If you are a friend or family member of a loved one in addiction recovery, you may be wondering what you can do to provide support to him or her. As previous research has shown, social support is incredibly important in a person’s recovery; a dedicated support system can help a person overcome obstacles, maintain a positive and hopeful attitude, and strive to develop the skills they need to succeed. As you can probably guess, the wrong support system can do quite the opposite – a person can easily retreat back to old addictive patterns of behavior or may feel as though they cannot accomplish their goals in recovery if their support team tells them they can’t. This is where positive and negative reinforcement comes in – and it’s important for you to know the difference so that you can provide the best support for your loved one.

Positive reinforcement is simply doing and saying wonderful things to promote positive behaviors. For example, if your loved one has been attending all of their recovery meetings, you may wish to tell them how proud you are of them – or you may want to celebrate by taking them bowling, ice skating, etc. Acknowledging, rewarding, and being proud of your friend or family member for following through with actions that move towards their physical and mental health is an important thing! It may even be helpful for you to write down many types of positive reinforcement that could show your loved one how happy you are, such as:

  • Writing them a letter or note of encouragement
  • Giving them a small gift, like a notebook for journal-writing or an enjoyable book they can read
  • Taking them out to eat at a restaurant or to participate in a fun activity

Negative reinforcement, also known as enabling, is not what you want to do, however. Examples of this could include providing your loved one with money to “get by” if you must force them to leave your home because of their addiction, or “celebrating” with your loved one by allowing them to have “just one” drink with you when they’ve been taking small steps towards their recovery. These actions are considered negative reinforcement because they promote the very behaviors that you want your loved one to put an end to.

Speak with a professional from a reputable treatment center about other ways that you can support your loved one.

Therapy is a primary component of treatment for rehabilitation from a substance use disorder and/or mental health disorder. Attending treatment with certified clinicians and counselors is critical for a full recovery. At one of New Vista Behavioral Health’s treatment providers, you are receiving exceptional care, held to a higher standard. Our programs result in better outcomes, ensuring a better recovery. For information call us today: 888-316-3665.



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If you are ready to pursue a life committed to your health, relationships and emotional well-being, you have a team that is willing to walk alongside you and restore hope for your future. Let us help you in taking the first step in your journey to recovery.

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