Top Obstacles for Patients Seeking Treatment

Embarking on the journey toward recovery and seeking treatment can be a challenging and overwhelming experience. Navigating through this process comes with its obstacles. To help patients find the right treatment at the right time, it’s important for us to first understand the top obstacles patients face when seeking treatment.

In this article, we will explore some of the common barriers to treatment for those in the recovery process and provide insights on how to overcome these challenges so patients can successfully access the care they need. According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the most recent annual report by the SAMHSA, here are the top obstacles for patients seeking treatment.


Access to affordable healthcare remains a significant challenge for many people, and the cost of treatment may be a barrier to receiving care. In 2021, 40.1% of adults said they could not afford the cost of treatment. To help educate patients about their affordable financial options, providers can share helpful FAQs and resources on their website including a list of accepted insurances. Treatment centers should encourage patients to contact them so all questions can be answered and patients feel financially confident on their path to recovery.


Patients may face challenges when seeking accurate information about their condition or treatment options, as there is a lot of misinformation and conflicting advice available online. In 2021, 30% of adults did not know where to go for services. Provide patients with a customer service hotline or chat, where you can lead them to the correct information, and they can get their questions answered by a trusted provider.


It’s not uncommon for individuals with mental health or substance abuse issues to believe that they can handle their recovery without seeking professional treatment. In 2021, 27.6% reported that they could handle their problem without treatment. Without proper treatment, individuals may struggle to fully address the root causes of their conditions, leading to a higher risk of relapse and long-term negative consequences.

A great way to bring in patients who do not feel connected with receiving treatment is by sharing your patient success stories. Seeing first-hand perspectives allows the potential client to resonate with those patient stories which could lead them to take action. It is also important to show diversity in your patients so that future patients can picture themselves getting the help they need.

Providing resources online to guide friends, families, and loved ones on successful interventions – including how treatment centers help conduct interventions – is another great way to combat denial. Interventions have the power to immensely raise the probability of the subject’s consent to receive treatment. A refusal to receive treatment, however, shouldn’t be viewed as a failure. A seed is planted, and the individual can choose to start therapy in the future.


Some people may avoid seeking treatment for mental health or substance abuse issues due to their busy schedules. In 2021, 18.9% of adults reported that they do not have time to seek treatment. Prioritizing one’s health and seeking treatment is an investment in oneself and can ultimately lead to a more fulfilling life. To eliminate this factor as a provider, educate your patients by showcasing the patient journey within all your treatment plans. Put an end to the guessing game and give them hope! 

Mental health stigma

Mental health conditions are still stigmatized in many communities, making it challenging for patients to seek treatment without fear of discrimination or judgment. In 2021, 10.6% of adults said treatment might cause neighbors/their community to have a negative opinion, and 7.6% said treatment might have a negative effect in their workplace. Here are some tips on breaking the stigma as a provider:

Use the power of social media and your clinicians to:

  • Encourage open discussions about mental health
  • Increase your knowledge and spread awareness
  • Emphasize the importance of language and how it affects those with mental health
  • Promote equality between physical and mental health
  • Express empathy and understanding towards individuals struggling with mental health
  • Encourage honesty and transparency about seeking and receiving treatment
  • Choose to empower and support those with struggling with mental health instead of shame

Some other obstacles patients face when seeking treatment are transportation, confidentiality concerns, language barriers, access to specialized care, and more. As challenging as seeking treatment may be for patients, it’s a provider’s duty to help them take the first step toward a beautiful journey. Despite the obstacles – including financial barriers, misinformation, time, and their own thoughts and emotions – it’s crucial for all of us to work together to address these obstacles and improve access to care.

By promoting awareness, increasing education and resources, and fostering a compassionate and supportive environment, we can help patients overcome the obstacles they face and receive the treatment they need to achieve lasting recovery and improve their overall quality of life.

About the Authors

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