Is Court-Ordered Therapy Effective?

Individuals involved in the legal system may find themselves being court ordered to go to therapy. Some reasons may include drug abuse, anger management, or parenting issues. A common question when it comes to court ordered therapy is: Is therapy effective if someone is being ordered or “forced” to go? Typically, if someone chooses to go to therapy (“choice therapy”) he or she is already starting with some internal motivation or reasons to get help and change. But what about someone who never would have chosen to go to therapy? The research shows that court ordered therapy is actually just as effective as choice therapy. Individuals court ordered to therapy tend to have higher attendance rates and remain in treatment longer. Of course, we can attribute some of that to the fact they are required to attend a certain number of sessions and they may have legal pressure to attend, but they still have a choice to either go through the motions, or actually learn and change. So what makes court ordered therapy the most effective so the person does learn and change? Receiving the proper type of therapy for what the individual needs. If the appropriate treatment is received for the necessary length of time, mandatory treatment can be just as successful as treatment when it is voluntarily sought. For example, there are many different types of substance abuse treatments and depending on severity of the abuse/addiction, additional mental health diagnoses, and other factors, certain treatment programs may not be the best fit, even for someone choosing to receive treatment. Finding the appropriate treatment for an individual is key for successful court ordered therapy. It turns out it is not whether therapy was by choice or not that determines effectiveness, but is whether the correct type of therapy is provided for the person’s presenting issues. To best determine what type of therapy could likely help your clients, consulting with a psychologist can be helpful. A brief description of the case should allow the clinician to provide some suggestions for proper therapeutic intervention.