Cardiovascular disease (CVD) continues to be a leading cause of morbidity in the U.S. Managing CVD risk factors, such as diabetes or hypertension, can be challenging for many individuals. We investigated the barriers experienced by patients who persistently struggled to reach their CVD risk factor control goals. This qualitative study examined patient, clinician, and researcher observations of individuals’ experiences in a chronic disease management program. All participants (n = 332) were enrolled in a clinical trial testing a skills-based group intervention seeking to improve healthcare engagement. Data were analyzed through a general inductive approach and resulting themes were structured along the Capability-Opportunity-Motivation-Behavior framework. Analyses identified care engagement barriers related to participants’ communication skills and activation, care team relationship processes, and emotional factors. Although most participants reported benefitting from skills training, persistent barriers included distrust of their providers, shame about health challenges, and dissatisfaction with care team interactions that were described as impersonal or unresponsive. Efforts to support engagement in CVD risk factor management programs should address whether patients and their care team have the necessary skills, opportunities and confidence to proactively communicate health needs and engage in non-judgmental interactions for goal-setting, rapport-building, and shared decision-making.