Recovery from substance abuse disorders can be a long process, and no two journeys are the same. Dealing with substance use disorders is challenging, and recovery often requires support. This support looks different for every individual. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), is a form of therapy that has helped people dealing with substance use disorders get their lives back. This form of therapy helps develop communication strategies as well as helps individuals seek understanding when it comes to their own lives.
When it comes to recovery, many are turning to radical validation due to its ability to combine radical genuineness with radical acceptance to try and bring healing and growth. Radical validation involves the ability to truly listen to another individual and receive their story, regardless of how you feel about the situation yourself. When you validate others, you open the door to receiving your validation. And with validation, everyone can grow.
Understanding Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
DBT is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy. DBT has been used to treat individuals with a variety of issues such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, self-injury, eating disorders, substance abuse, and relationship conflict. The main goals of this therapy approach are to help people learn how to live in the moment, develop ways to deal with stress, improve their relationships with others, and regulate their emotions.
This form of communication stresses avoiding invalidating behaviors and responses. These behaviors and responses can involve being dismissive, rejecting, or criticizing the individual’s emotions and behaviors. This approach is support-oriented in both verbal and nonverbal cues. This approach is tailored to those who have difficulty with emotional regulation or self-destructive behavior, making it a great tool in recovery.
For those in recovery from substance abuse disorders, it is common to have difficulty coming to terms with who you were and what you did while under the influence. Self-destructive behaviors not only impact the individual, but also those around them, such as their friends and family. DBT helps individuals develop mindfulness skills.
These skills help with the ability to stay calm and avoid engaging in negative thought patterns and impulsive behaviors. This also helps to identify strengths and make healthier behavior choices. Validation is a great tool in building self-esteem and providing an individual with a voice. This helps to keep those recovering from substance use disorders from relapsing.
What Is Radical Genuineness?
In DBT, the patient and therapist work to resolve any contradictions between self-acceptance and the change needed to bring genuine positive changes in the individual. A major component of the process is offering validation. Validation helps people to embrace change and trust in the process instead of feeling fear or distress at the idea of change. In this form of therapy, there are six levels of validation, radical genuineness representing the final sixth step.
The Six Steps to Radical Genuineness Include:
Showing interest and being awake. This step is about giving a person their time and respecting what they have to say by listening. This can be difficult when the topic is unsettling and you want to react or even walk away. By listening, you are validating their need to communicate.
Accurate reflection. This next step is having the ability to reflect and restate what is being said and how it is being said. Emotions can make this process difficult. The message from the sender should come out the same from the receiver if truly listening.
Put yourself in their shoes. At this level, you can read emotions and thoughts, and check them for accuracy. This level often involves interpreting both verbal and non-verbal cues. This level is moving beyond just listening intently, it is about taking the message in as well.
Validation based on history. This level involves understanding where a person is coming from based on past experiences. When it comes to recovery, it is difficult to both face the past while building towards the capability to move beyond it.
Validation based on current circumstances. This takes validation another step forward, moving from history to current predicaments that shape a person’s life. It is the next level in understanding the person directly in front of you and not the person they may have been before.
Radical genuineness. This is the final level that can take time to reach, but once it is reached, there is finally an ability to be truly yourself. This level is the ability to communicate as equals.
Radical genuineness is not an overnight process. It comes from building off of a foundation of a willingness to listen and understand. When radical genuineness is reached, communication can open, and the ability to relate as equals is finally achieved. This level is about living your truth, even if that truth is difficult.
When it comes to the role it plays in recovery, it is a moment where all the elephants in the room can be called out. This level is the ability to engage authentically. When able to engage authentically, real, authentic healing can happen.
What Is Radical Acceptance?
Radical acceptance can be defined as the ability to accept situations that are outside of your control without judging them, which reduces the pain caused by them. It is based on the notion that suffering doesn’t come directly from pain but attachment to the pain. This doesn’t mean that pain should be ignored or discredited, but that it shouldn’t be lingered on either. Getting to this point is similar to radical genuineness, it can’t be achieved overnight. It involves the ability to watch your thoughts and feelings to identify when you are allowing yourself to feel worse than necessary.
When it comes to recovery, it’s important to find ways to let the pain and hurt go. Dwelling on pain and allowing it to cause suffering can impact the journey to sobriety. Radical acceptance is usually applied in situations where you are unable to fix or change what has happened. Accepting this situation isn’t easy. When you use radical acceptance, you are making a conscious decision to see things differently. It is an active, not passive form of acceptance.
Radical acceptance can be difficult, especially when it comes to recovery from substance abuse disorders. It is difficult to accept where your life was and the impact it had on you and those around you. With substance abuse disorders, many situations may once have been outside of your control. Radical acceptance acknowledges that there is a history that can’t be changed, but there is always still room for growth. True growth begins when you can let go of the pain and stop punishing yourself for who you were before.
What Is Radical Validation?
Radical validation is a combination of radical genuineness and radical acceptance. The driving focus is to seek understanding before trying to be understood. It involves the ability to focus on what a person is saying and truly listen. When you look at radical genuineness, it is used to help people understand how to treat their loved ones with mental illness or a substance use disorder with love. Through love, you can see them as people capable of getting through, someone whose experiences and life-values are equal to yours. Radical acceptance involves accepting where you are in the present moment while understanding that there may still be some things that you need to change. When these concepts are combined, radical validation can take place.
DBT is all about communication strategies. Radical validation is a communication strategy that helps to improve how you show understanding. With addiction, people get hurt along the way. These hurts can be direct, but they can also be indirect. Radical validation helps you understand when you’ve hurt someone in your recovery process, as well as other people who have been hurt. When going through the recovery process, it can be challenging to hear their take on their experiences caused by mental illness or substance abuse.
When it comes to drug and alcohol abuse, a person may not remember all the things they have done that impacted others. This becomes an added layer of frustration when trying to validate the experiences of others. This frustration can add to the frustration experienced when having to relive a past you are trying to move on from. It can be challenging to be able to sit and listen, taking in the experience of the other person without chiming in and becoming defensive or making excuses. Instead of trying to make excuses, ask questions. Show your level of investment by diving deep into the topic to understand the full experience. When radical validation happens, it creates a calm, successful experience for the person in recovery as well as the loved one.
So, how does this process work? The concept is relatively simple. It’s the ability to actively listen, pay attention, keep eye contact, essentially using both verbal and non-verbal cues that you are engaged in the story and truly listening. The ability to remain attentive and focused is key. It’s important to avoid the desire to become defensive or make rationalizations for the event being discussed. Radical validation is focusing on what the person is saying and what their experience is. You may remember the event differently, or not remember it at all. A natural response can be to interrupt, correct or explain it away. Validation means that you don’t. You validate by simply acknowledging that you hear the person. When you try to make excuses or give reasons, you invalidate what they have just shared.
Accountability is key to radical validation. You are acknowledging that the story is heard and understood. By validating their feelings, odds are they will be more open to understanding your experience. Validating helps to eliminate feelings of conflict and misunderstanding. These feelings can negatively impact mental health and the recovery process. By engaging in radical validation, you can start to rebuild your relationships with others by hearing their side of the experience.
Using Radical Validation in Addiction Recovery
A large part of recovery is developing effective communication strategies. DBT focuses on the ability to communicate, whether it be with a therapist or a loved one. Rebuilding relationships hurt by substance use disorders can take time. The foundation comes from truly listening and validating the experience of others. Gain the confidence and skills to embrace sobriety.
Having been on both sides of active addition, both the person using, and the person affected by a loved one using drugs and alcohol, Lucas has been involved in recovery since 2009. He has been working in the treatment industry since 2013. Using his personal experience and wealth of knowledge learned from professional development and immersion in the recovery field, he has spoken with thousands of families and helped hundreds of people attain long-term sobriety. In 2020, the opportunity presented to join in and start Illuminate Recovery. Understanding the importance of personalized treatment plans and the complex nature between substance abuse and co-occurring disorders, has helped Illuminate Recovery build a strong curriculum and a phenomenal staff. Illuminate Recovery now has a medical doctor who is board certified in addiction medicine and a psychiatric medical doctor who works side by side with independently licensed therapists to provide compassionate and effective treatment.