In the early recovery process, our clients may experience that they have buried their emotions during their active substance abuse. Many of our clients have found that they developed a substance use disorder because they could not cope with their strong emotions. When our clients understand they cannot escape their feelings anymore, they require the tools to cope with emotions.
At Everlast Recovery Centers, we use many different methods to work on feelings management. By learning to manage complicated feelings, our clients can avoid becoming overwhelmed by them and live a life of lasting recovery.
What Is Feelings Management?
Even people with good coping skills struggle with managing their feelings. Feelings can become harmful when they cause people to have problems in their daily lives. For example, a person who cannot control their anger might lose their job for getting into an argument with their supervisor.
While negative emotions can feel uncomfortable or even painful, at Everlast we understand that our clients need to experience these feelings instead of burying them. When managed and expressed positively, feelings are normal and healthy.
Feelings management seeks to give our clients the tools to understand their feelings and how to cope with them. Most types of therapy teach some form of emotional regulation. While various methods address feelings management differently, they aim to help the person step back from emotions, accept them, and not act on their emotions.
How Do We Teach Feelings Management?
Many therapy types, especially acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), focus on accepting feelings and letting our clients feel them. These therapeutic modalities also focus on not letting emotions control thoughts or behaviors.
For many of our clients, learning the following thought processes helps them with feelings management by identifying the following:
When thinking through this process, our clients learn to name or recognize a feeling. They then learn to look at the situation and assess where the feeling comes from. Deciding where the emotion came from then helps them make a better decision on how to act on that feeling.
Like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), some therapy forms seem to focus more on thoughts and behaviors than feelings. However, feelings form a critical bridge. How a client feels about a thought will help determine the resulting behavior.
Feelings management in residential settings works best when facilitated in group and individual therapy. Many of our clients have a very hard time expressing emotions in front of others, so practicing this skill in groups can improve their self-expression. Both types of therapy give our clients a chance to express their emotions, examine them with the therapist, and work through them.
Feelings Management and Addiction
People in active addiction often numb their feelings with drugs or alcohol. Almost all drugs and alcohol help to numb emotions and many of our clients start using these substances to relieve stress or escape from painful emotions. During active addiction, a person may become used to not feeling anything at all, other than the effects of the substance or not having it. They often struggle with feelings management more than others because they have avoided dealing with feelings for so long.
When our clients begin the recovery process, they face all the feelings they tried to hide. They are forced to face the consequences of everything they did during their addiction and the overwhelming new feelings that come with adjustments in the early recovery process. Clients experience overwhelming emotions both during treatment and during recovery. Fear of taking the huge step to decide to get help drives some of these feelings. Normal feelings the client may have stopped experiencing during active addiction may come back as well.
Feelings Management in Residential Treatment
While our clients are engaged in our residential treatment program at Everlast Recovery Centers, they will experience many opportunities to practice feelings management, both in an individual and group environment. In group therapy, many emotions can arise. Sometimes in group therapy, clients may argue or feel divided, angry, or hurt. In this case, the therapist will step in and use these as learning opportunities to talk through how these feelings happened and what each client would like to see happening. In most cases, the feelings turn out to be less powerful than they felt at first.
It is also crucial that during interactions between clients and staff that the Everlast staff always models good emotional management. This can include naming their emotions, such as “I feel really hurt right now,” and talking about them in appropriate ways, like “It hurts that you called me that after I thought we were getting along really well.” When staff model the behavior, clients can better understand what it looks like to communicate effectively and appropriately.
People should test out some of the many techniques for managing feelings and find some that work well for them. Some methods include:
For a person to step back from their feelings, accept them for what they are, and not let those feelings decide how they act, they must have good feelings management skills. During the recovery process, these skills become even more critical. The skill of managing emotions assists our clients in early recovery to achieve long-term sobriety.