Will I Succeed in Rehab if I’m Antisocial?

When you seek rehabilitation from an addiction of any kind, the medical professionals you turn to for help will consider your particular issues, needs and limitations when trying design the best course of action for your treatment. If you have social anxiety or are antisocial, for instance, you may be concerned about what treatment that will involve, since most formal treatment modalities involve group settings. Unfortunately, this can trigger fears about the whole process.

Dealing with Social Anxieties

Will I Succeed in Rehab if I’m Antisocial?

An unsociable person might face certain barriers when going into rehab and related therapies

You might be surprised to learn that many people have these anxieties, feel antisocial and do not want to participate in group counseling sessions. A recent study by Case Western Reserve researchers[i] looked at adolescents in these situations and found some interesting connections. First, people with social anxiety are more likely to end up trying and becoming addicted drugs or alcohol. The substances are viewed as an escape, especially for teens who feel they did not fit in.

“Social anxiety disorder is the most common anxiety disorder among individuals with addiction,” Maria Pagano, says. She is the lead author of the study published in the journal, Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. “I believe the feeling of being a social misfit is lurking behind social anxiety and is common among those suffering with the disease of addiction.”

In the study, researchers saw that providing a service component to these anxious teens’ treatment plans helped them participate and feel better about it. It lessened their anxiety to be helping others – even as simple an act as setting up chairs or making coffee for a meeting helped. The action of helping took the focus off of the person, which in turn helped them feel less anxious.

As often happens, when someone helps another person it often results in making the helper feel better, too.

Process Groups Can Help

A common component of rehab is group therapy. So when you enter treatment, you may be part of a process group. This is usually five to 10 individuals meeting to share their struggles and concerns, along with one or two trained group therapists.[ii]

“The power of process groups lies in the unique opportunity to receive multiple perspectives, support, encouragement and feedback from other individuals in safe and confidential environment,” according to the Colorado State University Health Network. Of course, this can be especially daunting to someone who feels antisocial. Process groups:

  • usually are unstructured
  • don’t have a specific topic for each group session
  • may be focused on a particular theme or the group may be targeted to a specific group of individuals
  • welcome members to bring up any issues

Because a main focus of therapy in the group is on the interactions among group members, it may be difficult to be a contributing member while being antisocial. However, antisocial behavior is one of the many issues that can be dealt with in therapy. In the group setting, the first order of business is to establish trust among the group. Everyone learns to deal openly and honestly in the group setting, bringing up the issues they feel are important. With discussion, the group gives support and feedback to others, working with the reactions and responses that other members’ contributions bring up for them.

The CSU Health Network points out that when people begin interacting freely with other group members, they usually re-experience or recreate some of the interpersonal difficulties that brought them to the group in the first place. Once these patterns come to light – even if it is that a member is antisocial – they can work together to help the person realize, understand and deal with it.

How to Get the Most Out of Therapy

If you are in a group therapy setting, there are ways for you to get the most out of it, even if you feel antisocial. The University of Oregon Counseling and Testing Center has these suggestions:[iii]

  • Get involved and try to be as open as possible.
  • Learn to give feedback to others, both positive and negative. For example, be specific about what you’re responding to, be direct and honest, and provide concrete examples if possible.
  • Learn to receive feedback from others. Think of feedback as a gift from other group members. Seek clarification from the member or verify with other members if the feedback you’ve received matches their perceptions as well. Beware of becoming defensive.
  • Avoid giving advice.
  • Share with others what is going on in your mind, even if it isn’t very pretty. It is okay to be messy and let others know about the things that you normally keep hidden from others.
  • Express your feelings genuinely with the group. Try and take the risk to let yourself be emotionally available to and vulnerable with others.
  • Remember that how people talk is as important as what they say. Pay attention to the non-verbal behaviors in the group — yours and those of other members.
  • Try to be as direct as possible and try to be open to the responses of others.
  • Focus on the relationships you have with the group, other group members and the leader. Put a priority on noticing what is happening inside the group. What is going on that makes you feel closer to or more distant from others?

You Can Succeed

By being aware of these basics, as well as understanding how you react to therapeutic settings, you will be able to get the most benefit from your rehab experience. Even if you have antisocial tendencies, you can still succeed in rehab by giving it your best. If you would like more information, you can contact our admissions coordinators 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

[i] “Low-Key Service Activities Aid in Successful Rehab for Teens,” by Rick Nauert, Ph.D., PsychCentral.com, April 16, 2015, http://psychcentral.com/news/2015/04/16/low-key-service-activities-aid-in-successful-rehab-for-teens/83576.html

[ii] “About Process Groups,” Colorado State University Health Network, http://health.colostate.edu/services/counseling-services/about-process-groups/

[iii] “Getting the Most Out of Groups,” University of Oregon Counseling and Testing Center, http://counseling.uoregon.edu/group-therapy


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