The term “enabling” is commonplace in the field of addiction. It is used within support group settings, in treatment programs and throughout the professional literature about addiction and the family. I consider it one of the most frequently misunderstood terms in our field. In fact, as my research about family caregivers of people with substance use disorders has evolved, I have come to loathe the term “enabling.” Here is why.
There is a great deal of misinterpretation about what qualifies as behavior that is “enabling.”
Webster’s definition of the term includes: “a) to provide with the means or opportunity; and b) to make possible, practical or easy.” Wikipedia notes that enabling also is used “to signify dysfunctional approaches that are intended to help but in fact may perpetuate a problem….” Examples include taking responsibility, blaming others or making accommodations for a person’s harmful conduct, so that the person is shielded from the harm it may do and the pressure to change.
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Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education