How to approach a loved one who is struggling with addiction?

There is a delicate balance that is required when confronting addiction. For many addiction has become a way of coping and a strategy of survival and as such can become defensive when confronted on this difficult issue. The most important advice that we can give is that as a family or loved one, you need to be firm and gentle in your approach. This is what we call empathic assertion.

Having empathy means… “that we try to understand another person’s feelings, needs or wants.“

When we assert ourselves empathetically, we are trying to convey sensitivity and recognition of our loved one’s feelings and viewpoint. Communicating in this wayis incredibly important as it directly impacts openness to feedback, especially when you are talking to someone about making changes in their lives.

Here are some guidelines on how to do this:

1.Keep it short and sweet

Go into the conversation with a plan, it will allow you to stay focused and know all the facts that you want to convey.

2.Avoid Fuzzy

Keep the conversation clear and direct, as this will allow you to express yourself in an open and honest way.

3.Stay Positive

Keep the conversational tone positive, as how you say something can be as important as what you say.

4.Value Others

Try to keep the conversation judgement free. When confronting your loved one, it is more than just about sharing information, it is about creating life change and to do this we need connection.

5.Stay CALM

Try to keep your own feelings in check, by being aware of how you feel and in control. If the conversation becomes heated, remember to pause!

6.WatchNon-verbal Language

Try tomaintain an even tone of voice and make as much eye contact as you can. And remember to keep your body relaxed and open.


Communicating effectively is more about listening than it is about talking, listen to your loved one and try to hear what they are trying to say too.

If you just communicate, you can get by. But, if you communicate skillfully, you can work miracles.