Category Archives: Co-Dependency

The Solutions Method® Boundaries Week

At the core of the Solutions Method® to treatment is a 17-week therapeutic themed curriculum.  This week, our core theme for our Intensive Out-Patient and Out-Patient Programs is Personal Boundaries. We will spend the entire week exploring this important aspect of developing relational wellness. The overriding goal of this theme is to work with clients to develop skills in setting boundaries with others regarding how our clients wish to be treated and to explore parameters around personal space and safety. This tends to be a big week in the wellness journey as many clients find they do not have many experiences with healthy boundaries.

Over the course of the fifteen hours that we meet (3 hours a day for five days), we present each Solutions Method theme in the context of four key areas:

  1. Psycho-Education – Providing information on the theme such as definitions, origins and various points of view
  2. Personal awareness – Identify how it applies to the individual and which areas of their lives are impacted
  3. Process – Understand and explore how the information presented effects their lives and where changes may need to be made
  4. Skills application as an ongoing practice – Learn ways to apply the theme in everyday experiences, relationships and means to sustain the new awareness

How much space do you need?
One area we explore in depth is sensory boundaries. This is also called proprioception, or the ability to cultivate an awareness of space and things around oneself using the five senses. This gives clients the opportunity to set up their personal sense of safe space and discover how much space they need in order to feel comfortable. Clients learn to discern where they are comfortable in relationship to another person in physical space. In general we find:

  • 0-2 feet for intimate relationship
  • 1-3 feet for familial space
  • 3-6 feet for strangers
  • 6-12 feet for groups

The benefit of this work is that it helps clients to clearly identify and recognize where oneself ends and another person begins.

Throughout the week we engage in boundary exercises through visualization, role playing, experiential techniques or by physical creation using clay, pen on paper, or other art materials. The purpose is to have a hands-on experience of boundaries and to process how it feels to apply them in relationship with partners, parents, children, coworkers and friends. We want clients to have plenty of practice in establishing boundaries.

Use “I” Statements
In order to apply this principle, we offer the opportunity for role playing which helps the client conceptualize, understand and learn how to use words to set boundaries.

When using Istatements to express what one needs without judgement of self and others, it offers a tool for more productive communication in creating healthy boundaries. We also make time for our clients to role play with a peer who may play the role of the wiser self so they are able to hear what self acceptance and wisdom sounds like through this compassionate voice.

Pattern Exploration
During this week we also explore patterns of family enabling and enmeshment as it relates to boundaries and work on skills and healthy behaviors to avoid codependent tendencies. For example, we recognize that boundaries can often be too rigid, some clients close themselves off and need assistance in learning to accept help.

Seeking Safety
We incorporate some of the tools and worksheets for our boundaries theme from Seeking Safety, an evidence-based, present-focused counseling manual that helps people who have experienced trauma and/or substance abuse. Examples include Setting Boundaries in Relationships in which clients are able to explore ‘Healthy Boundaries’, ‘Too Much Closeness’, ‘Too Much Distance’, and/or ‘Getting Out of Abusive Relationships’. A consistent tool from Seeking Safety that applies to any of our weekly themes is Grounding Techniques in which a client learns to detach themselves from emotional pain in order to increase management of their actions.

Practice New Behaviors
An essential part of the weekly program structure is teaching clients new skills in establishing boundaries and being able to practice them. Examples of these new behaviors may include, role playing in establishing physical boundaries of moving away, moving forward, sitting in a chair or putting an object between themselves and another person, such as a purse or a table. Another new behavior clients may practice is learning how to saying “no.” This sounds simple, but many people with substance abuse or a history of trauma are unable or uncomfortable to say no.

Learning to establish healthy boundaries is critical in long term healing and recovery. When we have rigid boundaries we may not allow others in emotionally and may feel lonely and isolated. Conversely, if our boundaries are too loose, we may take on more than we should or do things for others to our own detriment. Boundaries week is a very important part of our program for all of our clients.   

Parenting a Troubled Teen? – Understanding Co-Dependency

Parenting a Troubled TeenThere are many ways to define co-dependence and codependency among troubled teens. However, the essence of what definitions are getting at is that codependency among troubled teens leads to an inability to have mutually satisfying relationships with others. Trying to help a teen with codependency issues is no easy task. It is important to try not to get overly frustrated or lose hope, and know that there are ways to help.

In order to try to understand the effects of co-dependency among trouble teens let’s look at a fictional example of two different families:

In family one, there’s a mom, dad, older daughter, and a younger son. Mom and Dad are well aware of the fact that their son has been maxing out credit card after credit card on his expensive heroin addiction. Mom and dad let their son get away with maxed out credit cards, late nights of partying, and defiance towards all rules. It might be the case that mom and dad do not want their son to stray any further from their family than he already has, and for that reason they tolerate all his negative behaviors. What they also might be thinking is that by bailing him out of trouble, and giving him another chance it will ultimately lead to their son eradicating those negative behaviors on his own.

What might be difficult for this family to understand is that leniency is having a negative effect on their son’s life. Lashing out and disobedience can be signs of a person reaching out for a more intimate and emotional connection. Troubled teens with codependency issues often are unaware of constructive ways of getting parental attention; therefore they rebel and gain attention any way they can.

Now, let’s look at another example: In this family, Mom and Dad’s stance towards parenting stands a greater chance of being helpful. Instead of putting the relationship between them and their son on the back-burner, they actively try to become involved in what he is doing. They provide their son with the necessary tools to make informed decisions about his life, positive reinforcement, and emphasize the power he has to forge his future. Instead of creating an imbalanced relationship wherein one party has all the power, they have created something much more productive; a son who is able to think for himself, who has positive role models, and who is not afraid to ask for help.

Troubled teens with codependency issues are often in relationships where there is a power imbalance; they let the feelings and actions of another person affect them to the point that they feel like they have lost control of their own lives.

If you struggle with a teenager who is showcasing signs of co-dependence, or better yet, if you would like to avoid going down that path all together, practice good communication. Create relationships based on trust, instead of threats. Talk to your teenagers about the importance of learning self-worth, about how people in relationships should be able to speak without fear and with confidence that they will be heard and appreciated.

If your teenager needs help with issues of codependency, or if you as a parent struggle with the same issues, come to Solutions Treatment Center. Our IOP includes a family therapy component that can start mending a relationship in need of a little TLC.