Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Addiction Therapists - 3 Tips for Handling Difficult Patients

Addiction Therapists - 3 Tips for Handling Difficult Patients
As an addiction therapist, your career constantly exposes you to people who suffer from disorders that cause them to behave in ways that are not always appropriate. In order to help your patients work toward healthier lives, you may have to handle some difficult situations as a therapist.
Remember that the people you work with are being controlled by the addictions they are trying to break free from, and keep your focus on being an effective partner in their struggle toward better health. Sometimes you will have to be firm, other times you will need to be compassionate, but you must always maintain the clear boundaries between you and your patients so that you are the one in control of each session.

Offering Emotional Support Without Attachment

Addiction is an incredibly emotional health problem. Since part of your job as an addiction therapist is to provide emotional support during a very difficult time in your patient's life, it is easy for the patient to begin to lean on you more than they probably should. It is up to you to offer the support they need without allowing them to become a part of your personal life.
Don't let your patient turn the counseling around so that you're discussing your problems more than you discuss theirs. It is also important to keep a professional boundary that underscores your role as a health care provider and does not allow any room for the patient to think of you as a friend beyond the scope of your work relationship.

Recognizing Manipulation and Maintaining Control

People who have suffered from serious addictions that have led them to eventually seek help have spent years manipulating their friends and family to try to keep up with their addictions. While they may be intellectually ready to give up the addiction, it can be difficult to deal with the emotional pain of letting the addiction go. As the therapist, you become one of the things that have come between the patient and the thing that the patient has an irrational need for.
Be aware of a patient's attempt to manipulate and control you during your sessions and guide the conversation back to the issues that will help the patient recover when you realize that things have strayed from the work at hand. If you are always in control of the session, your patient will have fewer chances to create uncomfortable situations for you to work your way out of.

Give Patients Flexibility to Explore Boundaries

Part of recovering from addiction is trying to figure out how to behave without the substance that has become the most important thing in a patient's life. As a therapist, you have to gauge each patient's ability to find those social boundaries on his or her own and decide how much guidance you need to provide.
Every patient is different. Remember what they teach in addiction therapy schools. The longer you work as an addiction therapist, the easier it will be for you to determine which patients might get out of control more quickly and which will need less structure.
Giving patients the space to explore their own solutions will help them feel more in control of their recovery, which reduces frustration.