Addiction and counseling. This question just came alive through a phone call earlier today and inspired this article. The question is this, “How soon should we pursue deep healing and therapy once addiction or a recovery from addiction is obtained?”
And that, my friends, is an incredibly good question. You see many of you don’t know that I came from an addiction background. That was how I entered into the therapy field some 20 plus years ago, and my opinion is that there’s always been a spiritual root or core issue that would drive someone into an addictive process.
Now my curiosity was, “How could I get to that root issue, really bring healing, inviting that client to heal and really heal them from the complete addiction to complete recovery. Now what I don’t mean is that a true addict, would suddenly be able to use alcohol or drugs again, so please don’t misunderstand. What I found out in earlier opportunities to do this was I simply didn’t have great success.
Eventually I was able to tap on one of the greats in our field, Terri Gorski, who’s a national expert in relapse and recovery and he taught me something very important and simple – but a vital component in recovery. He taught me about the developmental model of recovery. And here’s what he said. He said in order for a client to be able to be ready to delve into deep emotional issues that can be quite painful, they have to have obtained a certain level of stability.
In fact this is the first level of recovery that an addict must go through in order to really qualify and be on stable ground, as I call it, have the ability to move into deep issues in counseling.
Now, what qualifies somebody for stabilization? The first thing is their ability to think clearly. They need to have certain problem-solving skills, to be able to think critically and take a problem and tear it apart and be able to come up with solutions – pros and cons to those solutions and choose one to experiment with.
For the addict that has not yet achieved stability this is difficult because they still have a lot of thought distortions and their ability to diminish an issue or over exaggerate issue is high.
A second piece is the ability to to regulate emotion. I now teach in my recovery model what I call the [b]normal scale[/b], which is a 1-10 scale where 10 equals a “Mount Vesuvius” reaction and a 1 equals and underresponse. I call it the “coma” reaction. And so we begin to measure responses to daily activities based on this scale.
The ability to regulate emotion, and physiological arousal is vital. This requires a recovering addict know his or her physical symptoms which point toward overarousal and to soothe oneself. Basically, the calmer you are, the better space you’re in to make good decisions, to exercise good judgement. The more one practices self soothing, the better thier decisions and quality of life improves dramatically.
In the early stage of recovery from addiction, addicts respond very impulsively. The person that has achieved stability has the ability to exercise personal agency. That is to ability to exercise good judgement. They create what I refer to as the “intentional hiccup”, a moment between and experience and their reaction in which they consider the best response.
When an addict works with me, we begin to chart behavioral responses to daily activities until they are responding at an appropriate level on the Normal Scale. Once they’ve achieved this great feat, they’re stable. Once a person becomes stable they are ready to move onto deeper issues. Moving into deep issues prior to reaching the stage, the higher the rates of relapse.
This information includes one of the most important steps in considering if one is prepared for deep addiction counseling sessions. I suspect it’s also why so many long time recovering individuals do not support therapy for new people in the 12-step program. Although many of these people could benefit from some therapy themselves, they seem to have an innate wisdom and know that simply working through the 12-step program with a sponsor helps the newly recovering addict to achieve stability.
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