Dealing in Language

Dealing in Language - How to Speak to Patient in recovery

Words are a tricky thing, aren’t they? What is being talked about and how it is being said are two vastly different things that each hold their own power. Inappropriately addressing an important topic is going to be detrimental to the conversation and relationship. Likewise, addressing an inappropriate issue can cause harm, regardless of how tactful the words chosen may have been. Tone and content need to work hand in hand to create a cohesive, proper message. The way we speak and the words we choose (including personal mannerisms and speech patterns) all hold a critical weight. The effects are irreversibly felt by the listener.

Absolution and Commitment

Subconsciously, each person has their own different quirks when it comes to language. Some people repeatedly use a similar sentence structure, while others overuse a particular word or phrase. People who are guilty of this may speak in absolution or in defensive, non-committal terms. Each different lexicon has its own drawbacks when used too frequently. First, and most obviously, is the problem of absolution. This kind of language describes how things “must” be, “have to” be, or are “certain.” It paves the way for a binary way of thinking. By addressing a topic in the most basic, black-and-white terms possible, a person’s thinking becomes very rigid. Any thought that falls outside of the realm of the absolute “success” category must then, by definition, be a failure. While one may not be conscious that this kind of language is taking place, it can eliminate grey areas. These shades of grey can be the healthiest place to operate when dealing with complex topics like emotions and addictions. The language of the non-committal has, then, the opposite problem. Overly “grey” language never instills a strong feeling either way. People are left without feeling like there is a direction to proceed at all. After all, why would one wholly invest themselves in a bunch of “maybe’s?” Sentences, when taken individually, don’t necessarily always hold this kind of power over your mindset. However, when overusing either absolute language or overly vague language, difficulties begin to arise.

Each Word Has Its Own Potential

It can be impossible to predict what a patient may latch onto as something that is particularly impactful. Pay attention to the language we speak and the way it is delivered. Patients truly seeking help will latch onto certain words, phrases, or sentences that particularly resonate with them. When addressing a patient, avoid both absolution and non-committal lexicons. Your words may have far more of an impact than you could have possibly predicted.


The interaction between patient and provider is a delicate one that language holds together or rips apart. Even with the best intentions, choosing to say, “I like you” or “I appreciate your presence here” can have different effects. While they are, at their core, the same thought, patients will respond differently to each sentence. This is where a common subconscious technique that most people practice needs to be identified – code-switching. Code-switching is changing the way one speaks, depending on the people around them. An example would be utilizing technical terms around fellow professionals, and then avoiding high-brow words around patients. It can be the difference between saying, “sup, man?” and “Hello, how are you?” Code-switching is essential for talking to different people of different age groups, socio-economic backgrounds, or cultural ethnicities. As mentioned before, a good portion of this is already happening below the surface, unrealized. However, it has the power to grow a relationship between professional and patient, if you can master it. On the other hand, it can be detrimental if a patient feels they cannot communicate comfortably with the provider in front of them. Confusing language can inhibit the recovery process.

All in Unison

Keep language intentional. While it seems straightforward to simply mean what you say, you have to always seek the best possible way to say it. Interpersonal communication is an essential factor at the heart of recovery. Ensuring that communication is done in the best, most effective way is critical for professionals in the field. Therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and all other members need, first and foremost, to establish a repertoire with the patient that they are asking to open up, asking for their trust and faith. The intention, patient, and individual words all need to work in harmony before any recovery or rehabilitation can effectively take place.

Alta Centers provides a unique, modern take on the rehabilitation process, prioritizing keeping members as a functioning part of society during treatment. Specializing in individualized approaches and guidance to each unique individual, Alta Centers create a personal, safe environment where people can take their first step in the journey to a healthier life of sobriety. For more information on their different programs available or to schedule an appointment, contact Los Angeles Addiction Treatment Center – Alta Centers at 1-888-202-2583 today. Taking a personal approach to each patient in every way possible, the professionals at Alta Centers are ready to help today.

About Alta Centers

Alta Centers Detox is Los Angeles Addiction Treatment and Recovery center .