I’ve devoted my entire career to supporting patients with Substance Use Disorders (SUD). Here are the top ten tips that I’ve learned over the past few decades.
Connecting with Patients | April 3, 2018 | 1 min read
By Mike Fingerhood, MD, Johns Hopkins Medicine
I’ve devoted my entire career to supporting patients with Substance Use Disorders (SUD).
Here are the top ten tips that I’ve learned over the past few decades:
1.) Create a fan club.
“I look forward to teaming up with you. Let’s create a fan club for you. I’m joining and you’re president. Who else can join us to root you on in recovery?”
2.) Don’t enable.
“I understand you have obstacles, but let’s figure out how to get past them.”
3.) Avoid scare tactics.
Never say, “If you use again you’ll die.”
4.) Confront with compassion.
Deflate anger or avoidance simply by saying, “I’m really concerned about you.”
5.) Remove shame.
Separate addiction from character. I share a cartoon with patients in which the provider says to a patient, “The best thing you can do for yourself is not drink.” The patient says back, “I don’t deserve the best, what else can I do?” Then we discuss the cartoon.
6.) Build self-esteem.
With small steps in recovery, I remind patients to pat themselves on the back.
7.) Give encouragement and hope.
I define for patients that “recovery” means making today better than yesterday, and then ask them to identify simple ways to do this.
8.) Undo isolation.
Addiction is lonely. Being around people is crucial.
9.) Work on coping skills.
Review potentially stressful situations with your patient and support them in identifying other ways to cope, rather than using drugs or alcohol.
10.) Facilitate finding new ways to stay busy and have fun.
Recovery is not punishment. Helping your patient find new ways to have fun is crucial.
Working with patients using these steps builds rewards for patients (and providers) and facilitates rapport. Along the way, reflect on how time and therapeutic conversation become key tools for healing and recovery.