In honor of mental health awareness month, most stories presented are usually about how any of us could improve our mental health. However, there are circumstances where there is little to no choice in participating in mental health services. I would like to address the times when mental health services are court-ordered. From time to time, some are required to attend individual or group therapy to fulfill a court order. Some of the reasons for this are to fulfill family court, mental health court or drug court orders. The question is, can court-ordered therapy work for you?
The answer to this question is, yes. Yes, it really can work for someone who is required by a court order to make the best of the situation.
Throughout my career in the mental health field, I have encountered court-ordered treatment participants. Most, if not all, were not happy that the services were mandated. As a result, participants start clinical engagement providing the bare minimum. At this time, it is the role and responsibility of the mental health provider to create a safe space so that participants can find their own motivation to participate in the process of court-ordered treatment. Many struggle with initial engagement in treatment due to having to make adjustments to their schedules to attend. A couple of examples of when this occurs are when some have transportation challenges and others have to spend several evenings a week engaging in the outlined treatment. When this happens, the focus is less upon what the court is requiring and more about what the individual needs to achieve from the treatment.
What can make the experience worthwhile is working on one’s own motivation and finding a way to be open to what is expected from the court-ordered treatment. By being open-minded, even court-ordered treatment can be fulfilling even though it was not initially considered so. Group engagement helps many to stay with the treatment. Many in the group have similar circumstances that brought them into treatment. It is at this time that the practitioners build a relationship with participants to help them warm up to treatment. With individual therapy, a good relationship between the provider and the client is essential. As we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, we should also recognize the times when participation is not the first choice and embrace the possibility that something good can come from this form of treatment.
Barbara Humphrey is a Licensed Clinical Addictions Counselor. She received her MA in Mental Health Counseling from Indiana Wesleyan University.