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Knowledge Exchange > Primary Care > Toolkits > Addiction Toolkit > Fundamentals of addiction > Addiction FAQ: What should I do if patients resist my suggestions to change their behaviour?

Fundamentals of addiction
What should I do if my patients resist my suggestions to change their behaviour?

© 2010 CAMH and St. Joseph’s Health Centre, Toronto

Signs of resistance to change include “yes, but . . .” statements, outright anger, not showing up or simply forgetting. When patients are resistant, it means they are not ready or that the process is moving too quickly. When this happens:

  • Slow down or back off (e.g., “It sounds as though you feel we’re moving too fast. Perhaps you’re not ready to cut down at the moment.”)
  • Increase intrinsic motivation by reinforcing the patient’s ideas and feelings about his or her own goals and personal values (e.g., “I know this must seem like a big step for you, but I remember you telling me that breaking this habit is the most important thing you can do for yourself.”)
  • Provide education to the patient with the aim of eliciting a response (e.g., “Did you know that if you quit smoking now, it would have a dramatic effect on your ability to breathe over the next few years?”). This approach is often more effective than information that is meant to scare the patient or to support your own perspective (e.g., “If you don’t quit, you’re going to die.”)

Contents of Fundamentals of Addiction


FAQ: What is addiction?

FAQ: Mental health and addiction

FAQ: Asking about substance use

FAQ: Reporting to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation

FAQ: Methods of managing addiction

Tools and resources

Patient handouts



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