The Dos and Don’ts of supporting a loved one during outpatient treatment

Behavioural treatment centres exist to help people get on the right track. When someone troubled needs to get on the right path, these centres are more than happy to guide them. Your role as a loved one is similar, and here is what you can do to help.

Woman in hospital bed receiving inpatient treatment

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Rapport needs to be built during outpatient treatment before any progress is made. When you visit someone, your role can’t conflict with the program. A loved one telling a patient to ignore program rules can easily destroy the comfort level of the environment. Your loved one’s experience is closely tied to their comfort with the program, and your ability to adhere to the same rules.

Gather Information

You should have up to date information on both the program and any individual triggers of the patient. The program will be upfront about most dos and don’ts, including not bring anything that will cause a relapse. Information on this level should not be taken lightly if you want to see progress. If it helps, make a note of questions to ask before going in for each visit.

Support Realistic Goals

A patient will have a mixture of goals, and some of them may be closely tied to your relationship. Be careful about promises, as not keeping them will cause problems with the patient’s recovery. A good example of this is promising an alcoholic that you’ll take them to their favourite bar for a non-alcoholic drink. This sounds absurd, yet there are many promises made on this level for patients that see the finish line. Goals are meant to be healthy, so don’t push unrealistic goals that conflict with the treatment.


Everyone has their own communication style. Some people talk in riddles, use sarcasm or talk around subjects. Others always are down on themselves, with seemingly nothing positive to say about the world. The way an individual talks is not a direct reflexion of who they are as a person. Communicate, and never be judgemental. Sometimes being in a situation is hard, and a patient communicating to their loved one is more of a sounding board situation. Never make a person in recovery regret reaching out by belittling their current predicament.

Optimise Your Meetings

Just showing up to support your loved one is great. But why not spice it up a little? Within reason, try to make the meetings interactive. Games or any type of activities are much better than showing up and having a random conversation. A lot of meetings have an awkward silence when there isn’t a lot to talk about. When you meet a loved one in an outpatient treatment centre, treat them like they were already back at home with you. By turning every meeting to a gathering, you get rid of the mechanical nature of most outpatient meetings.

Be Considerate

Every individual deserves the respect and time to make their life right. Your support helps the process, and is an important part of healing. No matter how hard it gets, make sure to be there for your loved one.

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