The Role of Addiction Psychology and Recovery
What to expect in this episode:
- Traditional psychology has taken a central role in recovery and treating addiction, but it may not be ideal.
- Psychotherapists often recommend AA or treatment because no progress can be made while in active addiction.
- Immersing in the recovery culture to help the psychology of recovery.
Psychology and Recovery
Its a newer phenomenon that psychotherapy and psychology has taken a central role in the world of recovery. Part of me is rubbed a little wrong by that. It’s not that I am anti-therapy, both my parents are psychologists I actually love psychology. I’m fascinated by it.
But traditionally, we have an understanding that individual Psychotherapy is not a very effective way to treat addiction.
Addiction Needs to Be Addressed for Better Mental Health
What you’ll find most commonly is somebody’s afraid to enter into the world of recovery for a variety of reasons, so they go see a therapist – maybe an addiction specialist or maybe just a therapist – and I think the most common story is somebody will see a therapist for months or even years while still continuing to engage in their addiction maybe with some improvement maybe with no improvement.
Eventually, that therapist will say – maybe in months maybe in years, “hey, I can’t continue in this therapeutic process until you do something about your addiction problem and I can’t help you with your addiction problem. You need to go to treatment or Alcoholics Anonymous.”
It’s kind of a shame to me that somebody might be in therapy for five, six, seven, eight years I would hope that therapists out there recommend that early, and I also understand that if the clients not willing to go into treatment or to seek out some recovery that the therapist is stuck.
Immersing in the Recovery Culture
In general, my belief (and this is complex in nuanced) is that people have to immerse themselves in a culture of recovery and integrate recovery as part of their identity as the primary task of recovery. And that’s up front.
Upfront I have to challenge myself to admit that I have an addiction problem that I’ve been unable to solve. Then I have to take on the task of saying, “Okay, I’m a person who suffers from addiction and in order to treat this condition, I need to be a person in recovery.”
I need to be a person who identifies myself as someone in recovery from this condition just like I would if I diabetes. If I had a horrible case of diabetes then my recovery from that, or even a cancer survivor, I would identify as a cancer survivor. It almost killed me!
I have to know that deeply about myself and it is the first and primary core task of recovery
Psychology in Later Recovery
Then therapy comes along in order to help me to better understand myself and treat the underlying emotional conditions that existed, maybe prior to my addiction. In all different dramas in different ways of being different blocks I had that caused me to suffer that I then use drugs and alcohol to treat. I think of therapy as by and large the later stages of recovery.
At first, I have to be a person in recovery then I can work on this other stuff because if I’m not a person to recover, continue to use I’m not going to get any therapeutic work done.
There are exceptions. The exceptions to that are if I have trauma and it’s so severe it’s getting in the way of me being able to identify as somebody in recovery. So if the psychological problem or even psychiatric problem is so severe that I can’t engage.
An easy example is if I have a really hard time regulating my emotions. Incredibly impulsive. It will be impossible for me to engage in recovery because I can’t sit still, I can’t stop talking, I can’t take it in, take information and reality in, so a specialist, a therapeutic specialist would have to come in and treat my Emotion Regulation Impulse Disorder in order for me to engage in recovery.
But in general, I think that’s the exception
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