Social Skills Training
Addicts can often have a difficult time relating to others in social situations. This stems from behavior that was centered around the addiction. Much of an addict’s time is spent drinking, using drugs, gambling, or other behavior. Once in recovery, the addict will eventually need to relearn how to interact with others. Social skills training or SST can provide the knowledge needed to attend that family function or company barbecue with confidence. It can even help to reduce anxiety that you might feel when involved in social events where alcohol or other drugs might be present.
SST is like behavior therapy, where unwanted behaviors are replaced with desirable behaviors. This may seem simple enough; however, there are specific ways in which to replace these unwanted behaviors. First, you need to learn to be a good listener and understand that communication involves two people who have a vested interest in getting their words heard and their needs met. Listening is the first step in effective communication. Listen to not only the words of the other person but also their body language and ask yourself, what meaning are they trying to get across to me?
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another’s shoes. Empathy involves understanding the emotions or feelings of another person, but it does not mean taking on these emotions or feelings as your own. You can learn empathy in SST through practice. Talk to another person and when they say something, respond with a simple statement like, “that must have been very difficult for you” or “tell me more about that experience.” Empathy can build relationships and connect the communication bridges that existed during your addiction.
If you have trouble asserting yourself, SST can help. Assertiveness involves asking others for what you need and want in a confident, self-assured way. You can start with a simple, “I need you to go to this meeting with me as I feel more comfortable.” You expressed a need without being pushy or confrontational. Assertiveness also means saying no. If you need to go to a meeting and your friend wants to go to a movie, you can simply state, “I would really like to go to the movies with you; however, I need to attend my meeting tonight. It is important for my recovery.” Assertiveness skills take practice; however, through SST you can learn how to be assertive when communicating with others.
Addicts are often faced with difficult situations while in recovery including social events where alcohol or other drugs might be present. In addition, there are other social situations that involve a behavioral issue. For example, the recovering problem gambler who is invited to poker night with their boss. SST can teach you how to deal with these scenarios through a variety of ways. SST can involve role-playing where you can practice saying no with others.