It takes a sustained effort by a team of people, including spouse, family members, co-workers, friends, doctors, and other health professionals to understand and work with an individual with a Substance Abuse Illness.

There are many ways to change behaviors.  Finding the right ones will require some creative strategizing and some trial and error before you’re able to tune in to a few effective methods.

While many chemical-addicted individuals and their families have found solace and support in drug treatment there are other individuals and professionals who would prefer not to medicate and turn to nonmedical treatments instead.

We try to explore med-free strategies that help individuals gain focus and control. This can take place before medicines are used or after.

We are sure to discuss any new treatment approaches with an individual before trying to implement a plan.

Make sure to be very clear and specific about what is expected from the outset. For example, instead of saying, “Clean your act up” say, “What can you do to help yourself?”  “What can I do to help you?” Working with just a few small, reachable goals is more manageable. And let an addicted individual help devise goals.

Use charts, checklists and reminders to keep track of the progress and to look for patterns … both negative and positive.

Who doesn’t want to be rewarded for doing good work?  If a result or suggestion is a good one, show praise for the behavior by recognizing it with a reward … a compliment, well-deserved privilege, or other mutually agreed-upon reward. It is just as important to actively and selectively ignore undesirable behaviors as it is to recognize and reward the good behavior.

One of the core problems in addiction is the inability to keep an individual from doing something bad even though they know it’s wrong. Remember some things are clearly not okay and should be addressed immediately, such as aggression and threats to safety.

It may sound counterintuitive to tell an addicted individual with a drug abuse problem to find a job or to get into vocational training, but work or school has wide-reaching benefits to brain function. While straightforward mental activity, such as work or training, helps to flood the brain with focus-sharpening neuro-chemicals, work and vocational training turns on higher centers of the brain that promote organizational functioning.

Physical activities that require patients to pay close attention to where their minds are in reality are better at sustaining focus and concentration. Running, work-outs, group tennis, or yoga are just some productive choices to help focus on a productive mind, because they incorporate controlled breathing techniques, posture, and stimulate natural chemicals that all work to improve concentration and reduce stress. Don’t dissuade a physical activity that you recommend to an individual, even if they are reluctant to pursue it at first. Continue to bring it up and eventually you may get him/her to participate.

Finding something that an individual enjoys and takes pride in can give him/her a sense of purpose and self-control while diffusing some negative behaviors and tension.

Many patients have a poor attention span and cannot focus long, so finding a creative or service-oriented activity they genuinely enjoy is important for building self-esteem and self-confidence. Remember a patient does not necessarily have to do an activity well for it to be therapeutic.

Individuals with an addiction disorder often spend a lot of time outdoors not receiving productive or positive help. So their environment can play a big part in increasing drug use. Long periods of unstructured time without concentrating on work or groups can lead to counterproductive activity.

When looking for reasons to explain behavior changes, it’s a good idea to look at an individual’s medicines and diet. While scientific evidence linking foods to behavior is thin, eliminating foods with a high potential for allergies might produce other symptoms that an individual may not recognize, and can certainly interact with a highly-sensitive individual.

If you are planning to help construct an individual’s diet, consider working with a registered dietician or nurse to assure that the person maintains a well-balanced diet during the process of treatment. Have him/her keep a detailed food diary to see if there are any positive behavioral changes associated with removing or adding certain foods.

Asking an individual with an addiction illness the most basic questions relating to things such as home chores, daily activity, or basic interactions with family or friends can be a positive task and can lead to a productive rapport. Always be specific about what is expected, give a deadline, and explain how he/she will benefit or give some sort of recognition for follow up and accurate information.

If any individual with an addiction illness is interested in Biofeedback Therapy, that can be recommended and is led by a trained practitioner. Please explain that he/she would wear a cap connected to sensors that measure brain activity while engaged in a focus-promoting activity displayed on a computer screen. If they don’t focus, the therapy stops, encouraging them to regain focus in order to continue with the therapy. The hope is that the individual will practice focused activity for increasing periods and will learn to sustain his/her attention outside of therapy.

Please contact NYCACTS, Inc. at 212-510-7906 for more information on Biofeedback Therapy and our 24 hour dertoxification service.