Therapy Only Works When Patients are Motivated

Therapy Only Works When Patients are Motivated


Seeking professional help is not for everyone. When a client comes to my office, I ask them to fill out a couple of forms. One asks for basic data. The other is a consent form. A client, or parent, must sign that they are agreeing to therapy and are there of their own choosing. 

I will not work with people who have been given therapy as an alternative to something very undesirable, like jail, being forced out of the house or out of a relationship. A person has to want to be seen and to work to create change, whatever that change may be. That is identified by the client. 

Recently, a woman scheduled an appointment for her 16-year-old daughter. I told the mother that she needed to accompany her daughter to sign the consent form since her daughter was underage. I also told her I would begin the session by talking to her daughter alone. I would then invite the mother to join us so that the mother could express her concerns in front of her child. 

When they came in, I had the daughter fill out the data form. Her mother did the consent form. The daughter then came into the office. Her girlfriend was also there and she wanted the girlfriend to come in with her. I said I would not do that. I was interested in talking to the daughter alone. 

In my office, I asked her why she was there. She said she did not know. I told her I did not believe that. I asked her if she always did what her mother told or asked her to do. She did not answer. I repeated the question and she still said she did not know why she was in my office. I told her I was going to ask her mother to join us so I could get an answer to the question. Her mother came in and disclosed her concerns. I then asked the girl if she was willing to be in therapy to work on the issues her mother cited. She said no. 

I told them I would not see her in therapy. It had nothing to do with whether there were valid concerns. I will not work with people who do not want to be in therapy. It is a waste of time and money. The mother said that the girlfriend had told her she was in therapy and found it valuable and she was happy her friend was getting help. I suggested that the girl in my office talk to her friend and let me know if she changed her mind. I would then schedule an appointment for her. 

A person has to want to make change in their life to find therapy valuable. The change may be emotional (to lessen anxiety, depression, anger, grief) or it may be physical (change a career, relationship, job). Change is achievable; one must be personally motivated.