It’s truly a beautiful feeling when we open ourselves up to vulnerability and change, but encouraging change in addiction treatment can be more difficult. It takes courage to actively choose and approach our goals, to seek and accept help for addiction and mental health struggles. But sometimes this isn’t our journey; sometimes we’re watching our loved ones suffer and we desperately want to help them, to get them started on the right path.
If you’ve ever tried to help someone change before, you know that simply telling them they need to change won’t do much. Instead, you need to develop a solid, trusting relationship. The authenticity that flows from a supportive relationship will go much further with your loved one toward creating change in addiction treatment.
After building a trusting connection, here are some helpful tips for encouraging change in addiction treatment:
- Lead by example. “Do as I say, not as I do” is a concept that doesn’t work on anyone. You have to explicitly and visibly engage in your goals for others to take notice and model your behavior. If you want others to walk the path of change, you must be willing to walk it with them.
- Suggest goals. Goals are more achievable when they’re attainable and contain explicit instructions for achieving them. You’ll find more success when you focus on actionable steps to add to their routine, rather than on behaviors you want less of. Help them remember these goals and support them in the changes they are making through helpful and constructive reminders.
- Give the right feedback. Focus on the behavior, not any personality trait behind it. This goes for both behaviors you want to encourage and those you do not.
For example, you might praise a friend for not drinking by saying, “Wow, you have lots of willpower, I couldn’t do that.” On the surface, this feels helpful, but it may not be. Instead, try saying, “I’m proud of you for avoiding any temptation to drink.” This praises their behavior, while not painting it as part of their personality.
- Support good habits. When encouraging a change in behavior, make sure that every step of the way focuses on achieving the end goal. That is, reorganize and shape the environment in a way that encourages good practices.
- Develop support networks. Support networks are a crucial part of any mental health treatment and larger behavioral change. Help create a connection between yourself, your loved one and a larger community, whether that community is friends, family or a group engaged around a common topic.
What Can I Control When it Comes to Encouraging Change in Treatment?
“When we are no longer able to change the situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist and Holocaust Survivor
Even though we care deeply for those around us, and even if we use those helpful tips, there are still times when people will not change. When others actively resist our efforts to help, it makes us feel overwhelmed, powerless and without direction. Though it’s a tough pill to swallow, we cannot change other people; we can only change ourselves.
When things feel out of control, it’s often helpful to focus on the things we can control. Here are some suggestions for shifting your focus to what you can influence to encourage change:
- Control your environment. If you’re able to safely leave a situation that’s overwhelming you, do it. Practice going to a quiet, stress-free environment to escape overstimulation and recenter yourself.
- Be selective with your relationships. We’re often very influenced by others’ emotional states because negative feelings are contagious. It’s okay to set boundaries with people who affect you in that way and disentangle yourself from negative relationships.
- Get up and get moving. Sitting stagnant doesn’t exactly increase our motivation. Try getting up and exercising to feel more autonomous, and make sure to thank your body afterward.
- Manage your emotions and beliefs. We might feel like our lives are dominated by unconscious fears, sadness and worries beyond our control. This makes us feel emotionally overwhelmed and doomed to fail. Increasing our awareness of how our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are connected can help us harness our agency in managing them.
When you reframe your thoughts and focus on aspects of your situation that you do have control over, you are taking active steps to calm your fears and return to a mentally healthy state of mind. This is especially helpful when those around you are making choices that you do not agree with and choices that ultimately scare you.
If you are looking for more information on how to support your loved one or find addiction treatment that works, The Ranch Tennessee is here to support you every step of the way.