If you’re asking yourself how to convince someone to go to rehab, you’re certainly not alone.
The most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH 2020) shows that over 40 million adults in the United States have substance use disorder. Even more distressingly, most estimates show a huge treatment gap, with only one in ten people needing addiction treatment getting the help they need.
Now, convincing a loved one to head to treatment, like an Orange County or Huntington Beach rehab, can be tough, but you can achieve this with the right strategy in place. Be sure to show plenty of love and compassion rather than playing the blame game. All that counts is getting your loved one the help they need.
Be prepared to meet with denial and be prepared for your loved one to make promises to quit without professional assistance. Addiction causes changes to the structure and functioning of the brain, so if your loved one appears to be acting irrationally, try to approach this from a place of understanding rather than frustration. To do this, you should discover as much as you can about addiction. This is the first key step to getting your loved one into the right type of treatment facility.
How do you convince someone to go to rehab, then?
How to Help a Loved One Engage with Rehab in 6 Simple Steps
1. Learn as much as possible about addiction
2. Don’t delay acting and don’t wait for your loved one to hit rock bottom
3. Plan an intervention with professional help if required
4. Communicate effectively when confronting your loved one about addiction
5. Be objective and non-emotional
6. Get your loved one the treatment they need right away
1) Learn as much as possible about addiction
Before you think about confronting your loved one about their addiction, ask yourself how much you know about addiction in general and their addiction specifically.
Here are some areas worth exploring so you can further your knowledge of what you are dealing with.
- Substances being used: Is your loved one abusing alcohol, prescription medications, illicit drugs, or a combination of these substances (polysubstance abuse)? Different drugs affect the body and mind in different ways. Some substances may cause your loved one to become withdrawn and paranoid, while others may induce aggression and anger. Knowing what you are dealing with will also help you determine the best course of treatment
- Causes and mechanisms of addiction: NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse) is a robust resource highlighting what addiction is and how it happens. NIDA also outlines what forms of intervention are most effective and why treatment is necessary for those with alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder (the clinical descriptors for alcoholism and drug addiction).
- Changes to the brain caused by addiction: Sustained alcohol abuse or drug abuse leads to functional and structural brain changes. Once you grasp this, it should be easier to understand some of the behaviors exhibited by your loved one.
- Co-occurring mental health disorders: Does your loved one have a co-occurring mental health disorder like depression or anxiety? This is known as dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. Many people with dual diagnosis self-medicate their symptoms with substances, offering short-term relief but ultimately inflaming both issues. If your loved one is struggling with a co-occurring disorder, both conditions need treating simultaneously.
- Treatment options: There are many more options for rehab than inpatient rehab, also known as residential rehab. While severe addictions typically respond more favorably to a stint in a residential treatment facility, most mild and moderate addictions can be treated in an outpatient setting. IOPs (intensive outpatient programs) and PHPs (partial hospitalization programs) bridge the gap between inpatient and outpatient care, offering more time intensity and structure, but allowing your loved one to remain at home while engaging with treatment. The more you learn about the different levels of care available, the more likely you will help your loved one engage with the optimum addiction treatment.
- Therapies for addiction treatment: Most addictions are treated in a similar way, using a combination of MAT (medication-assisted treatment), psychotherapy like CBT or DBT, and counseling. Find out how your loved one will be treated so you can reassure them by speaking from a position of knowledge.
2) Don’t delay acting and don’t wait for your loved one to hit rock bottom
One of the most enduring myths about addiction is that someone needs to hit rock bottom before seeking the treatment they need. With drug overdose or alcohol poisoning as the possible outcome of rock bottom, it is inadvisable to wait for some arbitrary low-point before taking action.
Rather than sitting by while your loved one’s life implodes, do something about it as soon as you are aware of a problem. The longer your loved one continues abusing substances, the greater the risk of long-term adverse effects.
3) Plan an intervention with professional help if required
Once you have established that your loved one would benefit from addiction treatment, you need to plan some type of intervention.
In some cases, you may feel you can approach your loved one alone, convincing them of the need for treatment. More often, though, you are likely to want some assistance.
Planning an intervention with friends and family members allows you to convene with your loved one and let them know how their substance abuse is negatively affecting all of your lives. Sometimes, those with addictions are not aware of the impact of their actions.
You should plan an intervention well ahead of time so you can all practice what you want to say. Give specific examples to show your loved one how their behavior is affecting you.
If necessary, be prepared to follow through with sanctions or consequences if your loved one continues to abuse substances – cutting off financial support, for instance, and stopping all enabling behaviors.
You should also have a place in a suitable treatment center lined up. If the intervention is successful, you’ll want your loved one heading off to rehab as soon as possible.
You can seek the assistance of a professional interventionist if this is not something you feel comfortable executing alone.
During the intervention, as well as during all communication with your addicted loved one, there are some simple ways to help things go more smoothly. We’ll explore these next as they can help you to convince a loved one reluctant to engage with treatment.
4) Communicate effectively when confronting your loved one about addiction
Here are some actionable tips for communicating more clearly and effectively:
- Body language: Keep your posture relaxed and maintain eye contact. This will encourage your loved one to communicate openly.
- Listen: When trying to convince someone to go to rehab, remember that you want to promote a dialogue. Listen and take what your loved one is saying on board rather than delivering a lengthy spiel.
- Ask questions: Ask your loved one open-ended questions, giving them a chance to process their thoughts and then answer more expansively. This helps your loved one feel like they are having a conversation rather than listening to unsolicited advice.
- Repetition: When your loved one makes a statement or asks a question, repeating what you thought you heard will clear up any misunderstandings, and will also show your loved one that you are actively listening.
With these basics in place, think about how you will communicate during the intervention, whether this is a one-to-one with your loved one or a formal intervention.
5) Be objective and non-emotional
Leave blame to one side when approaching your loved one about addiction treatment. You should be objective, calm, and compassionate. Underscore everything you say with genuine love and your loved one will feel this at an extremely challenging time.
While you will be dealing with negative emotions and sensitive subject matter, leave negativity out of your communication. You need to be goal-oriented and results-focused: all that counts is getting your loved one the help they need, not making them feel guilty or ashamed for having substance use disorder. Negative emotions will not typically act as a catalyst for your loved one changing.
If all has gone well by this stage, your loved one will not only accept that they need help, but they will also agree to engage with treatment. If so, take action decisively.
6) Get your loved one the treatment they need right away
If you approach an intervention with the proper planning, you should already have an appropriate treatment program lined up for your loved one. One of the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Principles of Effective Treatment is having treatment available as soon as the person is ready to engage.