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How to Effectively Form Successful Relationships
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In the last section, we discussed preserving positive self-concepts. Three steps that you can use to help your clients in preserving positive self-concepts are increasing positive self-thoughts, decreasing negative self-thoughts and setting standards.
As you know, one reason clients may give for drinking more than they would like is that drinking helps them become more sociable. Because the use of alcohol to facilitate sociability is commonly accepted, your controlled-drinking client may find themselves in a similar situation to Denise.
Denise, age 46, had been socializing with the same group of friends for 23 years. Drinking characterized Denise’s relationships. Also, Denise’s family consumed alcohol at all of their familial functions. Denise often found herself without an alternative to alcohol. Denise stated, "I know I need some new friends, but I’ve heard people say ‘If you need a drink to be social, that’s not social drinking.’ But without alcohol, how do I make it easier to relate well to people?"
In this section, we will discuss relating to others. Three Cognitive Behavior Therapy techniques for relating to others that we will discuss are forming relationships, learning from others, and managing relational conflicts. You’ll have an opportunity to hear how I reviewed relating to others with Denise. So, as you listen to this section, consider your controlled-drinking client and how he or she can benefit from techniques for relating to others.
Three CBT Techniques for Relating to Others
♦ #1 Forming Relationships
First, let’s discuss forming relationships. I reviewed with Denise four steps involved in forming new relationships. Each step requires different personal skills. A specific skill you may consider reviewing with your client before beginning is assertiveness. The four steps involved in forming new relationships are finding people, meeting people, becoming acquainted and maintaining and deepening relationships.
a. First, Denise and I discussed finding people. Denise asked about good ways to meet people. I stated, "A general rule is to do things you are interested in, but to do them in the company of others." Denise asked, "You mean like join a club or something?"
I have found that clients who join a club or group in which the client can become involved in personal interests has two advantages.
First, clients like Denise are more interested in other activities than drinking, when they are involved in things that they enjoy.
The second advantage for clients joining a club or group where alcohol is not involved or is not the focus, is that the client is more likely to meet other non-alcohol focused people with similar interests.
Denise chose a local ballroom dance club because she had always liked watching ballroom dancing on TV. Once she joined the club, Denise began meeting people.
b. Meeting people is the second step in forming relationships. If your controlled-drinking client like Denise is ready to get out and meet people, perhaps reviewing some techniques for assertiveness could benefit your client.
c. The third step to forming relationships is becoming acquainted. Denise stated, "I thought meeting people was getting acquainted." As I explained to Denise, to become acquainted she could make arrangements to see some of the people from her dance club in other situations. I stated, "You may have to take the first step to begin getting acquainted with someone, and this is another situation in which assertiveness helps." Clearly, not all of Denise’s acquaintances were likely to become a friend, but this was the start to the alcohol focus family gatherings she had been attending.
d. Finally, the fourth step in forming relationships was for Denise to maintain and deepen relationships. Since relationship development can be complex, I reviewed some general guidelines that Denise could use to maintain and deepen her relationships with her Ballroom Dance acquaintances. I stated:
"Be honest about your feelings."
"Pay attention to the other person. Be a good listener"
"Communicate clearly what you like and do not like."
"Set aside time that is devoted exclusively to your friendships."
"Don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself or for the other person."
Think of your Denise. Could your controlled-drinking client benefit from learning how to form relationships?
♦ #2 Learning From Others
The second CBT technique I discussed with Denise regarding relating to others is learning from others. I stated to Denise, "You can observe and learn from socially skilled people.
When you try to learn from others, make two kinds of observations.
First, observe specific behaviors. You might find that common behaviors include smiling, eye contact, and active listening, such as nodding, verbalizing agreement, or rephrasing.
The second observation you can make is the tone and meaning of the interaction." Denise used her observations to create her own set of social skills.
Could your controlled-drinking client benefit from learning from others and listening to this section in your next session?
♦ #3 Managing Relational Conflicts
In addition to forming relationships and learning from others, the third technique Denise used to relate to others without drinking is managing relational conflicts. Clearly, compromise and negotiation are two productive techniques for managing conflict.
However, does your client, like Denise, lack negotiation skills?
If so, perhaps you can try this with your controlled-drinking client. I provided Denise with the following brief outline regarding managing conflict arising from dissatisfaction in a relationship. I stated,
(1) First, set a time to talk about the conflict.
(2) Next, commit yourself to seeking a productive and mutually satisfying solution. Concentrate on staying focused on finding a solution and not on placing blame.
(3) Third, identify the specific behavior that is causing the problem. Again avoid placing blame." Denise was confused regarding problem identification without blame placement. I stated, "Instead of saying ‘You’re inconsiderate,’ say, ‘Please call when you’re going to be late.’"
(4) The fourth step in managing relational conflicts for Denise was to clearly specify what changes are needed. Clearly, this step is dependent on carefully specifying the problem in step three.
(5) Finally, the fifth step is managing conflicts for Denise was to provide positive reinforcement when the other person makes a change in behavior as requested.
Could your Denise benefit from learning to manage relational conflicts? Could the three techniques in this section for relating to others help your controlled-drinking client have relationships not dependent on drinking? You might consider playing this section for your client in your next session.
In this section, we discussed relating to others. Three techniques for relating to others that we discussed are forming relationships, learning from others, and managing relational conflicts.
What are three CBT techniques for relating to others your controlled-drinking client might use? To select and enter your answer go to .