Challenges of Peer Relationships in Residential Treatment, And How to Overcome Them

Highest Standards, Nationally Recognized:

friend comforting another person

If you’ve recently started a residential treatment program for an addiction and/or mental illness, you may have learned of the importance of social support to your success in recovery. Oftentimes this form of support comes from family and friends, while other times it comes from team leaders and peers within your program. Making friends in any place can be challenging at times, but connecting with others who are working to overcome their addiction or better manage the symptoms of mental illness can add another level of challenge to the mix. A 2017 study published in Health and Social Care in the Community noted several factors that impeded progress of residential treatment clients’ success in building social support with one another. We will review the reported challenges and provide you with ways to overcome them:


  • Focusing on interpersonal differences rather than shared experiences and lifestyles. Addiction and mental illness can cause many people to focus on the negative aspects of themselves and life; this perspective can extend into treatment, making it difficult to connect with others. Remember that everyone in your program has gone through challenging events, making trust and openness a little more difficult to achieve than in other circumstances. Have patience with your peers and be positive or reassuring in group discussions to show you care.
  • Negative behaviors modelled, undermining others’ commitment to treatment. Remember why you started treatment, and choose your role models wisely. Not every person in treatment is actively working towards their recovery; speak with a leader in the program to help you connect with someone who works diligently towards bettering themselves every day.
  • Isolating behaviors leading to feelings of loneliness. It may feel easy to isolate yourself; after all, many who come into treatment have a low self-esteem and/or self-worth, low self-confidence, and more. Connecting with others takes some vulnerability – try to take small steps each day to help you overcome what’s holding you back.
  • Bullying, manipulation, and/or intimidation causing separation between individuals. Any reputable treatment center should have a system set in place for interpersonal conflicts found in treatment – if you ever feel uncomfortable, you should speak with a leader in your program immediately. Bullying and manipulation hinders recovery, placing you in an unstable environment which should not be tolerated.


The right treatment center will allow you to focus on relaxation while focusing on your mind, body, and spirit. Make the decision to place yourself in a program that you know will provide you with everything you need.

Avalon Malibu is a world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery center. If you are ready to seek treatment to develop the tools you need to overcome life’s obstacles and be on the road towards happiness, health, and well-being, call us today at 888-958-7511 for a consultation. It’s never too late, and there are people here ready to help you.

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