Empathy in Addiction Treatment: Better Results

“The more therapists empathically communicate their understanding of and compassion for clients, the better the outcomes.” This is the headline finding of a review commissioned by the American Psychological Association (APA).

How is empathy central to residential addiction treatment in UKAT rehabs?
10 Principles of Empathy at UK Addiction Treatment Centres

1. UKAT was founded on empathy, compassion and a desire to help others

The APA reviewers describe one of the modes of therapeutic empathy as “the establishment of empathic rapport and support.” In practice, what this means is “the therapist exhibits a benevolent, compassionate attitude towards the client and tries to demonstrate that they understand the client’s experience.”

UKAT was founded on principles of empathy and compassion, to ensure our clients’ wellbeing and promote long-term recovery.
a photo of people holding hands together against addiction

2. We understand what it’s like to arrive in addiction rehab

Walking through the doors of a residential rehab can be a frightening prospect. We understand if you feel anxious about the days or weeks ahead. Most UKAT clients are surprised at how quickly they feel at home. Rehab, for many of our clients, is the first place they’ve been able to be completely honest about what’s going on. It’s often a great relief for people, who have suffered for years in addiction.

We will do everything we can to reassure you and your family. Please ask any questions or raise any concerns before or during your addiction treatment with UKAT. When you first arrive, we will make you feel as comfortable as possible. This includes helping you settle into your room, find your way around the centre and get to know our staff and other clients. We accommodate individual requests wherever possible. We involve our chef, for example, if you have specific dietary requests. If you practise a faith, let us know what you need to observe your religion.

3. You’ll work with a focal addictions counsellor

Having your own focal counsellor allows you to speak privately with a skilled addictions professional throughout your stay in rehab. If there’s anything you find difficult talking about in group therapy sessions, you have time set aside for 1-2-1 therapeutic discussions.

4. Empathy and direct experience of addiction

At UKAT, we understand where you’re coming from because many of our staff have been in your shoes. We actively recruit addiction therapists, counsellors, recovery workers and support staff who are in established addiction recovery. Those who aren’t in recovery often have experience of addiction within their family and/or a professional track record of supporting addicts and their families to recover.

addiction counselling session image

5. Empathy in addiction treatment is always non-judgmental

It doesn’t matter to us what you have done in your addiction. We’re here to work along side you, to uncover the keys to your sustainable recovery. There may be challenging discussions to have, in order to face up to the harms of addiction or difficult past events. But our therapeutic approach is about discovery and change – it is never about blame or shame or reprisals.

The safety of each of our clients individually, as well as the client group as a whole, is of paramount importance. So we always carry out thorough assessments prior to admission, to ensure UKAT rehabs are the right place for you to undergo addiction treatment. In rare cases, we may refer you to another centre, if that’s a more appropriate place for you to begin or continue your recovery. We also set healthy boundaries around acceptable behaviours, so everyone can feel safe and respected whilst with us.

6. Our clients’ experiences really matter and inform the therapeutic work

The APA describe one of the modes of therapeutic empathy as “a sustained effort to understand the historical and present context of the client’s current experiencing, asking: How have the client’s experiences led him or her to see, feel, think or act as he or she now does?”

In our therapeutic “Process” groups, our addiction treatment clients share their own life experiences, beliefs and emotions. This allows others peers to identify and talk about similar experiences they’ve had. The group works together to suggest different perspectives and find solutions, always overseen by skilled addiction treatment staff.

At UKAT, we also use techniques such as dialectical behavioural therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy, which are very personalised approaches. We ask our addiction treatment clients to give specific examples of challenges in their lives, in order to apply proven DBT or CBT techniques to bring about change.

7. Empathy is about recognising our clients as individuals

Our addiction treatment programmes are not one-size fits all. We offer a wide range of addiction therapies, tailoring our approach to each client. Where one client might respond really well to 12-step therapy, another client might gain the greatest personal insights from music therapy or meditation, family therapy or art. We also have our unique Strengths Model, available at Oasis Runcorn – developed as an alternative to 12-step addiction treatment.

Detoxification is also bespoke to each client. We carry out thorough medical assessments and monitor all our detox clients closely. Our clinical teams adjust medications wherever necessary, to ensure the most comfortable and effective drug or alcohol detox.

copassionate group therapy for addiction in rehab image

8. We involve families in our addiction treatment programmes

Addiction is often referred to as a family illness because it impacts upon the addict and their loved ones too. This is why all UKAT rehabs involve family and close friends, wherever our clients give us permission to do that. We encourage family visits. We also offer family members the chance to participate in therapeutic groups. If there are specific areas of conflict or concern within the family, we can address those in family meetings.

9. We integrate peer support throughout our addiction treatment programmes

Peers play a vital role in supporting each other’s recovery from addiction. Hearing from people who are a little further on in their recovery can inspire people in their first days and weeks of recovery. It demonstrates that addiction recovery is achievable and sustainable.

Our free Aftercare programme is available to all UKAT clients after they leave rehab. This offers ongoing peer support in a very safe setting. Current residential clients get the opportunity to meet with former clients and make supportive connections. We also encourage attendance of free recovery support groups in the community, such as 12-step meetings or SMART recovery groups.

10. We always ask for feedback from our addiction treatment clients

We ask UKAT clients to rate our service when they leave, describing what worked well and where we can improve. Our reviews are published online, so anyone who is considering addiction treatment can hear the views of recent clients. By listening carefully to all our clients’ experiences, we achieve better and better outcomes. You can read the latest reviews of all UK Addiction Treatment Centres here.

Please contact UKAT for confidential advice about addiction treatment.