  Addiction Treatment Centers with Alcohol Rehab and Drug Rehab in Los Angeles California