Research repeatedly shows that those who successfully found long-term abstinence actually did it on their own without the use of expensive, high-end or luxurious treatment facilities.1,2
One interesting longitudinal study examined the prevalent heroin use among soldiers in Vietnam. This study revealed that when the soldiers returned home, they gave up their addiction completely.3
Surprisingly, most addicts, after years in a viscous cycle of addiction and relapse and it’s accompanying losses, quit. They choose to give it up completely. The trick then, as a loved one of an addict or a therapist, is not to persuade an addict to change, but rather to elicit the motivational factors that will help him to make the decision to change.
This is done through empathetic communication, not confrontation or subjugation.
It is the motivational factors within an individual, and the ability for them to make their own choice that proves viable and long term success. What motivates an individual to change is a more important focus than informing them of where they are wrong.
In fact, common methods, although well-intentioned, that “help” an addict to change, can actually have a reverse effect. Confrontation is often used because many people have the perception that most addicts are in denial. This is not always the case.
Confrontation or trying to have someone “see it my way” shows an increase in an individual’s resistance to change. Research continues to show that problematic behaviors will increase during confrontational periods of intervention.”4
In one eye-opening study, just confronting someone to stop drinking, actually led them to drink more and when less confrontation was used, less drinking resulted.”5
Confrontation, the use of power, scaring someone “straight” or trying to pound views or truth into someone simply fails. But these tactics are still used in some AA, NA groups and twelve-step programs. Some facilities and programs even take it to the extreme and call their therapy “hot seat therapy” or “attack therapy.”
According to one researcher, Miller, there isn’t a single line of research showing successful clinical outcomes using these approaches.6
Is it any wonder that AA reports a whopping 80 percent dropout rate in the first year?7
It is the motivational factors within an individual that produces long-term and sustainable change. Sure, an addict can be forced into treatment, but sooner or later, the addict must make the decision on his own. Choice is necessary for decision.
It turns out, that the way family members, friends or therapists talk to individuals about their addiction problems deeply affects their decision.
The University of New Mexico conducted a study which revealed different approaches with alcoholics. They discovered that successful outcomes and long-term sobriety actually stemmed from the level of empathy used during recovery.8
In fact, empathy displayed to someone with an addiction contributes to long-term positive effects up to 2 years following an intervention.9
Once an addict has decided to change, an essential component is to use evidence-backed techniques and a plan to assist them achieve THEIR goal.
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