If you’re strong in your recovery, you’ve probably got a strong support network. You’re likely attending recovery groups, seeing a therapist, and maybe even visiting a psychiatrist regularly to stay on top of your medication.  You’re probably stable in your recovery and moving towards long-term sobriety.

However, from time to time it’s natural to have concerns, challenges, and frustrations. We all have problems to face at work, home, or in recovery. Because of this, an important and useful practice to know about is the Deep Listening Exchange Technique.

This technique is a tool to use with a friend you trust. For instance, if your therapist or psychiatrist or sponsor is not available, you can call upon someone you trust in your support network for help. And together you can utilize this technique. In fact, this is a practice that you can use on a regular basis and can be supportive for both you and your friend. To be clear, this isn’t a technique to use for concerns that require the expertise of a mental health professional. If you’re facing depression, anxiety, relapse, or suicidal thoughts, it’s best to speak to a therapist or psychologist. However, if the subject isn’t severe, then this can be a useful way to get support.

You begin by establishing how much time you would like to spend together. If you decide upon an hour, for example, then half of the time will be focused on you and other half is focused on your friend. The technique is called “Deep Listening” because this isn’t casual conversation. This is a time for each of you to share the concern you’re having while the other listens attentively with compassion. In fact, this technique asks that the listener does not provide advice, guidance, or opinions – unless it is specifically invited. The point of the practice is to have a dedicated time to share the challenges you’re facing with someone who can listen without interrupting.

Ideally, these deep listening exchanges should be held in a comfortable and quiet room where there won’t be any distractions. Also, it would be best if they were in a location where others can’t hear what’s being shared. A coffee house or restaurant might not be the best place. However, a room in either of your homes or at a quiet park would work well. Of course, this technique can also take place on the phone, if needed, as long as both of you feel you won’t get interrupted.

The person who is listening should really do only that – be an attentive and compassionate listener. When the talker has finished sharing, then the roles are reversed and the person talking now becomes the listener. It might take some skill to make that switch. However, with practice, the transition from talker to listener will get easier.

With this technique you might notice, as the listener, that you are being critical or judgmental in your thoughts. It’s important to do your best to suspend these thoughts and return to compassionately listening and attending with kindness to your friend.

The point of this technique is to give yourself and your friend time to vent or discuss a problem that doesn’t necessarily need the support of a mental health professional.

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