When you are faced with the position where you have a loved one who desperately needs help, ranging in all levels of severity, yet they refuse help, you feel panic, fear, and frustration. It is important to remember that you cannot force anyone to change. No amount of will or want, no matter how loud, angry or emotional we get, no matter the pain we feel can force someone else to change their behavior. The only behavior we can change is our own.

Change happens when we learn to set boundaries and continue to maintain those boundaries. But, what are boundaries, anyway? We hear that word, and we think we understand it. But, families are ravaged by broken down, damaged, and failed boundaries. It is no one person’s fault – it is a byproduct of trauma and pain occurring within a family system. When this happens we have broken and wounded people trying to set the rules and expectations for the broken and wounded family system. Thus, we have a toxic cycle of pain passed from one member to another. But, healing for your family is possible. There are many different “family-system” approaches we recommend to helping your family, and in the long run, helping your loved one accept help.

  1. Connect with a Family Systems focused Interventionist

    There is a common misconception that the job of an Interventionist is to help “force” an individual into seeking treatment. While the goal of some Interventionists may focus on helping guide an alcoholic or addict toward treatment, there are also those who focus on helping the whole family find help and recovery. The guidance they can provide can be invaluable. Helping the whole family by educating them, including on how to set and maintain boundaries, and then by continuing to support and advocate for the family helps create a foundation for healing, including long term plans for involving the unwilling family member. Enlisting the help of this type of Interventionist can help guide your whole family toward recovery and healing. If you would like to connect with a Family Systems focused Interventionist, connect with us and we are happy to facilitate resources for you.

  2. Engage your family in a Family Recovery Program

    One of the fastest ways to get an unwilling family member on board is to see others in the family engaged and headed toward healing. Your loved one most likely, deep down, wants to get help. No one wants to continue being chronically unhappy, or to live a life in pain. But, when asked to be the only one within the family to seek change, it can feel isolating and shaming, which is essentially what we are saying when we say, “You need to get help!”

    There are programs available that help to engage the whole family in the healing and recovery process. These programs offer services to help the whole family heal through tele-conferencing and video-conferencing, making it accessible and convenient for the families spread out across the country (and even the world). There are also therapists and consultants around the country trained to provide these or similar services for families. Remember, it is hard for anyone to remain unwilling when they see others in their family engaged in the process. We cannot expect someone to choose a path that we, ourselves, are not willing to walk. And, you might find yourself thinking, “But, it’s not my problem, why do I have to participate?” It is so important to remember that trauma within a family causes everyone pain, and if left unresolved amongst anyone in the family, we will eventually find ourselves experiencing unhealthy coping behaviors, and will, ourselves, be miserable.

  3. Attend a Recovery or 12-Step Meeting

    Affiliations like Al-Anon or Adult Children of Alcoholics (or “ACOA”) are great options for family members to attend to learn more about recovery and healing within the family. While you may not feel that you “fit” perfectly into a particular meeting affiliation (for example, you may not be an actual adult child of an alcoholic, or you may not even be sure what Al-Anon is about), you will likely find that attending any type of family-focused 12-Step meeting will give you the education and the tools to cope with your loved one not wanting help, and to do so in a healthy manner. 

    While it can be scary to attend a meeting for the first time, many people find it extremely beneficial. They develop healthy language to engage in conversation with their loved one. More so, they begin to gain understanding of recovery for themselves. To find locations of meetings in your area, visit:

    Al-Anon, www.al-anon.org
    ACOA, www.adultchildren.org

  4. Attend The Bridge to Recovery Yourself

    Sometimes, despite all your best efforts your loved one will not agree to get help. As mentioned earlier, when your family suffers, you suffer. The hurt that you have endured causes you to carry unresolved pain. You deserve to find healing as well. 

    We have had many people who were originally seeking help for a loved one that ultimately realized they were also in pain. Understanding recovery, they came to accept that they could only demand change of their own behavior, and they decided to attend our program, experiencing positive and profound results. Furthermore, many of their previously unwilling family members ultimately decided to seek help after seeing their loved one invested and making forward progress. As mentioned previously, we all want to be happy and seeing others happy can become a huge motivator.