Working Through Legal Issues In Treatment

By: Mark Rosen
Case Manager, The Refuge – A Healing Place

Clients with legal issues in treatment typically experience anxiety and fear about their current and future outcomes.  Admitting to treatment alone can be an unnerving process, but imagine entering treatment with legal problems, and you believe that you might be facing incarceration after successfully completing treatment.  With effective communication, letter writing, and excellent advocacy on behalf of the client, Case Management can assist in putting those fears and anxiety to rest and allow the client to concentrate on their treatment process.  Here are some tips that might help….

Support and Questions: While some clients are mandated to treatment, there are always a select few that do not report their legal issues, and there are a variety of reasons as to why.  Some clients feel that if they don’t talk about their legal issues, then their problems will magically disappear, while others are afraid that their parents might find out about their legal troubles, and then there are those that believe they might have violated probation, or some just simply forgot that their legal problems even existed.  When meeting a client for the first time, it is imperative for the Case Manager to question the client if any legal issues exist.  Asking the same question twice is customary, as the client might not admit to having legal issues after you ask the question the first time, which is usually due to fear and the unknown about the possible consequences related to their legal problems.  Requesting that the client sign a release of information for his/her attorney can provide more in-depth information about the client’s legal problems as well.

Providing support while asking the client if he/she has legal issues can help build an excellent rapport between the Case Manager and the client.  The client will also be more apt in opening up about his/her legal issues if they feel at ease.  Remember, the client probably has a lot of fear about his/her legal problems and imparting compassion, empathy, and self-disclosure when needed, can go a long way in ensuring the client is able to focus on treatment.

Letter Writing: When a client presents with legal issues in treatment, an admitting letter that describes the facility’s program allows for all legal professionals and representatives to know that the client arrived in treatment.  However, a release of information must be signed before any communication is extended.  An admitting letter can aid in preventing a client from violating probation and having a warrant issued for his/her arrest.  An admitting letter can also prove to the Judge and other legal professionals and representatives that the client is serious about treatment.  Weekly status reports can prove to the courts that the client is making progress in treatment and should only report about the client’s compliance in treatment, whether or not the client is engaged and motivated, and if the client is attending groups and completing assignments.  After a client discharges treatment, a letter stating that the client has successfully completed treatment and a description of their aftercare should be submitted to the client’s attorney to present to the court.

Effective Communication: Being an excellent advocate, along with the drive and passion for helping others, is part of being a successful Case Manager.  Making contact with Probation Officers and Attorneys can be very difficult; however, do not be afraid to make multiple calls throughout the day, if necessary.  Probation Officers and Attorneys have busy schedules and perseverance always pays off in the end.  You will also gain the trust of your client by proving that you will go to any lengths to advocate for the client.  If the client is making good progress in treatment, then always make sure to let the Probation Officer or Attorney know before parting ways over the phone.  Always go the extra mile and provide as much positive information as you can.

Treatment is always the best option for an individual with addiction issues. Treatment provides solutions, healthy coping mechanisms, it allows for the client to effectively deal with their core issues, and the client is given the tools to effectively handle sobriety.  Incarceration can be traumatic and oppressive.  Many addicts with felonies struggle to find meaningful work and financial difficulties can easily lead to a relapse.  Incarceration becomes a revolving door and many addicts continue to use drugs because incarceration does not provide the solutions that are necessary for an individual to stay sober and become a productive member of society.