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Coping Skills for Families in Substance Abuse Recovery

Recovering from substance abuse is a challenging but navigable road. The person in recovery has their work cut out for them, and so does their family.

Now, in no way is the person in recovery a burden or work! They’re a human being who’s learning their own coping skills in recovery, and that’s wonderful.

It’s their family’s job to implement their own coping skills to both be there for their loved one as well as take care of themselves. Family therapy for addiction is one such skill, but there are many more.

What Are Coping Skills?

Coping skills, for substance abuse or trauma, are the tools or techniques you use to manage difficult feelings, establish a sense of normalcy during trying times, or reduce stress. Sometimes these techniques are deliberate choices we make, and other times they’re more like knee-jerk reactions.

These skills are designed to help you handle moments that may be triggering or unexpected. Common events like a death in the family or illness are examples of when these skills are necessary.

It’s important to note that coping skills, in recovery or otherwise, are not the same as self-care. Self-care includes hobbies like journaling, reading, painting, etc. Substance abuse coping skills are more like deep breathing, mindfulness, and waiting to respond to the situation rather than react.

There are also less healthy coping skills, like avoiding the stressor, shutting down, or getting angry. People usually develop these skills when they don’t have the knowledge or guidance to develop healthier ones. Fortunately, with family therapy for addiction, we can replace negative coping skills with positive ones.

Why Are Coping Skills Important?

It’s very important for family members to develop their own skills so they can best support the person in recovery. Remember that recovery is a long journey, and the person likely needs a lot of help. Having adequate coping skills to handle substance abuse recovery is key.

For example, say your loved one has been in recovery for only a few days. They’re likely suffering symptoms of withdrawal and may have a shorter temper than normal. If you don’t have adequate coping skills, you might react to this anger with heightened feelings of your own.

There’s no shame in such a reaction — it’s very normal. If you have healthful coping mechanisms in place, it can help you take the time to remind yourself that your loved one is doing the best they can right now. You can take a moment to breathe and respond to their emotion calmly.

Substance abuse coping skills are just as much about you as they are the person in recovery. Taking care of yourself is important in your daily life. It’s doubly so when you need the energy to take care of someone developing their own coping skills in recovery.

How Do I Develop Healthful Coping Skills?man speaking with female therapist

Family therapy for addiction is going to be your best way to develop these skills. A licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) has the education, training, and years of experience you need to help navigate helping your loved one with their recovery.

In addition to family therapy, individual therapy can be highly beneficial. Family therapy is excellent for navigating the family dynamics. Individual therapy can give you a place to not only develop coping skills for your loved one’s substance abuse, but can also give you a safe place to work through your individual feelings about the situation.

Other than therapy, a great foundation for coping skills is, in fact, self-care. When you engage in regular self-care, you’re prioritizing your own needs, emotions, and energy. It gives you time to refresh your perspective and do things you love. This directly translates to a more balanced mental state so you can most effectively help your loved one with their recovery.

What Types of Coping Skills Are There?

There are many different types of coping skills for substance abuse. Here are two of the main ones.

Problem-Focused

Also known as the “task-oriented” coping skill, this type of coping skill in recovery is great for those who love to check things off their to-do list or solve problems and puzzles. You focus on small steps you can take to address the current situation or stressor as a way to self-regulate your internal reaction. Task-oriented coping gives you actionable ways to reframe the stressor and your response to it.

For example, if your loved one has a relapse in their recovery, a problem-focused coping strategy might be to take the small step of getting a glass of water or making some tea to force yourself to pause before reacting strongly. Then, task yourself with calling to make an appointment for family therapy for addiction. Then the next step would be to ask your family for help getting your loved one to said appointment, and to then look up the necessary community recovery meetings for additional support. 

Emotion-Focused

Emotion-focused substance abuse coping skills are excellent ways to focus on your feelings instead of the event or situation. It involves less solving of the immediate problem and more doing something to help you process your current feelings.

For example, in the same situation of a relapse, instead of leaping into action perhaps you decide to take a walk in nature. Remember to breathe deeply and experience the feelings (safely) so they don’t escalate. Then, return to the situation at hand.

Coping Skills in Recovery

If you or a loved one is struggling with your substance abuse coping skills, we would love to help. We offer both family and couples therapy, specializing in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), hypnotherapy, and social therapy.

Book a phone consultation with our licensed mental health counselor today to get started on your path to recovery.

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