External and Internal Motivations for Treatment

Many people enter treatment for co-occurring disorders with motivations from external pressure. A person might experience pressure to start treatment from the legal system, significant others, family, friends, employers, housing authorities, child protective services, and doctors. In other words, there is usually the handprint on someone’s back pushing a person forward. Some people say they knew they needed a shove to get them moving. Even people who say they were not forced into treatment and began voluntarily were still experiencing pressure from others.

The person with the mental health disorder may have reached the point where their symptoms went out of control and they are no longer were able to function in daily life. If you abuse Opioids or other substances, you may find yourself in a crisis from your worsening symptoms or suicidal thoughts and actions. For people with mental health disorders, treatment is the only healthy option left. It only makes sense that consequences, problems, and a lack of other options bring some people to treatment. A person doesn’t wake up one morning and say, “Hey, my life is going perfectly okay and I feel great! I think I will go for treatment. I have a lot of extra time on my hands, so I think I will join a group of people I don’t know and talk about my inner most fears.” Sounds silly, doesn’t it?

Everyone in treatment is motivated by something. That something may not be recovery, not at first anyway. At first, it may be taking care of external pressures. The personal motivations for treatment change throughout the treatment process. With time, patience, honesty, open-mindedness, and support, a person’s motivations begin to change from addressing external pressure, a short-term fix for the problems that brought them to treatment, to self-inspired motivations for long-term change.

Make the Choice to Benefit from Treatment

There is a saying, “If you have one choice, you have no choice; if you have two choices, you have a dilemma or a tug of war between two choices; if you have three choices, you actually have a choice.” Many people don’t think they have choices. Even someone who is told they must attend treatment does have choices. It may not feel like there are no choices, but there are. A person can choose to follow through with treatment or they can choose the consequences of not attending treatment.

Many people choose jail, losing custody of their children, divorce, and losing their jobs instead of treatment. The person who enters treatment has actually chosen to do that even when it doesn’t seem like a choice. It is the healthy decision. It is a beginning. A person who walks through the doors of treatment should realize what a big step they have taken. It takes courage and deserves a pat on the back.

A person also chooses what they will get out of treatment and how or if they will apply what they learn. This can be more difficult for the person for whom treatment is mandatory. For some people, this feels like they are admitting they were wrong and whatever or whoever forced them into treatment was right all along.

Again, a person still has a choice in how they respond to the external pressure which first sends them to treatment. The three choices might be: stay resentful at the person or system that required treatment and refuse to get anything out of treatment or apply the skills learned to change, not be pleased about what brought them into treatment, but not allow that to get into the way of getting the most out of the group process, and view whatever or whoever required treatment as a gift, and built on that gift by getting the most out of therapy or a group and apply what is learned. Again, treatment is always a courageous, healthy choice. Courage does not mean a person is without fear. Being courageous is taking action in spite of the fear.

Author: Cindy Hardy – Last Edited: January 13, 2020