Do You Have to Really Want Treatment In Order to Get Better? | Center on Addiction

Do You Have to Really Want Treatment In Order to Get Better?

Do You Have to Really Want Treatment In Order to Get Better?


When talking about addiction treatment, it is common to hear that a patient must strongly want to get better in order for treatment to work. This myth is far from reality. People with addiction often believe they don’t want or need treatment. In fact, low motivation or acceptance of their need for help often goes hand-in-hand with being addicted. However, people who feel this way can still benefit from appropriate care. Most referrals to addiction treatment come from the criminal justice system, social service providers or from family and friends rather than the addicted person seeking help on his/her own. Starting treatment, regardless of the reason, is the most important step in getting effective treatment.

Trained providers can help increase patients’ motivation to get better. Treatment can often involve the motivational interviewing approach, in which a provider elicits the patient’s desire or readiness to change through open questions, affirmations and reflective statements. These and other motivational techniques can help patients reduce their substance use by exploring how their values and self-image do not align with their current substance use behavior. Through treatment, realistic goals can be set to reduce a patient’s substance use. Through these interactions, patients can work towards building motivation to get better.

The availability of comprehensive, affordable treatment is critical for those who have been compelled to seek treatment. Recent changes in health policy can help ensure access to addiction treatment. For example, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 requires covered health care plans to offer addiction treatment benefits on par with coverage for medical and surgical benefits, so that people who receive addiction treatment won’t have to worry about higher copays or visit limitations for their treatment provider. This type of legislation needs to be diligently enforced to ensure treatment is easily accessible to those who need it.

Overall, the reason a person seeks treatment does not matter as much as their having easy access to treatment and then receiving enough of it over a period of time for it to be helpful. It is also important that treatment be tailored to each patient’s individual needs to address the disease of addiction. 

 Margaret Raskob, MPH

 Margaret Raskob is a freelance blogger.


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