Addiction can affect whole families.
Here are some tips for getting families on board for treatment.
Encourage family involvement in recovery.
Because addiction can impact entire families, recovery should involve whole families, as well. Addiction treatment professionals should encourage family members to support the patient seeking recovery. Providers should encourage families to maintain healthy boundaries, be united in their support of the patient, and avoid the temptation to shift blame to others.
Emphasize the individual’s responsibility.
While social support is valuable for addiction recovery, it is ultimately up to the individual. The patient must understand that he or she is responsible for his or her own behavior and commitment to recovery. The family should support addiction recovery efforts, but they are not responsible for an individual’s success.
Clarify your role as a health provider.
Addressing addiction can be an emotional ordeal for many family members, and some individuals can become defensive or deny the problem. Even if patients or loved ones do not want to address addiction, explain that it is your role as the medical provider to offer health recommendations. Let them know that you will come back to the issue at future visits.
Offer specific medical reasons.
Make sure you are giving patients and family members specific medical reasons for your recommendations. If there are doubts about the extent of the problem, let them know what health issues are connected to drug or alcohol addiction. Take time to explain these reasons in plain language and address questions and concerns.
Ask about past recovery attempts.
In order to make the best recommendations for a patient struggling with substance use disorder, the provider must first understand what patients and families have already tried. Ask if the patient has tried to quit substance abuse in the past. If so, ask about those methods and if there were withdrawal symptoms.
Stress the importance of a new approach.
Sometimes families may have difficulty accepting when current methods of recovery have not worked. Providers have greater results when they have taken the time to discuss all practical options for recovery. This may include alternative methods of pain relief (if the addiction involves opiates), attending a support group, or pursuing medication-assisted treatment.
Be aware of the language techniques.
It may not help patients or family members to use words such as “alcoholic” and “addict,” not only because they may be offended, but because they may have their own personal definition. Many people with unhealthy alcohol consumption, for example, have a specific idea of what an “alcoholic” looks like, and insists they do not meet the criteria. Providers are tasked with helping to define the substance use disorder.
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