Excerpt from “Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change”.
The following segment is from our book and outlines all the reasons why confrontation as a strategy is typically far from effective. It also describes strategies that are more effective when you want to encourage change in your loved one.
Confrontation: The Biggest Motivation Killer
The evidence gathered in almost every study of therapeutic techniques is that resistance to change increases with confrontation. Confrontation undermines motivation. It’s fascinating and sad that for decades, traditional treatment for substance abuse enacted a self-fulfilling prophecy with harsh approaches like interventions (and boot camps and “hot seats” and so on) that induced and strengthened the very defenses (denial) they intended to break through. (Some treatment providers still take this approach— we will help you ask the right questions to avoid them.) Confrontation in therapy leads to client resistance, which leads to more confrontation. Only recently, this flawed strategy has been challenged by the fundamental insight of motivational thinking and all the evidence for it that research has provided. Treat people with respect and present them with a range of options, and their resistance will decrease. Nobody likes to be bossed around.
Why does it seem to work on TV? Because it’s TV. Confrontation doesn’t work on shows like Intervention and Celebrity Rehab either, but it does make for great drama as it meets all the criteria for a reality TV show (secrets, betrayals, tears, confessions, redemption, and so on). In reality (real reality) this version of helping people is ineffective and at times harmful. Respectful, collaborative approaches like CRAFT have a sixty-five percent or greater success rate for getting reluctant people into treatment, while confrontational interventions succeed about thirty percent of the time. Some evidence indicates that even when successful—defined as getting the person into rehab—the aftereffects of some confrontational interventions linger on in a damaging way; those who have been intervened on are more likely to relapse after their initial treatment episode. Anecdotally, this is our experience as well, as we are often left with the angry, resentful, and betrayed clients who are no longer wanting to allow their families or friends to be involved.
The opposite of confrontation is not doing nothing. Non-confrontational action does not mean that you approve of the problematic behavior nor tiptoe around it. By understanding and working with your loved one’s motivations, you can be a collaborative helper; there are specific strategies that we will teach you to instigate change in yourself, your loved one, and often the whole family system. Staying involved has the power to help your loved one change course. Remember what the evidence says: your skillful involvement has a positive impact on your loved one’s motivation and is usually more influential than any other factor. At the same time, specific, temporary, strategic detachment when your loved one is intoxicated or hung over is something you can do to influence your loved one’s motivation. Recall the husband earlier in this chapter who stopped making dinner for his wife and secluded himself with a book when his wife was drinking.
Remember, there is a sweet spot of engagement that keeps us connected but at the same time gives the other person room to consider information, make decisions, and learn from mistakes, as opposed to being on his back all the time and nagging. Ultimately, we can help people change but we can’t do it for them.
[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][fusion_tagline_box backgroundcolor=”” shadow=”no” shadowopacity=”0.1″ border=”1px” bordercolor=”” highlightposition=”top” content_alignment=”left” link=”” linktarget=”_self” modal=”” button_size=”” button_shape=”” button_type=”” buttoncolor=”” button=”” title=”What’s hard about this . . .” description=”” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ class=”” id=””]It may seem counter-intuitive, especially when the stakes are high and emotions deep, that it helps people to change if they feel understood and accepted as they are. It will become easier to hold the paradoxical truth in your mind as you practice and see it working, but for now just try to be inquisitive and aware. The more aware you are, the more choice you will have to respond in motivation-enhancing ways, and the better you will become at promoting motivation for change. Remember you are learning, so please try to be patient and kind to yourself if you lapse and find yourself yelling, or if empathy doesn’t come easily. You deserve to feel acknowledged, understood, and accepted too.[/fusion_tagline_box]
The way you understand motivation profoundly affects how you think and feel about your situation. Other people’s behavior is more comprehensible when you realize the same principles of motivation apply to all of us, in whatever we’re trying to do. Before you learn to use the specific skills and strategies that come later, before any changes in behavior on the part of you or your loved one, you can feel more hopeful and in control, for good reason. In fact, you may find yourself acting differently already, because you are seeing things differently, and your loved one may respond differently in turn.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]