Communication is the key to all successful relationships. It is the foundation on which trust, the cornerstone of relationships, is built. In a client-provider relationship, this trust is known as the therapeutic alliance, which helps patients know the treatment provider has their best interest at heart. Findings suggest that a strong therapeutic alliance helps reduce psychological distress during treatment for substance use disorders and facilitate necessary gains in maintaining sobriety, such as increased motivation, self-efficacy or coping skills. Here are a few essential communication strategies that treatment professionals can adopt to improve relationships with clients and promote trust, in support of positive outcomes.
There are four criteria that clinicians should immediately discuss with clients to avoid confusion during treatment and establish framework for positive communication.
These criteria include:
Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor Sarah Espenshade of Espenshade Counseling has clients sign a treatment agreement, which very explicitly outlines expectations of treatment and what communication will look like upon intake to promote trust and transparency. This is a two-way street for clients and professionals, which encourages both parties to utilize direct communication regarding issues, such as relapse, rather than a fear-based relationship, which condemns and penalizes clients for slipups.
“If we have concerns about somebody’s drinking or substance use or addictive behaviors, we want to go directly to that person if possible and be pretty explicit with them in a compassionate, caring way that we’re concerned they may have lapsed in substance abuse or drinking, and we want to help them get back on track,” Espenshade says.
Establishing healthy communication skills with clients can protect against common roadblocks that patients and providers encounter on the road to recovery, including:
“A big part of the treatment and the recovery process is really teaching clients how to respond in a more effective, appropriate way and recognize that sometimes, we need to have tough conversations, and it’s coming from a place of genuine caring and concern,” Espenshade says.
Providers can utilize various approaches to encourage clients’ engagement in the more challenging conversations that play a major role in addiction recovery. These therapeutic approaches and evidence-based practices include:
When treatment professionals demonstrate clear and effective communication with their clients, it encourages them to do the same. Using communication as a two-way street makes the sobriety journey easier and helps prepare clients for any roadblocks along the way. Learn more about how Soberlink can assist patients on their road to recovery.