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Client Motivation

A common concern raised by drug and alcohol workers is the motivation of criminal justice clients ordered into treatment by the court or by the NSW Parole Board. Clients are coerced to access and participate in drug and alcohol treatment services for many reasons. These reasons include pressure from family, to maintain relationships, the risk of losing employment and / or housing, health issues and many others. People seek and enter treatment for varying reasons and at different stages of motivation. Getting out of prison is another motivating factor for participating in treatment. Being ordered into treatment by the court or at the direction of the NSW Parole Board is sometimes perceived by treatment services as a "get out of jail free" card and not the right motivation to attend a treatment service.

Dr Astrid Birgden, Director of the Compulsory Drug Treatment Program with Corrective Services NSW, has worked with prisoners for over 20 years. She observes that being ordered into treatment makes little difference to motivation levels. A person's willingness to change is the main determinant of a successful outcome, and that prisoners are usually very interested in getting out of the prison cycle with the right support. Research demonstrates that clients who are ordered by the court to attend treatment programs show considerable and sustained reductions in reported substance use, injecting risk and offending behaviours, and improvements in mental health.1

Read a short interview with Astrid Birgden, Director of the Compulsory Drug Treatment Program, Corrective Services NSW. Click here to download or watch the video below

"Seize the moment. This is your teachable moment. It may be the only time this person steps inside a treatment service. No matter what the motivation you have a golden opportunity to positively assist a person."

Astrid Birgden, Director of the Compulsory Drug Treatment Program, Corrective Services NSW

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A selection of the references used in No Bars along with other related publications can be found on the Research And Publications page.

  1. McSweeney, T. et.al. (2006) 'Twisting Arms or a Helping Hand? Assessing the Impact of 'Coerced' and Comparable 'Voluntary' Drug Treatment Options, British Journal of Criminology (2007) 47, 470-490, Advance Access publication 30 October 2006
  2. Ashton, M. (2005) 'Motivational arm twisting: contradiction in terms?', Drug and Alcohol Findings, 4-19, Issue 14, 2005.

Motivation can be built in criminal justice clients with the right kind of preparation or 'readiness training' on what personal resources they may need (to change), self confidence in the ability to change, and willingness to accept and even welcome the process and its consequences.2

Ashton, M. (2005)