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Psychological Interventions: Dealing with Addiction

Dealing with addiction is psychological as much as it is physical.

Dealing with addiction is psychological as much as it is physical.

We have already explored the various medical interventions that are available for those dealing with various addictions, focusing primarily on nicotine, alcohol, and various categories of drug dependency.

However, we must realize that medical intervention is only 50% of the battle we face when dealing with our individual inner demons.  In order to fully conquer our vices and move forward with our lives, it is critical that we want, in our own hearts and minds, to put a stop to our destructive addictions.

Unfortunately, as anyone who has had an addiction in the past will testify to, it is not even just a case of wanting to give something up.  How many times have we read or heard stories in the media, or even spoken to friends or family members who have told us the following:

“I WANT to give up cigarettes/alcohol/drugs, but I just cannot do it.”

As we have discussed previously, it is easy at that stage for someone to look at a person and think, “Just do it then,” however we know that it is not as simple as it seems.

Even when individuals with strong addictions take a powerful combination of prescribed medication, breaking the link in their minds that makes them want to smoke, have a beer, or take a hit of heroin, is a huge battle in itself.

Now, we will look at the psychological interventions that can help us deal with our substance or gambling dependencies, as we head towards the final part of our journey.

Fooling Yourself

Before we get into the heavy stuff including self-help books and behavior therapies, we have a quick tip that will help you to deal with oral cravings.

These can often be the worst part of giving up a vice, and are most commonly associated with those trying to give up smoking, although recovering alcohol and drug users have also reported suffering from such cravings.

Dealing with them is quite straightforward – you just need to fool your brain into thinking you are having a cigarette, or an alcoholic drink, for example.  This might mean carrying around a bag of chopped fruit with you, or ensuring that you always have a bottle of flavored water on your person, but it will be well worth it if it means you do not fall back into an addiction.

What about the other techniques that you might have heard so much about, but perhaps do not understand as well as you would like to?

Self Help Books

Self-help books are an ideal resource for anyone who is feeling self-motivated in terms of dealing with an addiction.  At the same time, however, the very nature of a dependency on something means that your mood and outlook is liable to change several times throughout the day.  This could very easily lead to you heading out to the bookstore, or onto Amazon, and buying a book, but then only looking at it or heeding the advice when you feel as if you want to.

Therefore, self-help books are not a realistic solution for people who are in the strongest throes of addiction.  People who are ‘social smokers,’ for example, are perhaps best to utilize them, as well as occasional alcohol consumers or even users of recreational drugs, that have a concern that it could easily snowball into something much more serious.

If you are concerned about your use of particular substances but do not yet feel you have fallen fully into addiction, self-help materials could be a useful and timely intervention, before it is too late.

While there are several leading book series’ that help to deal with addictions, these are some of the very best available:

  • Allen Carr’s ‘Easyway’ series predominantly covers smoking addictions, and to a lesser extent alcohol dependency.  Carr famously gave up smoking after 33-years of consuming 100 – yes, that is not a typo – cigarettes a day, and several celebrities have spoken about how powerful his methodology is.[1]
  • The ‘Dummies’ series of books is one of the most famous and wide ranging available, and ‘Addiction and Recovery for Dummies’ is filled with priceless advice and hints that could help to change your life.
  • ‘Almost Addicted: Is My (Or My Loved One’s) Drug Use a Problem?’ is a relatively new addition to the marketplace, but has a relevant, powerful range of content that could help anyone who recognizes they are on the precipice of dependency.

As well as these being valuable resources for those who may be growing concerned at their consumption of various substances, they can also serve as excellent ‘reinforcement’ tools for those of us who have battled addictions and come out the other side.

Group Counseling

Group counseling sessions are one of the most widely utilized and successful methods of treating addictions across the world.  Almost all of the benefits of group counseling are born from the ‘safe’ environment created by groups of facilitators, so that people who share mutual experiences and feelings can come together to tackle their problems together.  Studies have shown that this aspect of reliance and interdependence can have therapeutic effects, and lead to a greater success rate in terms of bringing ourselves out of addictions.[2]

Psychological treatments such as this are excellent on many levels, but work as excellent ‘all-round’ interventions, as they teach skills to addicts that they will be able to practice in various aspects of their life, rather than solely in terms of helping them to deal with addictions.

How do counseling groups encourage people to open up, and what are the skills that attendees pick up?

  • Listening respectfully – Everyone who attends a support group for an addiction is, or has been in the past, in the same situation that you find yourself in now, and is there for the same reason as yourself, in that they want the best possible help.  For many addicts, support and counseling groups will be the only time they get to be around unbiased, non-judgmental people who fully understand the gravity of their personal situation.  At the same time, many of us who have been addicts at some stage in our lives have failed to listen to what others have told us at various times.  Listening is a skill everyone would do well to develop, let alone those of us with addiction problems.
  • Finding similarities – One direct consequence of listening to others is that we are able to make connections between their stories and our own.  Immediately we feel more comfortable within the group and are ready to discuss our experiences further.
  • Verbal communication – This new level of comfort within the group then means we feel liberated to discuss our issues both with facilitators and with fellow recovering addicts within the counseling session.  This stage is critical for helping us understand the way to move forward, as we can give and receive feedback on tips on how to deal with certain feelings or temptations that will inevitably come our way.
  • Something to relate to – All of the above gives us a strong reference point for when we are away from group.  After all, we might only spend two hours a week in a group counseling session, but what we learn there can support us until the next time we convene.[3]

The desired overall outcome of group counseling is very clear, in that it aims to develop a person’s psychological wellbeing and individual level of self-worth, as well as teaching skills and techniques that will help people to stay ‘clean’ of their addictions in both the immediate and longer-term.

Group counseling is used as an individual technique, or in conjunction with one-to-one treatments,[4] which we will explore now.

Individual Counseling Plans

The third and final widely used technique for helping to deal with the psychological side of addictions is individual counseling.

Groups treating an addict may choose this method for a number of reasons, including, but not limited to:

  • If there are specific, serious issues that a person needs to discuss to help tackle their addiction, but are unable to do so around others.[5]
  • A specific request from a psychiatrist, doctor, or other medical professional.
  • A person is unable to attend a group session, or it is deemed unsafe for them to do – for example, if the addict is currently incarcerated or has a history of violence.

While there are differing opinions on whether individual therapy solutions or group counseling is more effective in terms of addiction treatment, the reality is the same as much of dealing with dependency: each individual who needs treatment will respond differently, and their condition should be managed in respect of their own needs.

Although an individual treatment plan will clearly have differences to a group scenario, the processes followed, and the desired outcomes, remain the same.  Individual treatment plans are sometimes favored by medical professionals who have identified deep seated issues within an addict, and may feel that alternative methods of ‘talk therapy,’ such as hypnosis,[6] or cognitive behavior therapy[7] would be more effective.

As well as being used in strong cases of substance addiction, these are also more likely to be used with gambling addicts, or even people addicted to things such as stealing, owing to the extreme changes in thinking and behavior that often need to be realized in such cases.

Summing Up

The complex nature of addictions means that they may be treated exclusively with prescribed medication, psychological assistance, or a combination of both, as is the most common recovery path recommended for most in the midst of an addiction.

As we move towards the end of our series, we will look at how the people close to you are a valuable resource in your battle against your vices.  Finally, we move onto exploring techniques that will help you deal with addictions in for the long-term, so that a month without drugs becomes six months, which becomes a year, two years, five years, and eventually, a lifetime.








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About Karl

This post was written by on Tuesday, February 12, 2013. This author has written 24 posts on this blog and has 2463 total posts views.

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One comment

  1. This article really brings up great points. I am looking forward to your finishing up this series as I have gone through this process and I feel that I have found some great ways to keep moving forward. Recently I have been working through a book called Thinking Anew: Harnessing the Power of Belief and it has been a real asset in how I live day to day. Richard Quis is the author and the site is for anyone that wants to take a look at it. It can be I think for any level of recovery in any situation. Good luck to all!

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