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Some people believe managing substance use disorder (SUD) happens quickly and with minimal effort. However, healing from chronic substance misuse and managing SUD takes time, resources, and dedication. Setting healthy expectations is essential to successfully recovering from SUD and co-occurring disorders. Studies have shown that “In light of the diversity of treatment goals and the differing motives that underlie them, it is important to develop realistic expectations about what treatment can usefully accomplish.” West Coast Recovery Centers helps clients set clear and achievable goals during treatment to reduce emotional burnout and encourage long-term recovery.

Talking to Family Members About Treatment and Recovery

Family members and close friends often have unrealistic goals for loved ones in recovery. In most cases, unreasonable goals and expectations are caused by ignorance or misinformation. Individuals benefit from discussing goals, expectations, and boundaries with loved ones under the guidance of a mental health professional or other care team member. Clients collaborate with their care team to determine which family members to approach and how to discuss mental health, goals, and expectations. 

Most people who want to set clear expectations talk to their loved ones about the following: 

  • How long it will take to achieve and maintain sobriety
  • Possible triggers and other complications
  • Potential long-term side effects from chronic substance misuse
  • The realities of treatment and recovery

When speaking to loved ones about substance misuse and recovery, you should use facts and provide sources for them to reference. Most people with a negative view of recovery or substance misuse have a skewed understanding of SUD and treatment. Educating them reduces the spread of stigmas and misinformation. 

Common Unrealistic Family Expectations

Family members may have a history of SUD or mental health issues and feel like they know what to expect. However, no two people are the same. Everyone reacts differently to SUD and treatment. You can help your loved ones gain a deeper understanding of how each case is unique by teaching them how different factors affect how SUD manifests.  

Some of the most common unrealistic expectations include: 

  • The belief that addiction is immediately “cured” after attending detox or other short-term treatment programs 
  • Substance abuse is a lifelong issue and cannot be “fixed” 
  • Forcing someone to attend treatment always results in failure
  • All a person needs to overcome addiction is determination and willpower

Treatment is not an instant cure for SUD. Physical changes within the brain and other systems affect how a person reacts to substances and treatment. Some people require more intense programs to achieve long-term sobriety. Treatment ensures clients successfully control their condition and build a foundation for a healthy future.  

How Setting Healthy Expectations Improves the Effectiveness of Treatment

Treatment requires people to make significant changes to how they think, feel, and behave in their everyday lives. Individuals who set healthy expectations for their recovery can focus better and often feel more motivated to make essential lifestyle changes. In addition, setting achievable and realistic expectations for each stage of recovery improves self-confidence and self-efficacy by ensuring clients continue to meet their goals. 

Healthy goals and expectations do the following: 

  • Reduce pressure from friends and family
  • Improve self-reliance and resiliency 
  • Increase stress tolerance

According to Health Expectations, “A particularly interesting aspect of expectations, or expectancies, is their effect on symptoms or recovery, the so‐called placebo effect.” Some people see significant progress in their recovery over a short period if they have realistic expectations and anticipate success. The placebo effect manifests noticeable positive results for people who believe their treatment works. 

How to Set Healthy Expectations During and After Treatment 

Setting healthy expectations is easier when clients work with their care team to create recovery goals. An outside, objective perspective often makes it easier for clients to remain self-aware and recognize if their expectations become unreasonable. 

Individuals in recovery achieve health goals during and after treatment by doing the following: 

  • Identifying areas to improve 
  • Acknowledging the need for change
  • Using resources to make healthy changes 

Expectations are often based on what clients see other people accomplish. Spending time with peers during recovery and seeing the various stages people go through to achieve long-term recovery can help you set healthy expectations. 

Maintaining Realistic Goals With Family Members and Friends

Family and friends may have unrealistic goals because they want to see their loved one happy and healthy. The pressure to heal quickly often comes from a place of concern and love. However, unreasonable expectations don’t help people recover from substance misuse and may even slow the process. West Coast Recovery Centers uses psychoeducation and other tools to provide clients and their loved ones with essential information about recovery to ensure they understand how to set realistic expectations and goals.

Individuals and families frequently have unreasonable expectations for treatment and recovery. Often, family members are unaware of the realities of addiction recovery and expect their loved ones to be “cured” of SUD within weeks of attending a program. However, recovery is a process that generally involves multiple levels of care over the course of months or years. Setting realistic goals reduces stress and enhances the effectiveness of treatment by putting it into a more objective context for clients and their families. West Coast Recovery Centers encourages clients and their families to use the skills they learn in individual and family therapy to set realistic expectations. To learn more about our services and programs, call our office today at (760) 492-6509.