Clients suffering from substance use disorder—especially if they have just come out of an inpatient treatment program—can be in a fragile place. It’s imperative that you become a stable and trustworthy figure in their life. One of the most important aspects of treating patients who suffer from addiction is having good communication skills. Good communication will ensure that you are empowering the patient so that have the tools to focus on their recovery.
1. Listen Without Interrupting
Some medical professionals ask questions but don’t give the patients enough time to finish speaking. Interrupting your clients makes them think you don’t value what they have to say, and they will be even less likely to be open and candid in the future. Patients who suffer from drug addiction may be used to condescending attitudes from medical professionals so make sure you show them that you respect them as people.
2. Set a Warm Tone at the Beginning of the Visit
The way you make your patients feel when you first walk into the room sets the tone for the entire interaction. If you want to start things off in the right direction, always enter with a warm and friendly smile. Doing so puts your patients at ease and makes them feel open to speaking with you about their problems, and you will connect with them in a way that lets you help. Patients in recovery need to know from the beginning that this is a warm and safe place for them to be honest and open.
3. Never Appear Rushed
It can sometimes seem like there are a million people demanding your time and attention, and it can make you feel like you are in a rush to get everything done. As stressed out as you might feel, don’t appear rushed to your clients. Take a few deep breaths and slow yourself down a little. Make sure you give your patients the attention and care they need as they continue their recovery journeys. When you show your patients that you respect their situation, you are building a strong foundation for trust and respect.
4. Give Your Patients Options
With patients who are newly in recovery, sometimes in-office visits may not be possible. This is especially true in cases of dual diagnosis. You might want to consider using Telehealth, which is a video teleconferencing with a clinician that allows the client and clinician to see each other and talk in real time without having to leave their homes or offices. It allows you more control over when and how you see your client and gives the client the ability to see you even if there are barriers to an in-office visit.
5. Have Respectful Out of Office Communication
If there are changes in your office or in your schedule, make sure you remain let your clients know. You also want to make sure that all communications via phone or e-mail are HIPPA compliant. Another tool you may want to consider is Secure Messaging. This is a fully HIPAA compliant way of communicating with clients that allow clinicians to send end-to-end encrypted messages through SimplePractice’s Client Portal. Clients can communicate back and forth with clinicians on their phones or computers without having to worry about their private health information being shared in a text or email.
All clients should be treated with respect and open and honest communication—whether they are in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction or not. Sometimes, you’ll need to make an extra effort for those patients who are suffering from substance use disorder, but there is nothing more rewarding than contributing to a person’s successful recovery.