A Better Today

Communication
Styles Workshop

Welcome to the Communication Styles Workshop

As addiction takes over one’s life, many crucial skills are lost to the disease. Our treatment center integrates life skills into cognitive treatments and other therapies immediately upon entrance to the program to help our patients prepare mentally and physically for a productive lifestyle free of drugs and alcohol.

Some of these life skills include developing a daily routine, such as waking up and going to bed at the same time every day, developing a daily habit of self-care, responsibility, accountability, management of personal finances, eating a variety of healthy foods on a daily basis, obtaining employment, getting adequate sleep every night, stress management and clear communication.

Steadily striving for clear and effective communication is a daily staple in addiction treatment and throughout recovery. Although addiction manifests itself through many common symptoms, the disease affects each person differently. Low self-esteem, outward passive-aggressive response to others, shame, dishonesty, guilt and personal neglect are all indicative of the damage done to communication skills by addiction.

Clear communication is the pathway to mending damaged relationships and cultivating the necessary skills to make a positive lifestyle change. Treatment and recovery offer addicted individuals and their loved ones a unique opportunity to hone communication skills, while peers on similar journeys do the same.

In this workshop, we discuss several styles of communication, including body language, assertiveness, communication roadblocks, and active listening. Not only do these topics encourage self-awareness during communication sessions, but they also point out the most effective ways to speak with and listen to your addicted loved one.

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Clear Communication Breeds Mending Bonds

Clear communication begins to break down almost immediately following the development of an addiction. An addicted individual unwittingly uses denial and secrecy to cover personal feelings of shame and guilt, which clouds communication channels previously used by the addicted individual and his or her loved ones.

Lying about where they are, what they’re doing, and who they’re with often leads loved ones to a state of mistrust in their relationship with an addicted family member. These lies are often mistaken as disrespect and a lack of loyalty, sparking resentment and anger that can cause lasting damage to a cherished relationship.

Addicted individuals and their family members often ride a metaphorical roller coaster of emotions during active addiction. Asking too many details about a lie the addicted individual told can make him or her defensive, setting off a volatile emotional outburst that is usually uncharacteristic. These outbursts frequently leave family members hurt, confused and angry.

Robust and thriving relationships with close friends and family members are important to a successful long-term recovery. Our patients have a significant advantage when they connect to people who are important to them as they overcome their addiction. Regaining communication skills in treatment allows the patient to logically discuss healthy boundaries, empathy, mutual respect, love and affection, honesty and trust, compromise and support.


Regaining or developing clear communication skills helps our patients heal important, damaged relationships caused by addiction. We discuss how treating the addiction and learning crucial life skills can give our patients the opportunity to think and communicate clearly with people they care about, to recover their healthy relationship.

Roadblocks in Communication

Most people make mistakes in communication, with or without the help of addiction. As an individual says something they don’t mean or as another conversational participant acknowledges an inappropriate comment, one may feel inclined to defend the words. This may be in the form of a short apology or explanation such as, “I was embarrassed, so I was mad.” While an explanation like this may be accurate to an extent, the real root of a defensive comment in the moment is often due to deeper emotions such as shame, guilt and sometimes jealousy of another’s life.

An addicted individual verbally attacking loved ones in tense moments can be a window into his or her denial of the severity of the addiction. For many, especially individuals with an addiction, these aggressive responses are delivered with short-term survival in mind.

The key to clear communication with loved ones is to keep a strong grasp on the realization that our emotions react immediately, whether all the facts of the situation have been obtained or not. Building healthy discipline in communication is the best way to avoid acting on our first instincts in a heated conversation.

During this workshop session, we discuss common communication roadblocks that sabotage effective communication, including:

  • Mind Reading – Assuming that your message got across
  • Passive Listening – Thinking about what you want to say next instead of hearing the message someone else is trying to get across
  • Overreacting to the Other Person’s Thoughts and Opinions – Especially when there’s a disagreement

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Active Listening

In meaningful conversation with effective communication, actively listening is just as important as getting your own message across. Active listening takes effort and energy. In this workshop, participants gain an understanding of the five most impactful listening techniques.

The first of these techniques is to pay attention. Think about how you’d listen if someone were giving you instructions to cash out your million-dollar lottery winnings. Most people will listen with their full attention on the speaker, maybe even asking questions along the way. The goal of both parties is to transfer a meaningful message.

In the case of instructions to cash out lottery winnings, one party is speaking clearly while the other is processing the information with the genuine intention of gaining an understanding of how to turn a piece of paper into a million dollars in cash in their bank account. Many would look at the person who’s talking, avoid outside distractions, and keep an open mind while receiving the information; this is active listening.

It’s also important to show that you’re listening by nodding occasionally, maintaining your posture, responding to questions or giving feedback and deferring judgment until all of the facts have been obtained.

During this session, participants often come to realize that active listening uses energy and concentration. This takes some practice at first but the skill becomes easier to use the more you use it. Old habits can be hard to break, but building this new habit is worth the effort; it often improves all aspects of one’s life.

Feelings Associated with Passive and Aggressive Communication

Effective communication of one’s feelings is essential to treatment and recovery. If feelings are suppressed or an individual otherwise doesn’t feel seen, heard or loved, cravings for drugs or alcohol may increase. Effective communication requires active participation from all parties involved in a conversation. During active addiction, however, many addicted individuals rely on passive or aggressive communication to work through their feelings.

Friend: “You should’ve been with us last night. We had a great time! Sorry we didn’t invite you.”

This statement from a friend can make anyone feel down; some may even feel rejected or unloved. The passive response to this statement would look something like this:

Addicted Person: “It’s ok. I didn’t want to go anyway.”

The addicted person, in this case, doesn’t express his or her feelings, which doesn’t allow the friend to address his intentions in the message, ending with both people coming away from the same conversation, but with different messages. The aggressive response to the same statement could be similar to this one:

Addicted Person: “Good! I hope you feel bad. Someone should’ve thought to invite me. If I’m not good enough for you to invite, maybe you’re not going to be invited to join me on my next night out!


While anger may be expressed in the tone of voice being used, it’s not expressed in words, which can be confusing and put the friend in a defensive state of mind.

Clear communication can resolve the adverse feelings of both parties involved in any conversation with education and skills taught in treatment and this workshop.

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