Compassion can be vital to the recovery of those who are struggling with severe, problematic behaviors. You can practice compassion and empathy during group sessions with your family or by attending family-based support groups. Stephen Andrew discusses compassion with Fire Mountain’s Aaron Huey on the “Beyond Risk and Back” podcast episode “Compassion Is the Healer.” Compassion can help your kid who is struggling with addiction in the healing process.
No One Heals Alone
Recovery from addiction or other problematic issues is not solely the responsibility of the individual. The entire family or support group must commit to healing together. At Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center, this wrap-around approach to recovery is called the “Bear Tribunal.” During the Bear Tribunal, not only immediate members but extended family members or close friends are welcome to contribute to the treatment and healing of your family crisis. Recovery involves the work of each person developing empathy and compassion for one another. Collaboration and togetherness are valuable to the recovery journey of your kid. The crisis in your family will not end just from having one person enter treatment in isolation. The entire family system needs to be involved in the process.
Empathy Is a Skill to Practice
Compassion and empathy are skills that you can practice. Some members of your family may believe that your kid needs some “tough love” or needs to “learn a lesson” with harsh consequences. They might have little sympathy for your kid or feel hurt from events in their past. You can still meet these individuals with compassion. Developing compassion for those who are hurtful can be difficult. However, you can practice your skills to build more empathy for others. You can develop these skills to practice compassion and empathy:
- Active-listening skills:
- Be fully present and aware when speaking with others.
- Show the person that you are listening by using both verbal and nonverbal cues.
- Verbal Cues
- Saying “go on” or “tell me more” to encourage conversation
- Summarizing what the person has said and paraphrasing their perspective
- Asking clarifying questions to help you understand the other person
- Nonverbal Cues
- Making eye contact to show that you are giving the person your attention
- Nodding in agreement or displaying appropriate emotions along with the other person
- Verbal Cues
- Validate the other person’s feelings:
- Rather than dispute or refute the other person’s feelings, acknowledge their perspective
- Instead of saying things like, “You’re overreacting” or “This isn’t so bad!” try phrases that validate their feelings, such as:
- “It sounds like this is difficult for you!”
- “That must be tough; I’m sorry you are going through this.”
- Offer to help:
- When someone approaches you with an issue, ask them how you can help
- The other person might have difficulty asking for help and need encouragement
You can use these skills to develop empathy with your kid and the rest of your kid’s support team during group work. Most often, people in recovery need affirmation and compassion to thrive. Your family system may have people unwilling to cooperate with the group work. You can continue to meet these individuals with understanding and hope they come around to the process. They may have developed unhealthy ways of coping and are struggling to work through this self-protective pattern.
Meet People Where They Dream
During the “Compassion Is the Healer” podcast episode, Stephen Andrew refutes the commonly held notion of “meeting people where they’re at” and instead proposes that you “meet people where they dream.” Meeting people where they dream taps further into their motivations and the “why?” of healing to build compassion. Stephen Andrew says that all people have four factors motivating them:
- To gain power and control over the destiny of their lives
- To love and to be loved
- To have purpose and meaning in life
- To belong or feel a sense of “community” and “togetherness”
“Meeting other people where they dream” taps into these inner motivations that drive their behaviors. Your family needs compassion and understanding to thrive within the current crisis. You can help your kid and the entire family system by understanding that everyone is looking to meet these four needs in life. Instead of thinking about where the person is right now, imagine what their ideal life looks like. When you understand that people are looking for similar things, you can develop compassion by understanding that sometimes, people develop maladaptive behaviors as a misguided attempt to fulfill these needs. By understanding your kid’s and other family members’ actions as a means of obtaining control, love, purpose, and belonging, you can help the family heal in the right way.
Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center is here to help your kid and your entire family system heal and recover. Recovery occurs when compassion and understanding meet challenging behaviors and actions. While we might feel that our kids need to “learn a lesson” or suffer the negative consequences of their behaviors on their own, we can help them heal by developing empathetic skills. Our entire family system can benefit from compassion as we work through the current family crisis. Remember that you are not alone; Fire Mountain is here to support you, your kid, and your entire family system. We believe that healing requires the collaborative effort of all those involved in your kid’s life. If your family is dealing with a crisis due to a troubled child, reach out to Fire Mountain for help. Call us today at (303) 443-3343. We’re here to help you and your family’s fire burn brightest!