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A major component of treatment at the AToN Center is Assertiveness Training.  Poor communication can contribute to relational issues – which in turn can harmfully impact recovery.  A very basic skill that is often overlooked and underutilized is “active listening.”  Active listening can prevent miscommunication and relay to your loved one empathy and concern.  

Often times we may feel pressure to solve a problem, when the problem may likely resolve itself if only the person in crisis can feel like they have been heard and understood.  Many times we are thinking about our “next move”  in a conversation, rather than immersing ourselves into the world of the person to whom we are speaking.  Here are some helpful tips to assist in active listening:

Maintain open body language and direct eye contact. 

Whenever your loved one says something that you think is important to them, state in your own words what you believe they just said.  This is called “paraphrasing.”  You can try the following phrases:  “What I hear you saying is. . .”, “In other words . . .”, and “Would you say that. . .”

Paraphrasing leads to “clarifying.”  If you find that you are misunderstanding your loved one, ask questions with the intention to fully understand their point of view.  Your intention is NOT to interrogate, blame or manipulate.  Your intention is to gather accurate information so your loved one feels understood.

Avoid attempting to solve the problem for your loved one.  Focus on empathizing and validating your loved one’s experience.  

If it cannot be avoided, and a solution must be reached, focus on assisting your loved one with generating as many options as possible.  Non-judgmentally discuss each option, emphasizing the importance of personal choice in the matter.

Hopefully these tips can assist you in your future conversations – and don’t forget the other assertiveness techniques you have learned!  Feel free to brush up on your skills by reviewing your AToN Binder!

Happy Listening!
Cassandra Cannon, Ph.D. 

Clinical Director
AToN Center 888-535-1516