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Is Your Loved One Ready for Treatment?

You can’t make someone get help. Here are some ways to tell if your loved one is ready for treatment.

Substance use disorder or addiction doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It affects not just the person using alcohol or drugs, but every person that cares about them. If you ask someone struggling with addiction, a friend, and a family member of theirs about the substance use, you could get three different answers. Those affected by addiction are often in different places of recognition and acceptance when it comes to the substance use.

Here’s what you need to know to about whether your loved one is ready for treatment.

People have different reasons for entering treatment

A family member or friend may more clearly see the negative impact that a person’s substance use is having on their lives, and the lives of those around them. This can make family or friends faster to identity, accept, and advocate the need for treatment.

But for the person using drugs or alcohol, recognizing addiction and committing to recovery can be an overwhelming and threatening process; one that touches deeply on the emotions of fear, shame, and vulnerability.

It’s common for families to give their struggling loved one an ultimatum, trying to protect boundaries and correct destructive patterns. When a person is required to enter treatment — either by legal, court mandate, or to avoid a drastic life change, like divorce — treatment becomes something they have to do. They may agree to treatment without believing deeply in its validity or purpose. Agreement does not guarantee personal agency in the process.

The reasons can affect the outcomes

Sustainable recovery happens when the person with addiction realizes that a life without drugs/alcohol is possible, believes that life will be more satisfying than the one they currently live, and commits to making the changes necessary to achieving that life.

Your loved one may be showing signs of their own readiness for treatment if they:

  • Wonder openly about life without the substance, talk about “sorting things out” or “doing better”
  • Bring up hobbies, interests, or career goals they want to pursue
  • Mention or allude to therapy, treatment, “going to a meeting,” rehab or recovery

At the same time, a person’s lack of readiness for treatment can exacerbate the anger, fear, and isolation they already feel as part of their addiction. This can lead to the development of a treatment-resistant stance: they might drop out after a few treatment sessions, or have old patterns return quickly after completing a full treatment cycle.

If your loved one is not ready for treatment, there is still hope…

You can encourage a path towards recovery, even if your loved one is not yet fully committed to inpatient or outpatient treatment. One approach is the CRAFT model: an evidence-based practice with over 10 years of research and testing that focuses on positive reinforcement for sober activities. It helps families and friends reshape their communications to emphasize the loved one’s healthy choices, while still maintaining their own wellbeing.

If your loved one struggles with addiction, start by gauging how ready they are for treatment. Wherever they are in the journey, you can tailor your support to meet them where they are. And when they are ready for treatment — we’ll be here.