Working with patients to overcome addiction and how it has affected their lives is a tiring task, both for professionals and those navigating a newfound world of sobriety. Change is essential to one’s transformation, but it is also mentally and physically exhausting. While discussing a patient’s progress with them, it is common that subjects may change and even lose track of the more direct source of one’s struggles — important topics may be passed over as patients elect to tell a story or anecdote.
However, while this presents as a defense mechanism to help create some emotional respite, entertaining these asides with clients can be incredibly beneficial. Engaging with these asides as any other topic can lead to a better understanding of a patient and inform their unique path to sobriety.
The Exhaustive Task of Recovery
One’s time with a patient, particularly during individual therapy sessions, is valuable. It is a time and place to explore sensitive and vulnerable topics to understand addiction better and develop new coping strategies. However, one’s battles with overcoming addiction — coping with urges, cravings, stresses, confronting relationships damaged by addiction, and dealing with the regular feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, and more — can all be incredibly taxing.
While some may then assume one’s time in individual therapy is important to address these topics directly, it can be just as impactful to allow patients to emotionally distance themselves from these aspects every once in a while. By doing this, patients are allowed the space for emotional resilience to rebuild and their minds to rest. Not only can this emotional break help to rejuvenate a patient, making them more receptive to other therapies or practices, but it can also serve as a conduit to further personalize each individual’s journey to sobriety.
Especially pertinent during the early stages of recovery — particularly when a patient is still in a center for alcohol and drug treatment or newly discharged — it is also possible that those navigating their newfound sobriety may not have refined their self-care strategies or are still exploring new hobbies that best fit them. Within this context, entertaining time aside is a necessary form of release equally as crucial as any other part of one’s recovery.
The asides that may come up during individual sessions — stories or anecdotes, a joke one once heard, or even a fun dream or thought they had — are essential and for more than only providing an emotional break from the consistent trials of addiction recovery. While their use as a buffer between heavy topics and practices can be instrumental in managing each patient’s emotional energy, they can also provide key information about each patient.
Building a Relationship
One of the significant hurdles that professionals face in supporting patients through their journey is the trials of building a trusting, positive relationship. Resistance and reluctance can be very common with patients for many reasons. Some may be attending a recovery program as a result of a legal obligation or familial influence and are not themselves wholly committed to change. Others may embrace their need for change but are unsure why they should listen to a particular professional. Entertaining these anecdotes and involving them in regular conversation can be instrumental in creating the kind of relationship needed to further impact a patient’s recovery.
These asides illuminate many aspects of an individual’s life that may otherwise not come up. Some stories or fun memories may involve family members previously unmentioned, or hobbies and interests that may otherwise never have been mentioned in conversation. This time also lets professionals better understand a patient’s sense of humor and values and even informs one’s perceptions of the world by looking at what anecdotes are about, who and what was involved, and how one perceived the event. Paying attention to these elements can further personalize one’s recovery plan, helping inform further cognitive-behavioral therapies.
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Keeping a Dialogue Going
Another significant benefit of entertaining these asides is keeping the dialogue moving. Resistance in recovery can lead to silence or questions being answered in short, brusk responses. These asides allow for more opportunity for communication between patient and professional, opening doors for a professional to humanize themselves better and keep conversations active.
This ongoing conversation can be instrumental in making one’s atmosphere feel safer and more inviting — essential elements to breaking down barriers and exploring one’s personal journey with addiction. While these tangents may seem disconnected from one’s direct recovery plan, entertaining them can also be crucial for managing a patient’s emotional resilience while building a personalized relationship in trust and humanity necessary as an investment for future progress.
Entertaining asides and more lighthearted conversations or even getting involved in the stories or recollections of patients is an exercise in personalizing one’s understanding of their patients. Even if such conversations aren’t directly about confronting a particular stressor, they can still be incredibly valuable as a perspective. At Hawaii Island Recovery, we cherish this opportunity to see patients as the people beneath their addiction to drugs or alcohol and champion the idea that each individual is capable of creating their own unique path to sobriety and transformation. We offer an array of personalized therapeutic strategies, all available for patients to explore, from the first steps of detox to residential care and ongoing aftercare programs. Yoga, meditation, Dharma recovery programs, and extensive cultural and experiential programs are all available, backed by a beautiful, understanding, and cooperative community. For a quality, Hawaii recovery center, call to speak to a caring representative today at (866) 390-5070.