Coerced Voluntarism:The Micropolitics of Drug Treatment
AbstractThe concept of coerced voluntarism is developed to analyze the micropolitical dynamics of drug abuse treatment at a community agency offering outpatient counseling services. Clients are coerced by criminal justice agents into “volunteering” for treatment and are generally unwilling to make serious commitments to therapeutic objectives. Unable to establish either voluntary or involuntary treatment models, clients and treatment personnel must negotiate working agreements regarding the character of their relationships. Using ethnographic materials, this article examines factors influencing the outcomes of these negotiations and the resulting course of treatment. Claiming they do not need treatment, clients attempt to persuade treatment personnel to side with them against criminal justice agents. Counselors tend to cooperate with clients because they need every possible client due to financial circumstances. Although they intercede for clients with criminal justice agents, treatment personnel also pursue a secondary strategy aimed at enticing some clients to participate actively in therapy.