A Multi-faceted Approach
When treating addiction, I generally approach it from multiple therapeutic perspectives. I help clients to develop Mindfulness and learn to identify their emotions in order to create space and awareness between impulse and action. I also use a combination of Motivational Interviewing and EMDR to process pain and shame, and to reinforce internal motivations.
Addiction is one of those complex diseases that affects not just the mind and body, but the entire community. Addictions have many common features in that they are invariably connected to pain, shame, desire and distraction, hope and disappointment, anger and destruction, efforts of self-control and new resolutions. There are as many ways of treating addiction as there are addictions. The trick is to find out where the client is in his or her process, and create a specific and effective treatment plan.
EMDR works on addiction in several different ways. It improves communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. When caught in the sway of an addiction one is outside of time, in the moment and paying little to no attention to consequences, a very right-brain experience; when recovering from the high suddenly the consequences seem all-important, the left-brain is seeing patterns and projecting a bleak future. In improving hemispherical communication, EMDR creates a direct association between enticement, and consequences. This is often enough to undercut the power of the enticement. EMDR also works to desensitize the feelings of trauma and pain that lead people to seek escape in the first place.
Everyone has an idea of what health looks like; it might seem impossible to achieve, but the template for health is there in their minds. So what you have in addiction is a disconnect between desires, actions and understanding.
Motivational Interviewing is designed to help people resolve their own natural ambivalence about any kind of decision-making in their lives including substance use, health behaviors, and relationship choices. It is a collaborative process in which the client is the recognized expert on his or her experience, and is already in possession of intrinsic motivations and values that lean towards healthy decision-making. The therapist’s role is to help the client resolve ambivalence by meeting the client where they are in the process, and then developing and engaging that untapped internal expertise and motivation.
I also encourage clients to build a community of support to engage with and rely on when not in session. There is AA, or other similar Anonymous organizations. They rely on tenets of safety, community support and accountability, hope and self-control. For some this is the perfect solution. In my opinion, it is a fantastic addition to therapy.