Teaching Life Skills In Addiction Treatment

Teaching Life Skills In Addiction Treatment

addiction treatment life skills

The Importance of Developing Life Skills in Addiction Treatment

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One of the easiest emotions to feel and show is anger. Especially when trying to avoid what society would call “looking weak” by expressing our actual feelings of pain or sadness. When we feel hurt, it looks like anger to the outside world. When we feel frustrated, it also looks like anger. When we feel stress, it looks like anger. In other words, anger is a secondary emotion.

Nine times of 10, there is actually an underlying emotion that’s much harder to express, identify, and process than anger. Typically, this is the situation with addicted individuals who enter inpatient rehab or outpatient rehab treatment and are very new to feeling any kind of emotion. This is typically due to their years of abusing drugs and alcohol in an attempt to numb feelings altogether. Using drugs and alcohol limits our ability to feel and identify certain emotions, therefore, paralyzing our ability to show them in a healthy manner. That’s why finding a Florida drug rehab facility can prove to be a life-changing decision. One very common denominator in early recovery is the lack of ability to identify emotions and the frustration that comes with that inability. Most patients entering inpatient drug rehab for the first time exhibit a lot of anger which shows itself in defensive attitudes, combative behavior, and even physical violence. This is due to the extremely uncomfortable arrival of emotions that surface, tenfold sometimes, when they are no longer under the influence and able to hide them. These uncomfortable emotions, really, are shame and guilt.  These are emotions that are common in many individuals who seek drug or alcohol treatment at rehab centers in Florida.

Managing Emotions

One of the most effective life skills learned while in addiction treatment and early recovery is how to manage our emotions and regulate them correctly. This means to no longer suppress negative emotions, but to be able to identify what they are and then process through them and come to a solution. Utilizing solution-focused therapy, patients are able to figure out solutions to their problems rather than stay in the feeling and ruminate the thoughts that provoked the feeling in the first place.

Because clinicians identify anger and violence being linked to substance use, there are plenty of therapeutic modules that are used in both inpatient rehab and outpatient rehab to help patients combat this issue.  These therapeutic modalities help the client to learn how to lessen their negative emotions or violent outbursts, and instead, utilize healthier coping skills. One known therapy model, cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as CBT, is widely used for anger management issues. This type of therapeutic modality helps a patient understand how an activating event causes a negative thought, which in turn leads to a negative feeling, and ultimately a negative or violent behavioral outcome or consequence.

These behavioral outcomes can show up in the form of using drugs and alcohol or engaging in another — more than likely illegal — activity such as fighting or assaulting others. When using cognitive behavioral therapy within a drug addiction treatment program, a person struggling with anger can identify ways to stay mindful with their feeling, process the physiological effects of the feeling and come out with a better suited and less impulsive reaction.

life skills in drug alcohol rehabThe Dangers of ‘Stuffing It’

The three most common ways that people deal with anger are either “stuffing” it, expressing it, or getting rid of it. “Stuffing it” is to hide it, which is mostly recognized by society, unfortunately. When you shove your emotions inside and ignore them, they build up over time until you lash out at somebody close to you: a neighbor, a coworker or loved one, for example. When these emotions become stronger, they are harder to deal with and often times lead back to relapse.  Studies by drug rehabilitation centers have shown that stuffing your anger or lashing out in an unhealthy manner is linked to higher risk of heart disease in the future.

Expressing your emotions is a much healthier life skill in releasing these feelings that sometimes hold us hostage. However, those who run Florida drug and alcohol rehab facilities will tell you that there are healthy and unhealthy ways to express your emotions. One theory widely known by the psychology world is called catharsis. This means the purging of emotions after holding in anger or pain for so long. This is a healthy release of emotion that inpatient rehab or outpatient rehab clients are encouraged to utilize during early recovery.  Although there are some that report venting your emotions, typically anger, might make it worse due to aggression while expressing yourself, some people feel satisfaction from it and feel as though they got a lot off of their chest. Another way to express emotions in a healthy manner is physical exercise. Research does show that some physical exercise is good for your heart and increasing endorphins that cause a generally positive mood.

Removing Anger

Getting rid of anger is an important life skill to learn during addiction treatment because other approaches sometimes lead to a person staying mad or in an aggressive mindset. If the solution to anger is to stop feeling it, then anger can be reduced by getting rid of the aroused state. The opposite of anger is calm, happiness or relaxation. This is where some meditation techniques come into play as in listening to calming music, counting to 10 or breathing deeply. Sometimes practicing reframing of the problem and trying to see things from a different perspective can lessen our angry feelings as well.

There is a lot more involved in terms of working with patients with anger management issues than simply coming up with a solution. Figuring out the underlying issue that creates the anger in the first place is a great starting point. Many addicts who have learned to numb their feelings with drugs and alcohol will require outpatient alcohol rehab. They are running away from the core issue or traumatic event they may have experienced in their life. In order to help the patient become more vulnerable, building rapport and establishing a good working relationship is the first step. After this relationship has been firmly established, discussing important life events such as trauma or the death of a loved one is something that will help the patient understand where the emotions come from the first place. It is from this starting point that the healing process can begin.

Some necessary interventions or assignments that are given by a clinician to a patient who experiences anger management issues are as follows: patients are urged to journal their anger instead of lashing out verbally; patients are encouraged to journal their emotions and write a log of when they feel angry and how this anger was provoked, as well as the outcome of the anger; patients of drug addiction treatment programs are also taught the intervention of thought stopping where they stop their first thought before reacting and count to at least five. Patients are also taught some meditation techniques such as breathing exercises, guided meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation. When all of these life skills in addiction treatment are integrated into practical application and into a drug addiction treatment episode, it gives the patient a much higher chance of being able to use these tools upon returning home and using them in their everyday life.

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