While traditional treatment approaches addiction as a “disease” that needs to be managed, I’ve found that taking a strengths-based approach yields more meaningful, lasting change even for people who have been labeled “chronic relapsers.” I see addictive behaviors simply as coping strategies that end up causing harm unintentionally. No one means to develop a dependence on a harmful substance or behavior. It is human nature to want to feel happy and comfortable and to run from pain and discomfort. When someone is abusing substances or engaging in other addictive behaviors, it’s because and they have found a quick, effective way to change how they are feeling and/or they are trying to feel something other than “numb.” The work of therapy requires a willingness to be uncomfortable while learning to engage in healthy coping strategies to manage uncomfortable emotional states. The main model I use to treat addictive behaviors of all kinds is C.A.R.E.S.S., created by Lisa Ferentz, founder of The Ferentz Institute. There’s a workbook that goes with this method that helps clients stay on track with therapy. I also use the framework of Internal Family Systems in conjunction with C.A.R.E.S.S. and they work perfectly together.
Behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse, cutting, food restricting, bingeing and/or purging, risky or problematic sexual activity, excessive gambling, excessive shopping, or excessive video gaming all count as addictive behaviors.
When working with clients struggling with addiction, I invite them to be curious about what the underlying non-verbal meaning might be about the behavior. Behaviors speak to us but not in words and when we can decode the messages underneath them, it’s enlightening, freeing, and allows for change. Only with an attitude of curiosity rather than judgment can we get to this deeper work in therapy. Recovering from an addiction is hard work but it can also be really interesting and exciting. I’d rather call it “Discovery” than “Recovery.” I can explain all kinds of things to you about the therapy process but unless you experience it for yourself, you can’t fully understand the impact and transformation that can occur. If you are ready to do the hard work and face your own challenges, please reach out to me and we can go from there. If you knew how to do things differently, you’d be doing them already and not reading this section. It’s okay. You aren’t a bad person. Life can be really hard and you are a human being trying to make it through as best you can. We are all doing the best we can with what we have available to us at any given time. It takes a lot of courage to admit that you have a problem and it’s a sign of health to reach out and ask for help. Thankfully, you can also learn new ways of thinking and behaving to improve your quality of life. I can help you every step of the way.