STATS Fellow Maia Szalavitz on ABC News

Last night, ABC News continued their series, ‘Family in Crisis: At the Breakpoint,’ which examines the options parents have to help their children. This segment focused on the “tough love” approach and whether it is helpful or harmful to those who are dealing with drug addiction.

“Tough love”, as Maia Szalavitz explains in today’s Huffington Post article, is the method of “breaking people in order to fix them”. She says:

“…the main point I want to make today is that whenever empathetic and supportive approaches to the treatment of addiction have been compared to tough love, empathy always wins-and by a large margin.”

Fellow experts agree as well. Maureen Channing, clinical consultant for The Meadows Rehabilitation Center in Arizona, explains in her ABC interview:

“What I see in our field is an evolution taking place…A little bit more sophistication in exploring the bigger picture with the individual, and in so doing, I think we are able to set limits and boundaries as opposed to erect walls around the individual.”

Szalavitz says that cutting all ties from the addict should be a last resort:

“If the person is stealing from you or if the person is engaging in behavior that’s hurting you, you may have to cut them off for your own good… But don’t think that that’s going to fix them either.”

The story reveals that balance is essential for helping an addict. Parents should be adamant that the addict change their destructive behavior and seek help; however, family members should also be willing to offer support and empathy.

You can watch this segment here.

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