Can Improving Interpersonal Communication Skills Help Recovery?

Many addicted individuals have poor communication skills. In fact, undeveloped social skills are often root causes of substance abuse. For example, some people believe that they can only socialize or party when they are intoxicated because using helps them temporarily escape feelings of anxiety and depression. Other individuals may interact with ease under ordinary circumstances, but their ability to connect with others becomes impaired and warped in the downward spiral of addiction.

For many recovering addicts, learning to communicate effectively can feel like learning a new language. Obstacles that hinder their ability to connect include the following:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Shame
  • Aggression/passivity
  • Perfectionism
  • Dishonesty
  • Poor boundaries

Research shows that people who feel supported by friends and family stay sober longer, whereas individuals who have highly-charged and negative interpersonal dynamics often relapse. In treatment, therapists focus on building communication skills in a way that creates stable, mature relationships. Counselors use a variety of strategies and approaches to help addicted individuals see how their underdeveloped or interpersonal skills are actually holding them back and damaging loved ones.

Communication 101: Learning to Listen

Breaking free from isolation by forming strong bonds with others is a cornerstone of recovery. Thankfully, communication skills can be learned. Key concepts of positive communication include the following:

  • Assertiveness – Having the confidence to state your needs while accepting the limits of others
  • Positive self-talk – Silencing your inner critic and learning to praise yourself for accomplishments and effort
  • Empathy – Stepping into someone else’s shoes and trying to understand their thoughts and feelings
  • Giving/taking – Practicing the skill of sharing and listening equally, offering and receiving support
  • Reading social cues – Becoming fluent in comprehending body language by observing facial expressions and tone

Attending a professional rehab center gives people the opportunity to practice new communication skills. Group therapy offers one safe place in which to use new patterns of relating and break destructive habits. Sessions often include role-playing and learning to speak about emotions and thoughts instead of ruminating on or avoiding them. The therapist may even demonstrate good communication skills for clients. For instance, she may act out a scenario in which she refuses an offer to drink at a party. Practice is key. Just as sobriety is a journey, learning to form healthy bonds with others is a worthwhile process that takes time.

Help for Addiction

If you or someone you love struggles with addiction to drugs or alcohol, you are not alone. Admissions coordinators at our toll-free, 24 hour support line can guide you to wellness. You never have to go back to a life of addiction. Please call. Start your recovery today.

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