Conversation and communication are core parts of the recovery process, and being able to connect with a patient is essential for introducing recovery strategies and engaging in meaningful healing. However, one’s conversation with their patient begins even before the first words are spoken. Utilizing one’s environment as a resource can scaffold a more effective, open, and honest conversation with those reluctant to open up.

Creating a Physically and Emotionally Open Space

Creating an open space is crucial for holding an effective conversation. Those who feel reluctant or vulnerable at the idea of discussing their history, struggles, or feelings can be either consciously or subconsciously affected by environmental factors. Creating an emotionally and physically open space can alleviate some of the stress involved when discussing vulnerable topics or memories. Creating this open space, however, is a delicate balancing act.

Have Enough Physical Space

Having enough physical space for a patient to avoid feeling cramped or confined is essential. Keeping the space clean and well lit presents an image of organization, and light can impact a patient’s mentality and thinking. Not only can this limit unnecessary distractions, but it also promotes a reflection of a more organized plan ahead.

Be Conscious of Details

However, open space also means ensuring that a patient doesn’t feel too vulnerable or that they are on any kind of stage. Even such things as windows affect how open a space may feel and, in turn, the comfort and vulnerability of the patient. If one’s windows are pointed toward a populated place, such as a parking lot, the bustle of the outside world and the view of other people can all be limiting factors. In contrast, windows pointed over natural imagery may add a calming effect.

Remove Physical Barriers

Removing limiting physical barriers also adds to the openness of one’s space. While desks and computers may be essential for one’s work, they can also be barriers that limit conversation. Ensuring that they are not placed directly between oneself and a patient can eliminate unnecessary blocks that may otherwise compromise one’s ability to communicate, making patients feel more heard and respected in their vulnerabilities.

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Providing Resources for Communication

The conversation takes many forms, and those struggling with addiction or their own battles in mental health will each have their own best methods to communicate. While talking works for some, making resources like pen and paper available for patients can promote different kinds of communication. Allowing patients to write or even doodle throughout the conversation to give their minds or hands an outlet during difficult topics can be crucial for maintaining an effective conversation and providing multiple means of expression.

Other resources may include making tissues accessible without asking, water, stress balls, or providing multi-colored lights that the patient can change to their favorite color. Not only does this allow a patient a sense of control in their environment, but it also introduces the idea of agency that can influence one’s conversations and how receptive they are to therapeutic ideas.

Making as many resources available as possible without asking can have a massive impact. Whether it be applicable information about programs, phone numbers, or simply providing something to hold, granting patients the ability to reach for resources adds to a feeling of comfort or safety that facilitates more effective conversation.

Scaffolding Communication Yourself

There will always be some barriers in place that are difficult to overcome. Some patients may be reluctant to speak to professionals simply based on their title. Others may have additional barriers in place, such as attending a center for alcohol and drug treatment based on a legal obligation or familial expectation rather than their own desire for sobriety. Portraying conversation pieces that humanize oneself can open patients up to getting to know a professional and hopefully transition the conversation to specific therapeutic modalities once this baseline conversation is established.

However, each professional will have their own levels of comfort with expressing personal interests or ideas. For some, having pictures of one’s own life may be helpful, while others may not feel comfortable with such information. Regardless of the form, it is important to have some talking points.

Quotes or posters from one’s favorite movie or book or figures of one’s interests on their desk, such as one’s favorite animal, are all simple ways to create a unique, human feel in a given conversation space. Being willing to open up about some aspects of one’s own life can scaffold the necessary atmosphere and relationship needed for patients to return with their own stories, feelings, or interests, facilitating further conversation and beginning a more effective healing journey. 

There are many dimensions to recovery and sobriety. Using your environment to your advantage is crucial in helping patients explore how they may best take the next step toward a sober future. At Hawaii Island Recovery, we understand the benefits of a calming, supportive environment. We are prepared to help your patients explore their sober future at our Big Island substance abuse center today. With our unique Hawaiian atmosphere and energy, coupled with our experiential programming, supportive community, and connection to nature, we can provide a balance of support and comfort for any patient in our drug or alcohol treatment program in Hawaii. From inpatient drug and alcohol rehab to continued outpatient care, we are prepared to help your patients each step of the way. For more information on how we can personalize your patient’s journey with us, call us today at (866) 390-5070.