Against Medical Advice Discharge: How Can I Help my Loved One?
By: Lakeview Health Staff
Published: October 12, 2018

At Lakeview Health, we believe recovery is possible with appropriate treatment. We will work with you and your loved one/patient to do what is best for them and their recovery. Working a program of recovery is a choice each day, well beyond the work done at a treatment center. Individuals must choose recovery and be willing to go through some discomfort for the change they want in life. Our staff will guide this process to the best of our abilities. However, we understand that sometimes individuals are not ready to change. In this case, we will have many conversations with the individual, their significant other, family, and anyone else who may hold an important place in the individual’s life.

Leaving Against Medical Advice (AMA) Signs and Symptoms:

The treatment process is difficult and can be uncomfortable at times. It is not uncommon for your loved one to want to leave treatment against medical advice (AMA) at some point during their treatment process. There can be many reasons for this desire to leave AMA including craving, homesickness, pre-contemplation about changing, and withdrawal symptoms. Your loved one may talk with you about wanting to leave for other reasons and may not admit to or have insight into the underlying reasons they wish to leave. You may hear them complain of stress about external issues such as needing to return to work or having too many bills to pay to stay longer in treatment.  You may also hear complaints about the facility or programming, such as not wanting this much group therapy or having long days.  You could also hear your loved one minimizing their problem or claiming that they are confident they are going to do well without any further treatment.  These are all signs that your loved one may be contemplating not following the recommended course of treatment.

What to do if Your Loved One Wants to Leave Treatment Against Medical Advice:

If faced with these conversations we recommend that you:

  • Listen
  • Validate feelings
  • And also set healthy boundaries

It can be difficult to redirect your loved one to finish treatment, but it is important in building a healthy recovery that they complete their entire course of treatment. We know that these conversations can become intense and your loved one may try to negotiate or even make threats to gain your approval or assistance with leaving AMA. If you find yourself struggling with boundaries, please reach out. We can help. Contacting your loved one’s therapist for support is encouraged. We can partner with you in setting boundaries and supporting and encouraging your loved one through the difficult times. If you contact us and staff indicate they cannot confirm or deny that your loved one is treated, this means your loved one has revoked consent for our staff to communicate with you. This sometimes happens when a patient is contemplating leaving against medical advice. When this does occur, our staff works hard to encourage reinstating consents to keep the lines of communication open.

Interventions Completed at the Facility to Encourage Individuals to Complete All of their Recommended Treatment Stay:

  • Individual Interventions
  • Peer Interventions
  • Primary Group Interventions
  • Staff Interventions
  • Family Interventions
  • Outreach Referral Interventions
  • Sponsor Interventions
  • Confirmation of Job or Legal Requirements if a patient leaves against medical advice

Your loved one’s recovery is our priority. We’ll work with you to ensure they are well taken care of throughout the duration of their treatment. Also, we understand that sometimes it’s simply not the right time for treatment for someone due to where they are in their substance use disorder. Our staff will support them, and you, regardless of a decision to stay or leave early.