Home » Expert Q & A » Addiction Treatment » Addiction Treatment: Jennifer Hamilton

Effectiveness of Coerced Treatment vs. Voluntary Treatment

  • ace_boogie13 Asks ...

    Which is more effective, being court ordered to substance abuse treatment or voluntary?

  • Jennifer Hamilton Says ...
    Jennifer Hamilton

    I am assuming you are asking for my opinion here rather than a review of the literature on the subject. I have seen both work. Many people enter "voluntarily" for reasons that are not all that "voluntary". For example, a spouse says "stop using, get help or we are finished", an employer tests for drugs and refers the person for an evaluation and help or the person gets a charge and before they go to court, they go to treatment because their attorney tells them "it will look good to the judge".


    Motivation to change is a complex issue. Some people will change when they hit what some term a "high-bottom", in other words, they have not lost everything or maybe not anything yet, but for them, something happens that opens their eyes. Others can lose literally everything and still not have the motivation to change.


    Once a person enters treatment, the most important factor isn't whether or not they were admitted voluntarily, but rather, the relationship that develops between the treatment provider and the person in treatment. The ability to be non-judgmental, empathetic, warm and use reflective listening is shown to help a person change and remain changed more so than confrontation or coercion within the treatment setting (vs. getting someone there). I hope this helps!

Featured Experts