So something that I found really interesting this week was how openly judgmental people can inadvertently be when talking about those who are suffering from addiction. Over the course of the week, I’ve spoken to at least 3 classmates who have all expressed judgments (away from the patient of course) about ‘whose fault it is’, or ‘that addict should not have been blaming another Person X because it is their own fault that they started taking [drug name] and became addicted’.
When you’re talking to someone whose life has spiralled down to the point where they physically cannot control their substance abuse (yes, it’s a biological phenomenon–and not just psychological), looking for a party to blame or someone to correct is not therapeutically constructive. Drug and alcohol addiction is a hugely complex issue. Not just medically but also socially, in terms of stigma. You shouldn’t point out unhelpful things to a patient who just clearly needs your help, not your judgment.
People talk about communicating ‘non-judgementally’, but do they really understand what it means to do that? Do you know exactly how much of an impact your mentality has on the way you project yourself onto a person who is conscious about the stigma surrounding their problems?
The idea is to adopt the non-judging mentality as a lifestyle, not just a temporary thing while a you’re at work. Because odds are that the person you’re talking to can sense exactly what you’re thinking even if you’re not directly expressing your thoughts. Body language, facial expressions, tone, and a genuine sense of empathy mean everything.
I would work in drug and alcohol addiction medicine if it wasn’t so emotionally taxing. Speaking to patients about their addiction has been an insanely eye opening experience and–more people need to learn how to talk to them so that they can get all the support and help they can get.