Setting A Boundary

Having thought about the boundary you would like to set and being prepared to talk about it, the next thing is to set it with the substance user. The skill to utilise is negotiation. It is important to build and maintain a dialogue between the user and other family/whānau members – this will work well if negotiation skills are utilised.
Effective dialogue involves:

  • Listening to each other
  • Being open and honest
  • Respecting the other person – not necessarily liking their behaviour
  • Accepting and understanding their point of view – even when you don’t agree
  • Use ‘I’ statements. Start everything you say with ‘I’. I think, I believe, I feel, I would like etc.
  • Take responsibility for your actions and contribution to the situation
  • Not taking responsibility for other people’s behaviour, actions and choices
  • Acknowledging both your own feelings and the other person’s feelings
  • Appropriately expressing your feelings e.g. ‘I am really angry that you are using in front of your brothers’ rather than exploding and becoming aggressive
  • Recognising the need for all to exercise their rights and responsibilities
  • Work to collaborate rather than confront
  • Stay calm and focused on the task of setting the boundary even if the user loses control
  • Modelling appropriate behaviour may bring them back on track


Effective dialogue builds trust

Effective dialogue builds trust, which can lead to people taking more risks with being honest, open and taking responsibility.

Using the transactional analysis model we are trying to work with – Adult to Adult dialogue rather than Parent to Child or Child to Child dialogues.

Developing effective negotiation skills.

  • Always look for win/win outcomes
  • Asking for what you want – not demanding or avoiding asking
  • Acknowledge power differences between you and the drug user
  • Checking their response to your request and how they feel about it
  • Not making assumptions regarding their feelings, thoughts or desires
  • Collaborating and being flexible. Being prepared to give some ground and compromise
  • Holding onto what is really important while being willing to let go of what is not important
  • Start easy and if necessary finish strong. Use your negotiation skills and then move onto imposition if necessary
  • Agreeing the terms of the boundary – when it will start, when you will review it and the consequences of the breach of the boundary. Make sure the substance user is fully involved and understands what the consequences will be
  • Make a clear agreement of what has been decided