Impact of Communication on Interpersonal Relationships
December 12, 2013 by Nancy Albus LPC NCC CEDS in Eating Disorder Relapse, Eating Disorder Treatment Effective communication is the cornerstone to satisfying, healthy relationships. Very often in eating disorders, a client’s communication is silenced, or there is little or no real communication going on. This is extraordinarily problematic from the perspective of building and creating satisfactory personal intimacy. It may also leave a person feeling unattached from anyone in the word. This lack of attachment and connection causes the eating disorder to be more heavily relied upon.
The importance of communication in interpersonal relationships just can’t be overstated. This is the reason why every aspect of treatment at Castlewood includes the development of formal and informal communications skills.
In recovery, our clients learn how to communicate their needs, wants, and desires. In addition, they learn how to listen and understand the needs, wants, and desires of the people with whom they are interacting. This happens every day, when engaging with the treatment team, other clients, and with family. Communication is emphasized at Castlewood because it is so very fundamental: humans are not meant to live in isolation, and in order to have meaningful and satisfying relationships, being able to effectively engage and connect is vital.
We assess clients and their families very closely, in order to identify the specific interpersonal issues present at home. Clients learn to develop, perhaps for the first time, their own personal sense of self, and identify personal boundaries. Families are helped to understand the “hows” and “whys” behind the new changes in their loved one, and how to help and adapt to these changes. An important part of treatment is making sure that the same dynamic that was present prior to treatment, and that caused relationships to go awry, isn’t reverted back to after residential care. Throughout treatment, emphasis is placed on how clients are engaging in relationships, and providing frequent feedback to the skills that are practiced daily. When miscommunication occurs, clients also learn how to take a step back, clarify, and re-communicate.
When our clients leave Castlewood they are continuing to re-establish and rebuild family relationships. Outpatient treatment continues this important focus on communication and skills. How the client is engaging with people at home, work, and school are good ways to evaluate how the recovery process is going. Some old boundary issues may resurface after inpatient treatment, and outpatient therapy helps keep communication and engagement open.
The number one cause for relapse in eating disorders is a sense of isolation. It is difficult for everyone, not just those with eating disorders, to learn to balance personal boundaries, and yet still let others into our personal spaces, emotionally and physically. Maintaining a sense of self and boundaries, without falling into a relationship that is so enmeshed that these are lost, can be a difficult balancing act. Clients with eating disorders are particularly vulnerable, because when channels of communication close down or are lost, and there isn’t the support of healthy attachment and connection, the higher the incidence of going back to an eating disorder.
Providing the skills for clients to engage and connect in satisfying ways is one of our core goals at Castlewood.