In this paper, we use a constructed scenario to illustrate making a compulsory community treatment order in the New Zealand context. Drawing on publicly available documentation, we outline the existing mental health law framework that produces community treatment orders and emerging complex problems of their high, increasing and disproportionate use. We provide examples of human rights, indigenous and clinical effectiveness research that appear to be destabilising the existing mental health law framework. We argue assemblage theory (Deleuze & Guattari) is a useful theoretical tool to unpack the making and continued use of compulsory community treatment orders in the context of complex destabilising and stabilising influences. This is followed by an outline of the concept of assemblage with reference to the constructed scenario, focusing on processes, practices, places, types of knowledge, roles, documents and how they connect to produce certain effects that both enable and constrain participants’ actions. In the New Zealand context, we examine the potential for assemblage theory to generate new ways of thinking about compulsory mental health treatment in community settings by challenging perceived limitations and revealing opportunities for participants to act otherwise. We conclude with a proposal for further research shaped by this theory that explores the making of actual community treatment orders to reveal where there is potential to change existing relations towards more positive effects for participants.
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