Pathways Wellness

How to Set Healthy Boundaries While in Recovery

How to Set Healthy Boundaries While in Recovery
Raul Haro
November 22, 2023
Learning how to recognize and set healthy boundaries is an important part of addiction treatment and recovery. There are several reasons why these boundaries are so important. The first is that they protect the person in recovery and can help prevent a relapse. Secondly, healthy boundaries allow loved ones to get along better with each […]
CALL (949) 383-6197
How to Set Healthy Boundaries While in Recovery

Learning how to recognize and set healthy boundaries is an important part of addiction treatment and recovery. There are several reasons why these boundaries are so important. The first is that they protect the person in recovery and can help prevent a relapse. Secondly, healthy boundaries allow loved ones to get along better with each other. Without boundaries, people often have their feelings and time disregarded, which fosters anger and other negative emotions. Third, healthy boundaries allow one to learn how to self-regulate and self-discipline. 

It's common for people to not know what a healthy boundary is or how to set them. For many people, they have grown up around toxic people who routinely disregard their boundaries. Sometimes popular media will show people disregarding someone's boundaries as a mark of love. Other times, a person may ignore a boundary because they feel as though they know better than the person setting the boundary. These are all unhealthy mindsets to have. To be healthy, a person must learn how to set boundaries and stick with them. Luckily, people don't have to figure out how to do so alone.

Because setting healthy boundaries is so important to recovery, many mental health care facilities and addiction treatment centers teach their clients how to recognize and set them. Pathways Wellness Center is especially concerned with teaching our clients healthy boundaries. The best way for anyone to learn how to set these boundaries is to contact a mental health care professional. Not only do these professionals teach someone how to set boundaries, but help them understand that they are worthy of boundaries as well. 

But how exactly does one learn how to set healthy boundaries? Some people learn how to do so by watching healthy role models set and enforce their boundaries. For those who don't have that option, specialized therapy is used to help teach this valuable life skill.

How Does One Learn to Set Healthy Boundaries?

Learning to set healthy boundaries typically begins through individual therapy and family therapy. For many people, they have a hard time identifying what a boundary is. However, boundaries are an important part of growing up, and many people have boundaries without realizing what they are. For example, children are taught that people don't have the right to touch them without their permission. Having a right to personal space, privacy, and safety is a boundary – and an important one at that. 

Since everyone is an individual, they deserve to have individualized care. For this reason, clients in addiction treatment will undergo individualized psychotherapy. The two most common therapies used for this are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). While they both are different types of therapies, they can be used to help a client figure out boundaries. 

A client can also choose to undergo family therapy with their loved ones. This is a type of group therapy where a client and their loved ones undergo a therapy session together. All therapy sessions are overseen by a licensed mental health care professional who will mediate and guide the session. Family therapy is used to help loved ones understand each other and set healthy boundaries. During family therapy, these boundaries are explained in a way so that everyone present can understand what they mean. 

Family therapy is also important because it allows loved ones to practice creating and upholding healthy boundaries together. It's a safe place where anyone can ask a question without being ridiculed. Remember, many times people will ignore a boundary because they don't understand why that boundary is so important. By learning about boundaries, loved ones are more likely to respect and understand the boundaries that the client sets. Overall, family therapy doesn't just help people understand boundaries, it helps them become healthier people.

Examples of Common Healthy Boundaries

What constitutes a healthy boundary depends on the individual setting them and their needs. When it comes to addiction and its treatment, there are a few "universal" boundaries that are commonly set by those in recovery. These boundaries are used as a way to prevent a relapse and foster respect between the client and their loved ones. If someone in recovery doesn't know which boundaries to start with, here are a few common ones as an example. 

The first boundary typically set by clients in recovery is: “Do not bring addictive substances into my home and personal space.” When someone is in recovery, they have to abstain from addictive substances. Bringing an addictive substance into someone's home when they are in recovery invalidates their struggles and is incredibly disrespectful. It can also be difficult for people to abstain from addictive substances, so bringing them around can eventually wear down someone's willpower and cause a relapse. This is especially true since many people view their homes as a place of safety, and don't want them invaded with addictive substances.

Another common boundary set by clients in recovery is: “Don't force me to come to places with addictive substances.” The most common example of this is when someone pressures someone in recovery to come to a place where there are a lot of addictive substances readily available. Bars as an example, where alcohol is served, are avoided by many people in recovery for a very good reason. This also applies to knowingly inviting people in recovery to parties and events where addictive substances will be served without telling them first. 

Thirdly, a common boundary set by clients in recovery is: “Do not berate or pressure me to use again.” Peer pressure is a common starting point for addiction, and it's extremely powerful. The last thing a person wants is to complete their addiction treatment and then immediately be pressured to use again. It's important for loved ones to respect this boundary and accept the word "no" when said the first time. It may seem easy to others, but some people don't like to be told “no” and thus become toxic. Those in recovery need to cut these people out of their lives, as they can be dangerous to someone's recovery. 

What Is the Difference Between External and Internal Boundaries?

Two different types of boundaries exist to protect ourselves. These are known as “external” and “internal” boundaries. Both are equally important to live a healthy life. However, it can be hard to understand the differences between the two, especially if they don't know what healthy boundaries look like.

Internal boundaries are boundaries we set for and with ourselves. These include our morals, values, identity, and personal capacity. For someone in recovery, it means setting boundaries that help them abstain from substances and strengthen their conviction. It's taking responsibility for one's actions and fostering curiosity instead of defensiveness. For example, an internal boundary might be: “I know I am at high risk for a relapse, so I need to completely stay away from addictive substances and places where they're frequently found.” 

External boundaries are boundaries we set with other people and help us communicate with each other. They also tell others how we want to be treated and respected. Most people don't think about external boundaries until they are challenged by others, which causes discomfort. It's important to be firm with external boundaries and not allow other people to disregard them, no matter how uncomfortable confrontation may make someone feel. For example, an external boundary might be: “I am in recovery, so please don't try to convince me to use it again. If you try to pressure me, I will stop talking to you.” 

Sticking with personal boundaries can be difficult, especially if someone doesn't know how to stand up for themselves. Part of treatment at places like Pathways Wellness Center is learning how to protect themselves. This includes being able to stick with a personal boundary and let others know when they are crossing the line. Not only is it important to protect yourself from others who may disregard boundaries, but it's also important for someone to learn to stick with their boundaries. Mental resilience and building willpower are just as important as learning how to say ‘"no." 

What Do I Do if Someone Won’t Respect My Boundaries?

It's a sad fact of life, but not everyone will respect the boundaries a person sets. Not only is ignoring someone's boundaries a mark of disrespect, but it can endanger someone's recovery. The reason it's so dangerous is that ignoring boundaries can repeatedly expose someone to addictive substances or wear down someone's mental health. Intense peer pressure can also manipulate someone's mental state enough to cause a relapse. 

People need to recognize when someone is ignoring their healthy boundaries so they can protect their recovery. It's one thing for someone to forget about a boundary, as people are human and will make mistakes. Ignoring a boundary repeatedly or being dismissive of them is another thing entirely. These people are known as toxic people and often cause harm to others through deliberate malice or willful ignorance. You can't force toxic people to respect a boundary, because they feel as though they don't have to. The only thing someone can do to protect their recovery is to remove these toxic people from their lives.

Removing toxic people or navigating around less than supportive loved ones doesn't have to be done alone. Believe it or not, recognizing and removing dangers to someone's recovery is a part of addiction treatment at Pathways Wellness Center. Individualized therapy is especially good at helping clients recognize when they are being mistreated and do something about it. A person doesn't have to feel helpless forever, as there are ways to build up self-confidence. 

So if someone is completely ignoring a boundary they should be reminded that the boundary exists. If they continue to ignore the boundary, then they should either be removed from someone's life or interacted with in the safest way possible. Part of that is having an exit strategy, and learning what to do if someone tries to employ manipulation tactics against them. All of these are skills learned in therapy. 

How Pathways Wellness Center Helps You Set Healthy Boundaries

Pathways Wellness Center utilizes several different types of programs and treatment options to help clients set healthy boundaries. As mentioned before, our facility utilizes personalized treatment plans to give clients the ability to find treatments right for them. This is done with the help of a case manager, who listens to a client's needs and helps them create a plan. Of course, this plan can be changed at any time, depending on the individual's needs. By fostering trust and understanding, clients can take more control over their lives as they work on their recovery.

Psychotherapy is an important part of individualized treatment. As mentioned before, CBT, DBT, and family therapy are all utilized by Pathways Wellness Center as part of addiction treatment. Besides these, we also offer other types of therapies designed to instill confidence and help someone discover their self-worth. Art therapy and adventure therapy are all examples of therapies commonly used at Pathways Wellness Center to help someone build confidence and find their self-worth. 

Building up self-worth and confidence is important in helping clients stick with their boundaries and defend them. However, it's easier said than done. To help clients practice the skills they learned, Pathways Wellness Center has a relapse prevention program. In this program, clients can engage in role play and pretend scenarios to help prepare them for life outside of treatment. Part of that is learning how to defend themselves, even if they are afraid of confronting loved ones. Nobody deserves to be mistreated, and clients need to learn to not expect mistreatment as well. 

Lastly, Pathways Wellness Center has an extensive peer network made of others in recovery. By having access to this network, clients can draw on the wisdom of those who have been in recovery longer. They also offer support and can help clients set the healthy boundaries they need. Sometimes, they can even offer support to those who may have toxic family members, helping the individual form a new, healthier family.  

What Do I Do if I Need Help Setting Boundaries?

The best place to learn how to set boundaries is by contacting a mental health care professional. These professionals work at mental health care facilities and addiction treatment centers. There, they work hard to help their clients recognize why they need healthy boundaries and how to set them. It offers a safe place for people to learn and ask questions. If people are afraid of asking for help, they have nothing to fear. No mental health care professional would ever mock, berate, or judge someone for asking for help.

It's especially important for those in recovery to know how to set boundaries. Addiction treatment centers like Pathways Wellness Center offer training in boundary setting for their clients. This is because Pathways Wellness Center believes strongly that having healthy boundaries helps people achieve long-lasting recovery. Anyone can recover from an addiction. Everyone is different, and some may take longer than others to complete treatment, but recovery is possible for anyone.

To ask for help in setting healthy boundaries, a person starts by looking for a mental health care facility in their area. Then, they need to reach out for help in the way that makes them most comfortable. This can be done in several ways. The most common way is to contact the mental health care facility by using a phone number. Most websites for mental health care facilities and addiction treatment centers will have an email address or web form one can fill out to get a response. Some websites even have chat features where someone can talk to someone live over the internet. However, not every website will have this option. 

It's also okay for someone to have an advocate by their side to help them contact their facility of choice. It doesn't make someone weak to need help. If someone needs help for their addiction, or simply to learn how to set healthy boundaries, they should contact their local mental health care facility right away. Nobody deserves to struggle alone, so don't wait. Call for help today.

Learning how to set healthy boundaries is an important part of addiction treatment and recovery. Without them, a person's recovery can be put at risk. Boundaries don't just protect the person in recovery, they help loved ones interact with each other in a healthy way. Luckily, people don't have to try and learn these skills alone. Here at Pathways Wellness Center in Glendora, California, our clients learn what a healthy boundary is. Pathways Wellness Center also offers an extensive family therapy program to help our clients and loved ones understand and enforce these healthy boundaries. If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction, don't wait to get help. Call us today at (888) 771-0966.

About the Author

Raul Haro
Raul Haro is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with sixteen years of experience working in both the inpatient and outpatient setting. As an LMFT, He has trained in trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy and EMDR. Raul has furthered his training in the drug and alcohol field by obtaining a Masters in Drug and Alcohol Counseling through CCAPP. Raul has a background in nursing where he has been an LVN for over 25 years. Recently, he has returned to school to complete a degree in Registered Nursing. Future plans are for Raul are to eventually complete a degree as a Nurse Practitioner combining his therapy practice with his nursing skills.

Contact Us

Blog CTA - form