Here are 18 tips for anyone in rehab / treatment for overcoming substance use that'll help you make the most out of it.
September 20, 2023
Be as curious as possible.
Curiosity means you are open to listening, learning, and practicing compassion for yourself and others. There is no need for judgment.
You might have not been taught how to think introspectively. Why, what, how, when will be your best companions. It can help to change your question from what’s wrong with me to what happened to me? We have all lived many different experiences before entering therapy that all can impact how we interact with ourselves and the world around us. The more exploring you do the better your therapist can assist you, and the quicker you will learn to navigate life in a healthier way.
Be your most authentic self
If you only show your therapist who you think they want you to be you will not actually be getting help. If you only say things you think will receive positive feedback a great place to process would be the fear of real feedback.
It can be helpful to explore who in your life told you or showed you it was not safe or acceptable to be the real you.
Keep the focus on you
It is normal for therapy to feel vulnerable and intense. Especially if you are not used to talking about yourself. It is natural to want that intensity to stop and try to talk about others instead. This is a great time to process the intensity and take a moment to come up for air. It is okay to take time to laugh and acknowledge the good in between processing heavier topics.
Your therapist also wants to celebrate your wins just as much as identifying places to grow!
Formulate a trusted relationship with your therapist (and group)
If we do not trust our therapist will not give them our whole story. We will hide details and maybe pretend like things are perfect. Trust itself can be a great topic to process with your therapist and any nervousness you have or may feel during sessions.
If you are having trouble feeling any trust with them it is best to speak up instead of feeling like sessions are not helping you.
Let your emotions show (avoid dismissing them)
Let’s say you arrive at your group session, and you find yourself in a bad mood… You find yourself being reclusive, snapping at others, or unmotivated to focus on the topic. Instead of dismissing this as “just a bad day” this can be a great area to process! What happened? Who did you interact with? What story did you tell yourself about this interaction? Can you track where your emotions started to change and their frequency? Were you aware of your emotions before someone else noticed your mood? The possibilities are limitless!
Don’t rely on your therapist to guess what you’ve been through or are thinking
The more present you are the better. Your therapist has had extensive training in therapy but not as a mindreader. The more information they have the quicker you can get more insights!
Increase your awareness: yourself, your environment, your reactions
The more you can build your awareness, the more insights you have, the better you can decide how you want to navigate situations, emotions, choices, etc.
Setting boundaries with your therapist is a good place to practice
Practice being respectful but not over polite. You are in a professional relationship with your counselor. This means they are a safe person to practice confrontation with even with the smallest things. Their role is to provide a mental health service, and encourage you to practice interpersonal skills with them.
The more you vocalize confusion or feelings the better. Your therapist is not here to take things personally.
Prepare things you wish to process before hand
Make notes for yourself after sessions or when you think about things throughout the day. This will help give direction and cut down on check-in time.
Practice skills you learn in between sessions
Keep a journal- it is easy to forget what you’ve learned or gained in sessions as soon as you return home. Our brain may need to return to safety or rely on old ways of thinking. If you only think about techniques and goals in session you’re not practicing them in your life and not allowing your brain time to change.
Roleplay hard conversations you may be avoiding or dreading
Like previously mentioned, your therapist should be a safe relationship in your life. Preparing can be helpful and encouraging. Our mind may be telling us stories that do not match reality and stopping us from accomplishing our goals.
Avoid focusing on only alleviating your symptoms
Look for the roots! There are tons of grounding and coping techniques that we can use to help in the moment (which are also a part of therapy). If we only treat our symptoms we will more than likely continue to be stuck. Where did this reaction come from? This feels like a bigger feeling than what fits this situation. What are other times I have felt this way? Who does this person remind me of?
Look for themes and patterns
This is a skill you will also learn from therapy. The better you get at identifying patterns in your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors the quicker you can address what is happening.
It is normal to want to avoid your sessions
Sometimes therapy feels validating, empowering, and exciting while other times it may feel discouraging, frustrating, and overwhelming. Similar to the wizard of Oz, the more we look around the curtain the more we learn, and the more we may have to accept. This can feel like loss, grief, anger, confusion, etc. These are all new and sometimes complicated emotions to navigate alone. It is normal you may feel worse before you feel better.
Part of your therapist’s training is to help you see what may be unconscious and uncomfortable. They are trained to therapeutically confront things that we might be unwilling to look at ourselves.
Say you think you have a great relationship with your boss who you trust dearly… When you talk about your boss with your therapist you notice a pattern of your boss expecting more from you than your coworkers and not respecting your boundaries. You may feel taken advantage of now that you have brought awareness to this relationship even though previously you thought it was great.
Practice mindfulness and self compassion
Be patient with yourself! Change can be so challenging. So much so that humans have explored behavior change for centuries and do not have a perfect formula.
Practice accepting and allowing change
Our brain is wired for safety. Not for happiness, not for love, and definitely not for change. This is why it is hard to implement healthy changes that make us feel really good. Even though starting to move our bodies is good for our wellness, our brain often sees change as a threat to our safe routine.
Don’t underestimate the power of wellness
Therapy is incredible but it will not change an unhealthy physical routine, provide physical nourishment, give you joyful hobbies, provide family and friend fulfillment, make you sleep routinely
Your therapist can help you explore and set goals for all of these areas, but they cannot make you do it. If you do not take care of yourself it will be harder to see positive results.
Your therapist will not tell you how to live your life. That is up to you!
Even though your therapist is knowledgeable, and may have great suggestions, ultimately only you know what works well for you and your life. A big part of growth is learning how to trust ourselves as we see the healthy changes we are capable of on our own. You can do this!
Wherever you are on your journey, Birch Tree Recovery can work alongside you to create a healthier life, establish self-connection, instill effective coping mechanisms, eliminate anxiety, depression and further the path of your individual success in recovery.