Treatment in addiction is a long, arduous process—one that requires a strong will and great support. Be it from family, friends or a therapist, addicts need the same thing from them: empathy; that is, the ability to understand another’s feelings.

Empathy does not just make an addict feel better but has been proven to have positive effects on treatment. In fact, high-empathy counseling has a higher success rate while low-empathy counseling often results in greater drop-out and relapse rates. Because of this, high-empathy counseling has become an essential standard in rehabilitation.

Empathy is a crucial component not just in recovery, but life in general, and we must know how to apply it. Empathy is the key and foundation to successful relationships of any kind and can be impeded by substance abuse disorder. Not only must friends and family be empathetic to addicts, but addicts must maintain empathy towards others moving forward.

Developing Empathy in Rehabilitation

To the surprise of many, losing a sense of empathy occurs surprisingly often among addicts. People frequently forget that addiction is a chronic medical condition that involves changes in brain circuits. In this case, it can alter the mind’s priorities, putting substance abuse above family or empathy for others.

Addiction itself is selfish behavior, though not one made by choice, and often induces other selfish behaviors. In the struggle with addiction, addicts may simply outright forget about caring for friends and family. Once again, addicts do not choose this behavior; oftentimes, they simply become overwhelmed and lose focus on what matters to them.

Therefore, rehabilitation puts a great focus on developing and rebuilding empathy. Building empathy allows for mending past relationships, better communication, and reduce apathy to form more positive perception. Some methods of practicing empathy in and outside of rehabilitation include but are not limited to:

  • Have patience in conversation and listen to others first.
  • Do not judge while others are speaking.
  • Consider a person’s feelings before saying something.
  • Work with a therapist to understand your own line of thinking.
  • Remember there is no need to always agree with others, but understand them.

Friends, Family, and Empathy

As previously mentioned, empathy is a vital skill for developing relationships with friends and family. In the case of an addict, it may be even more important in trying to mend past relationships. Due to past experience, many of those friends and family may not trust you; however, for as much empathy as addicts should provide their loved ones, they must be given empathy as well.

Being the victim, friends and family should protect themselves, but not to the point of predetermined judgment and lacking empathy. Instead of giving sharp remarks and venting frustrations, family and friends must provide their own sense of empathy. Addiction and substance abuse can and will spiral out of control and requires understanding from other parties. When friends and family supply their own sense of empathy, this can ultimately shape the empathy of an addict.

Applying Empathy to Yourself

With great emphasis on addicts developing empathy towards others and vice versa, there is one element commonly neglected: empathy for oneself.

Rehabilitation also encourages addicts to empathize with themselves. The Importance of Empathy in RehabilitationHeavy feelings of regret and resentment typically develop in addiction and rehabilitation but do not warrant punishment. Instead, addicts should seek giving empathy to themselves and understanding how their addiction is not a choice. By seeking empathy and developing it for others and yourself, empathy can help push rehabilitation successfully.

If you or a loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, contact Discovery Place’s Treatment & Rehab alternative in Tennessee. You might be interested in Discovery Place’s own treatment center alternatives, such as our 30 Day Residential Addiction Alternative Recovery Program or our Long Term Alternative Recovery Program in Burns, Tennessee. Call us for a free consultation at 1-800-725-0922.


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