Cooking, cleaning, job hunting, hygiene, basic budgeting, and financial planning—many assume that all adults know how to do these tasks. However, some people with mental illness or substance use disorders (SUD) may not possess basic life skills. Others may need a refresher on skills. It is essential that treatment providers not make that assumption. They should understand the importance of incorporating life skills classes into partial hospitalization programs (PHP) and intensive outpatient programs (IOP) like those found at Sober Life.
Defining the Term Life Skills
People use the term life skills, but what does it mean? How can we define the term? Life skills are adaptive and healthy behavior abilities that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands of everyday life. These skills can be included in programming and evidence-based treatments to provide well-rounded care. The goal is to set patients up for success once they complete treatment. Examples of basic life skills include:
- Finding and maintaining employment or pursuing an education
- Engaging in healthy relationships
- Taking care of physical health
- Managing finances
The Increase in Substance Use Disorder
According to SAMHSA, findings from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected our nation’s mental health and increased rates of substance use. Based on data collected nationally from October to December 2020, it is estimated that 25.9 million past-year users of alcohol and 10.9 million past-year users of drugs reported they were using these substances “a little more or much more” than they did before the pandemic began.
Why Are Life Skills so Important to a Successful Recovery?
With increasing substance use and worsening mental health in America, treatment must be available and accessible. An important component of treatment for many patients is learning basic life skills. They are necessary for patients to live independently after leaving treatment. That is why incorporating life skills into treatment for mental health disorders, or SUD, can be beneficial.
Two crucial life skills to develop first are self-care and communication skills. These skills underly all the others. Self-care allows a person to perform hygiene, practice mindfulness, and establish a routine. In addition, basic communication allows a person to ask for support and help.
Other skills are also important to develop for many reasons, including:
- Employment and financial stressors can be triggering. Teaching patients how to fill out resumes, helping with interview skills, and teaching basic budgeting can decrease some of that stress and help them be less dependent on others.
- Learning self-advocacy can ensure that the voices of people with mental health disorders and SUD are heard. Patients who advocate for themselves are often more likely to get the care they need.
- Physical health and mental health are intertwined. When people leave mental health treatment, working on physical health, such as exercise, diet, and sleep, can help maintain mental stability and ward off depression and anxiety. Proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep are important pieces of a relapse prevention plan for people with SUD.
Getting and staying sober are the most important goals in SUD treatment and recovery. Regaining and maintaining mental health stability are the goals of mental health treatment. Incorporating basic life skills classes into treatment programs can improve the chances that a patient will be successful after treatment.
Teaching Skills in PHP and IOP
Why is PHP or IOP an ideal setting for teaching life skills? Since both are outpatient levels of care, patients can actively practice their skills in the outside world. Feedback from treatment staff is timely as well.
Life skills classes can be taught in a group format, and the patient can also have individual one-on-one teaching. Group classes allow for socialization and for patients to receive feedback from peers. This is a valuable time for patients to learn how to provide appropriate feedback. Individual sessions allow the patient to receive personalized, one-on-one instruction from staff. A mix of group and individual instruction provides a good balance for patients in these classes.
Preventive Effects of Life Skills Training
Could learning life skills prevent mental health disorders and SUD? Unfortunately, there is no evidence that learning life skills can prevent mental health disorders and SUD. However, a 2014 study published in the International Journal of Preventative Medicine has shown that life skills training positively affects preventing drug use and smoking. Also, life skills training can foster self-confidence and improve the ability to fulfill social roles. Patients can face the demands of others which can lead to improved mental health. Moreover, the training helped decrease aggressive behaviors and positively impacted suicide and AIDS prevention.
With Help Comes Hope
For patients with mental health disorders or SUD who lack basic life skills, sometimes it can feel like the obstacles are insurmountable. Thankfully, there is hope! Help is available at Sober Life to meet patients’ mental health or SUD needs and the need to acquire life skills. Do not wait. Seek treatment now.
Mental health and substance use disorders (SUD) can be extremely disruptive forces, affecting every area of a person’s life. This disruption can cause a person to experience difficulty managing day-to-day tasks such as cooking, budgeting, communication, and even basic hygiene. The importance of understanding and using these skills while in recovery cannot be overstated. Sober Life offers life skills classes along with the best evidence-based treatment. Everything we do at Sober Life is designed to help our patients succeed in recovery. We believe these life skills are the foundation of long-term healing and success in the community. Call Sober Life today at (619) 542-9542.