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How Hope Helps Families Heal

Poet Emily Dickinson once wrote: “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tunes without the words, and never stops at all.”

Teenaged girl

Her words notwithstanding, hope is a concept that is difficult to describe or categorize. However, health care professionals and patient advocates often stress that the presence of hope can be powerful enough to strongly impact the recovery of a teenager who is struggling with a substance use disorder.

What Is Hope?

Webster’s dictionary defines hope as “desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment.” That phrase distinguishes hope from simple optimism.

Scientist Shane J. Lopez, Ph.D. is one of the leading researchers on the power of hope. In his book Making Hope Happen: Create the Future You Want for Yourself and Others, Lopez reveals the four core beliefs of truly hopeful people.

  1. The future will be better than the present.
  2. I have the power to make it so.
  3. There are many paths to my goals.
  4. None of them is free of obstacles.

Lopez also identified the three pillars of turning hope into positive action:

  • Goals – choosing the right aspirations and ambitions
  • Agency – taking responsibility for determining how to reach these goals
  • Pathways – actively looking for routes to drive forward toward the goals

Why Is Hope Such a Big Deal?

Why is so much time and effort being spent on the composition and structure of hope? It’s because its beneficial effects have been demonstrated time and time again.

Lopez and his colleagues conducted a trio of meta-analyses and discovered a relationship between hope and success in school, improved performance at work, and a higher level of happiness. A major component of hope is an enthusiastic view of the future. Lopez says, “When we’re excited about ‘what’s next,’ we invest more in our daily life, and we can see beyond current challenges.”

Moreover, health care professionals have noticed how hope can improve health outcomes. Nancy Snow, a scholar from the University of Chicago, writes, “Hope in all of its complexity has been widely found to be beneficial to persons suffering from physical and mental illness…”

This sentiment is echoed by Dr. Jerry Groopman, a physician and the author of The Anatomy of Hope. Groopman notes, “For my patients, hope, true hope, has proved as important as any medication I might prescribe or any procedure I might perform.”

Teenaged boy looking happy.

There has even been specific research on the productive aspects of hope in substance use recovery. Various studies have found correlations between hope and:

  • Getting treatment for substance misuse
  • Better coping and control over emotional distress during therapy
  • Steadier abstinence during sober living
  • More consistent aftercare treatment completion
  • Improved quality of life
  • Better treatment outcomes

The Benefits of Hope for Families

With regard to substance use recovery, perhaps the most advantageous quality of hope is its contagiousness. When one person is hopeful, it becomes much easier for others around them to embrace hope as well.

This has important implications for families who are dealing with substance misuse. If parents and siblings can remain hopeful that their loved one will conquer their disorder, then the teen will very likely absorb some of that hope and use it to strengthen his or her resolve on the difficult journey to recovery.

Unfortunately, an absence of hope can also hinder a person’s ability to stay sober and resist returning to substance misuse. So families need to remember that while it’s vital to take the necessary steps to facilitate the recovery of someone who is battling teen addiction (like detoxification, rehab, treatment, and/or aftercare), fostering and maintaining hope for a successful outcome is also a critical component in the recovery process.

If your family is battling the presence of substance misuse, contact Next Generation Village today for help on how to navigate the rewarding road to recovery.

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