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“What We All Require Is To Be Heard”: Kayla Solomon On Effective Communication and Connection

In March 2023, Allies in Recovery’s very own Kayla Solomon led a 90-minute ZOOM conversation with leaders of the East Bay chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) based in Sacramento, California. The result was a dynamic primer on the use of CRAFT, the Allies approach to building trust and connection with Loved Ones, and the vital role of listening and affirming when supporting a Loved One with mental health and/or substance use challenges.

Kayla Solomon has many skills. One of them is introducing Kayla Solomon. “I come from a Brooklyn Jewish family,” she says. “You don’t think before you speak—you speak and then you apologize.” Or maybe, she adds, you don’t apologize either, but simply “make a mess, and then spend years cleaning the mess.”

The real skills on display right there, of course, are disarming humor and humility. To those we can add amazing energy, clarity, and passion for her subject, the latter being techniques for reaching and building trust with our Loved Ones struggling with mental illness, substance use, or both. Although this video is a hefty 90 minutes long, Kayla’s presentation style makes the time fly by. Indeed she covers so much ground you may feel like you’ve spent three or four hours talking with an especially well-informed friend.

After introducing her broad theme of communication and connection, Kayla drills down into specifics. Key among these is her discussion of the technique of “mirroring” or giving a Loved One’s words right back to them, without reacting or editorializing, This is a lot harder than it sounds, and a lot more effective than we might think. Kayla walks us through the approach step by step—while taking care to acknowledge that it takes a lot of practice to get it right.

There are pitfalls aplenty. Kayla strongly advises listeners not to say, “I understand” when our Loved Ones confide in us (it’s not true that we understand, she argues, and is often received as dismissal and erasure). In like fashion, she asserts that responding to our Loved Ones accusations by “explaining what we were really doing or saying” never works. In situations of hurt and conflict, she insists, everyone just needs to be affirmed.

Kayla’s great remarks are informed by years with Allies in Recovery, CRAFT, and Imago relationship therapy (where mirroring is practiced), and more. You can watch the whole conversation at the link below—and also note the required passcode. There’s wisdom here to benefit us all.




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In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)