Common Barriers to Helping Someone

When helping someone with substance abuse, running up against some barriers is common. Over the years of working in the substance use disorder field, we observed some common obstacles. 

Below, you will find that one or more of the following barriers will appear at some point in the process.

This information intends to help you find the answers to overcome these barriers. If one or more exist in your attempt to help a struggling individual, please consider the advice included. The sequences below are not fixed and may differ from one individual to another.

First of the Five Common Barriers to Helping Someone 

1.  Willingness of the person to seek help

Not all individuals suffering from addiction are totally willing to address their addiction issues. It will occur to every person at some point to say, ‘I can’t keep this up; I need to change.’ Or ‘I have to stop, or I will lose everything.’ There are countless versions of this statement. One can find that all persons using mind-altering substances will be found somewhere on the Scale of Denial.

But how do you overcome this barrier? One can overcome this particular barrier with patience and a good, friendly approach. You can bring the person to accept help. In some cases, it may take a bit more work. One may need to do this over days, weeks and possibly months. But the person will recognize things are looking pretty bleak.

Further reading;

Second  Barrier to Seek Help

2. Lack of family agreement that professional help is needed

Family disagreements can show up more often than they should. In such cases, one family member may reach a breaking point and initiate the process of assisting the individual in need.

However, another family member holds a different perspective on substance use. They may think that the individual has a few beers after work or indulges in a few lines of cocaine on the weekends. Yet, your perspective differs; you witness the individual’s deteriorating condition. Typically, the person downplaying the addiction may have their own undisclosed or hidden personal issues.

Their comments and attempts to gain agreement or disagreements should not sway you. It is your responsibility, by any means, to demonstrate the seriousness of their struggles. Financial difficulties, anger issues, job loss, isolation, and physical health degradation are all signs of needing professional help.   

Further reading:

Third Common Barrier to Seeking Treatment

3.  Funding or wait time for actual treatment

This next barrier is a really problematic one. The family or the person suffering has two options for help. Either they wait to enter a publicly funded treatment program or pay out of pocket for a private drug rehab.

In the private sector, the cost of treatment will vary from $ 3,000 (partially subsidized) to $25,000 or more for a 30 to 45-day program. The wide margin can be due to factors such as lavish amenities, medical personnel, and specialized counsellors.

Many government-sponsored programs have such a demand that they have no other option than to have a wait time for intake. You need to evaluate the urgency of the situation and act accordingly. 

Further reading:

Fourth Obstacle for Treatment

4.  Failure to decide rapidly but adding indecision time

This obstacle can show up in many ways. Sometimes, it comes from the person struggling. They may state they want to go but must first deal with the dog, the hydroelectric bill, selling the house, etc.

Various justifications exist for delaying a decision by a few days or even weeks. Frequently, this hesitation stems from an unspoken “fear of the unknown” or difficulty in facing change. There are valid reasons in certain instances, such as in a legal proceeding where an attorney cannot request a postponement or health issues.

In other cases, the family member(s) add time. Or it can be one’s indecision as to which treatment to choose. Sometimes, people tend to give too many options. 

Anyone struggling with substances can not decide to stop their behaviour, which seems to us an easy decision. So, you shouldn’t expect them to choose between five treatment options. The best solution for this is to offer two options, no more.

 As for issues to deal with, just be willing to do whatever it takes to get them help now. Take the dog, bring the car to storage, or you’ll oversee the house sale. Make it easy for them to enter treatment, and remove all stops.

 Indecision, one of the common barriers to helping someone seek treatment

Fifth Common Barrier 

5. Assigning importance to details instead of the program

This barrier is not as obvious as it sounds. However, certain family members or the person in question may focus on details that are not necessarily useful. These include the type of bedding the center uses, how many calls are allowed daily, whether the facility has a swimming pool and similar details.

These features only put unnecessary time into the intake process. What is necessary is good counselling with tools to help them stay sober.

Substance misusers and family members should focus on the program curriculum and how it will address their needs. The amenities are not crucial to recovery and can become an argument to delay or deny recovery.

Further reading:

In conclusion

The above are common barriers to seeking help. They are not the only ones, but we encounter these frequently. If you truly wish to overcome the devasting effects of substance abuse, keep these in mind when working to get help. You can also contact our addiction referral counsellor for assistance. We can coach you through.

Marc J. Bernard

Marc J. Bernard

Substance Use Disorder & Recovery Professional,
Referral & Consultation Counsellor

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1 888-488-8434
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