When Participants Aren’t Participating

What to Do When Participants Aren’t Really Participating: Doing the Minimum to Comply, Poor Attendance, Using Substances

Keynote or Breakout


Engaging and working with “difficult” and “resistant, unmotivated” clients is frustrating and uses a lot of staff, treatment and justice services resources. Relapse, continued use and continued problems is not only common, but can be expected in addiction and mental health treatment. Assessment of relapse potential for preventive actions and assessment of substance use in treatment and other addiction and mental health flare-ups is critical.  This session will discuss what to do when participants are not actively invested in treatment and seem to be skating by doing the minimum to comply. It will highlight how to work together – judges, court teams, treatment providers and all stakeholders - to deal with poor attendance, positive drug screens and other poor outcomes. We will discuss what to do in early phases of problem-solving courts versus in later phases and other proximal and distal approaches.


Participants will

  1. Identify the difference between “compliance” and “adherence” and key concepts about relapse, continued use and problems.
  2. Apply principles of individualized treatment planning to deal with minimal effort in treatment, poor attendance and substance use while in treatment.
  3. Discuss how to improve policies and procedures, sanctions and incentives, phases and programs to promote recovery in court participants.