I’m reading a book called Unconditional Parenting. (It’s a good book, though I can’t recommend it without some qualifiers.) He offers 13 guiding principles for unconditional parenting that seem to offer some helpful ways to frame unconditional recovery support.
It’s important to keep in mind that it doesn’t really matter if we believe our support is unconditional. What matters is that they believe our support is unconditional. This doesn’t mean there are no conditions to participating in a particular service, rather that we will never give up on the client, we’ll try to always be there as a fellow traveler.
Here is a stab at adapting them to recovery support.
- Be reflective – Continually examine my own practice—check my motives, examine how my life experience is influencing my practice, what beliefs and emotions are influencing my recovery support, etc.
- Reconsider our plans – When compliance becomes a problem, maybe the problem isn’t with the client but with our plans. How important is it really? Is there another need that it more important to the client at this moment?
- Keep our eye on long-term goals – We want our clients to (a) adopt an identity as a recovering addict, (b) build and sustain healthy relationships and support networks, (c) develop an internal locus of control, (d) regain the ability to achieve their goals in life. We need to ask ourselves if our behavior is making the achievement of these goals more or less likely.
- Put the relationship first – The client’s rating of the alliance is one of the best predictors of outcomes. We want them to come to us when they are scared, angry or have made a mistake. There may be times that we have to deliver messages or take actions that put a strain on the relationship, but we need to make sure it’s worth it.
- Change how we see, not just how we act – Unconditional recovery supporters look for opportunities to learn rather than mistakes to be corrected. They “work with” rather than “do to.”
- R-E-S-P-E-C-T – We need to be sure not to write off their requests, dismiss their feelings of anger or trivialize their fears, and hear them out without interrupting.
- Be authentic – While we can’t be pals with clients, we can never stop being a real person with them.
- Talk less, ask more – Nuf said.
- Keep their developmental stage of recovery in mind – Different clients will require different kinds of recovery support and each client will require different kinds of recovery support at different stages of recovery. I need to remember it’s too easy to expect more of a client than is realistic at their stage of recovery. (But I also need to maintain high expectations.)
- Attribute to clients the best possible motive consistent with the facts – Two things are important to remember, One: We often do not know for sure why a client did what they did. Two: Our beliefs about those reasons can create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- Don’t stick to your no’s unnecessarily – Even in the least restrictive kinds of programming we get to exercise a lot of control over what’s acceptable and what is not. We will often have to say no, but we need to be mindful of our reasons, be willing to explain them and make sure our support is not contingent upon them abiding our no.
- Don’t be rigid – “…foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” and poor recovery support.
- Don’t be in a hurry – When we’re in a rush, we’re more likely to lecture, use coercion, get into power struggles, interrupt, etc. If you act like you have a few minutes, it’ll take all day. If you act like you have all day, it’ll take a few minutes.
All of us struggle with this. There’s nothing wrong with struggling. When we stop the struggle is when we should choose another profession.