It’s long since been accepted by research in mental health treatment that keeping socially active while carrying a diagnosis is crucial in the recovery process. People need human connections to feel connected to and with their environment and feel accepted by their peers. For psychotic disorders, socialization is even more important. Maintaining a connection to other people means staying tuned in to the world. For affective disorders, it might mean leveling off mania and taking it down a notch with grandiosity or other distortions associated with dysregulated emotions.
The reason for maintaining social connections shifts and overlaps depending on the symptoms present but doesn’t waiver in its importance to the individual in recovery. The discussions in need of more analysis is and should be around why socialization training is important too for those without a diagnosis and a primary support to someone in recovery. The mental health system speaks so fondly of socialization but does little to support those engaged in the process everyday because they are the mother or friend of someone with a diagnosis and not the individual in treatment.
This is a problem for everyone involved in the recovery process. Clinicians need to be providing psychoeducation to the friends and relatives of those with a diagnosis not just the patient to truly expect real natural support cultivated that will have a lasting impact on the life of those in recovery. Fiends, relatives and other collaterals without psychoeducation are not only ineffective players in the recovery process but can put the diagnosed person at risk of relapse or worsening symptoms without training to respond to the diagnosed persons particular set of needs for maintaining and accessing social support and resources.
Even more important is providing recovery focused attitudes around what to expect from someone with a specific diagnosis in terms of their capacity to socialize and access social support appropriately given where they are in the recovery process. It’s a skill set that’s multi dimensional and not quite as simple as telling someone to make a friend so they have someone else besides a therapist or case manager in their lives.
Without teaching realistic expectations and a skill set targeting specific disorders and course of treatment expect little in return for the person diagnosed or better yet, prepare to listen to that patient explain their heartache because their friends were unprepared when that person acted out and misbehaved. There is no question that preparing all system supports with a realistic clinical picture might just preserve the feelings of those with a diagnosis trying to move forward in their recovery.