Why Is Addiction So Hard To Treat:
Two New Treatment Approaches That Deal With The Challenges of Treatment
The problem with addiction is that it works so well for people (at least in the short run), which makes treatment difficult. Gambling works for the gambler, drinking works for the alcoholic, drugs work for the drug addict. Sure we know better, but that truth is not apparent to the addict. Treatment is fighting an up hill battle against a quick and easy way to deal with anxiety, depression and isolation. If that werenít a difficult enough challenge, hereditary and brain chemistry also kick in, as well as social pressure.
To treat the addict successfully we need a variety of approaches and strategies. Energy Therapy and Focused Self-Hypnosis ("FSH") are newly developed and highly effective tools that can help individuals deal with their addiction. These treatments are dramatically different from the traditional forms of intervention. This article will offer a brief overview of these approaches
As a general overview, I will discuss the stages of addiction, the impact of anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsion thoughts, and the positive treatment implications of Energy Therapy and Focused Self Hypnosis. I will end this article by addressing one other essential factor -- the "meaningful other." In the section "A word to those meaningful others," my comments are directed to those people who are close to the addict and deeply affected by their behavior.
Stages of addiction
1. The first stage of addiction is "Internal Change." In this stage, people become aware of their mood changes when involved with their addiction. Their mood improves and in general, there is a sense of escape and getting away from their problems or uncomfortable feelings. They continue to turn more and more to the addiction when they are feeling stressed. During this stage, individuals develop a dependency on the addiction. They move away from people and toward the addictive experience.
2. The second stage is the "Lifestyle Change." In this stage, individuals build their life around the addiction. They are now out of control on a behavioral level. They need to have that drink, place that bet, have the "viewing time", or be online. They arrange their life around the addiction. When they are not involved with the addictive behavior, they are constantly thinking about it.
3. The third and final stage is "Life Breakdown." In this stage, addicts believe that nothing is working for them, nothing is ever their fault and everything would be all right if you just left them alone. They become very moody and extremely difficult to deal with about the issues in their lives. It is when addicts are in this stage that the most effective work begins. They can no longer deny, rationalize or hide from, what has happened to them.
Anxiety & Depression
Regardless of which stage the addicts are in, they are resistant to treatment. They are resistant because of their overwhelming feelings of anxiety and depression. These feelings play a key negative role in addiction. When individuals are anxious or depressed they are at risk to engage in their addiction. Depression and anxiety are extremely difficult for addicts to tolerate. These emotions feel "unbearable" and they respond by turning to the bottle, pill or computer monitor. Not engaging in the addiction will trigger intense feelings of anxiety, while at the same time, knowing they are addicted will cause deep depression.
The point here is that any treatment plan needs to pay attention to these feelings and identify how addicts can handle them without causing a relapse. Recovery is not possible if people are struggling with feeling overwhelmed by their anxiety and profound sadness.
The Obsessive-Compulsive Factor
All addicts become obsessed with their addiction. Nothing seems as important as being involved in the addiction. Family, work, even personal health takes a back seat to the addictive behavior. Constantly thinking about repeating the destructive behavior ruins their lives and severely hurts all of those around them.
Two New Approaches to Treatment: Energy Therapy & Focused Self Hypnosis
Biology, habit, stress, extreme discomfort with and fear of the unfamiliar, and lack of effective alternative coping mechanisms are all issues that have to be addressed in the successful treatment of addiction. Successful treatment has to reduce stress and offer better alternative strategies on a deep emotional level. Energy Therapy is a dramatically different type of therapy. I have been trained in traditional therapeutic practices, as well as behavioral therapies, Nuero Linguistic Programming (NLP) and hypnosis. I say this to let the reader know that energy therapy is radically different from any of these approaches. After using Energy Therapy hundreds of times with patients, I have found this process to be remarkably effective.
A brief description of Energy Therapy
Energy Therapy is a newly developed process that has been dubbed "Psychological Acupressure" (for purposes of this article, acupressure and acupuncture are used interchangeably). About 20 years ago, Dr. Roger Callahan, a licensed clinical psychologist, accidentally discovered that by combining elements of acupressure and cognitive psychology in a unique way, patients experienced a dramatic reduction in the strength of their addictive cravings. That process has since been expanded and refined by many other therapists into an area called Energy Therapy.
Hereís how it works
By actually touching specific areas of the body considered to be "energy locations," (acupuncture has labeled these areas meridians) and combining it with the use of psychological principles, many patients experience a relief from their addictive cravings. Similar to acupuncture without the needles, Energy Therapy identifies "energy locations" in the face and torso. Simply applying a gentle pressure on these spots and reciting appropriate and individualized verbalizations (known as affirmations) can quickly ease the additive needs and reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and depression. What makes this approach particularly powerful is that the individual can easily learn to use it on their own whenever they wish.
Focused Self-Hypnosis is a technique that is easy to learn and apply. Patients are taught how to easily and quickly put themselves into a very calm state. As they learn this process, they reduce their stress and can address other deep emotional factors that continue to move them toward their addictive behavior. This approach helps them to recall and focus on issues. As individuals become aware of unknown underlying issues, they are able to relate to those factors and handle them in a constructive way. It enables patients to relate to their emotions on a deeper level. Focused Self-Hypnosis has three elements: self-hypnosis, limited exploration into oneís past (we donít want to get lost there) and behavior reconditioning
FSH is self-hypnosis and the person is in total control. The person is always aware of what is going on around them. It is not the "quack like a duck" hypnosis they expected. While experiencing Focused Self-Hypnosis people do not do anything that is contrary to their basic nature or beyond their personal comfort level.
Treatment Considerations in Using Energy Therapy and Focused Self Hypnosis
In this section I will discuss the implications of using Energy Therapy and Focused Self Hypnosis. I will discuss how these approaches can positively impact the various stages of addiction; the relationship between the addict, control and these treatment procedures; handling pressure; and dealing with issues in the personís past.
Energy Therapy/Focused Self Hypnosis and Stages of Addiction
These approaches can be specifically tailored for use in each "stage of addiction." In stage one of addiction, they can help addicts find a more comfortable internal state than the one they are currently experiencing.
If the addiction has progressed to stage two, individuals may use these newly learned skills to help them control their behavior. There are numerous techniques specifically designed to refocus the obsessive behavior into constructive behavior.
When addicts have deteriorated to stage three, they are strongly motivated to change because of the dire consequences they are facing. The ability to relax and to redirect their negative energy can go a long way toward helping them work on damaged relationships or severely decreased work capacity.
Addictsí Strong Need to be in Control
One of the basic personality characteristics of addicts is their strong need to be in control. Both Energy Therapy and Focus Self Hypnosis encourage and help them to be in control. Both therapies supply addicts with many techniques that they can use on themselves whenever they want. Each approach makes it easier for addicts to experience some independence and control in defeating the negative addictive side of their personality
Dealing with Issues in Your Personal History
In some cases, addiction stems from past life difficulties and issues. There are some FSH techniques specifically designed to enable individuals to emotionally "time travel" into the past and discover what really happened. Once people can locate the difficulty, they are in more of a position to help their emotional injuries heal. This healing is an important step to their dealing effectively with their addiction.
Coping with Pressure
People tend to revert to addictions when faced with pressurized situations. There is an area of Focused Self Hypnosis that works on addressing those "triggering situations." It helps them to identify alternative behaviors and strategies to cope with difficult issues they face.
Successful therapy never attempts to take away an emotional support or behavior unless it can offer a better one in its place. This can only be done when the real underlying roots are understood. Lack of understanding ourselves stops us from changing and moving ahead in our lives. If we could have easily identified the origins and real barriers to change, we would have solved the problem and not still be suffering with it. Focused Self Hypnosis is a tool that can help addicts get past their resistance to recovery and "giving up" the addiction. Using this process patients get past very deeply embedded patterns. In order to discover and redirect those patterns, we need to go beyond conventional approaches. Therapyís effectiveness is increased when it goes beyond logic, contracts, and simple reconditioning.
Examples of Treatment
Examples Using Energy Therapy
There are numerous examples of the success of using EFT, one of the Energy Therapeutic Approaches, with various addictions (Emotion Free Techniques) (for more information about this approach seehttp://www.emofree.com/addictions/detox.htm. One therapist shares a story of a 77-year-old woman who was having a very difficult time withdrawing from the migraine medication she had been taking for years. She was in a great deal of discomfort from the withdrawal of her painkillers and was in the throes of having a migraine. Using EFT, the woman stopped getting headaches and was helped with her withdrawal from the medication.
Another therapist (see http://www.emofree.com/addictions/report.htm) tells how he helped a binge drinker who was struggling with being haunted every day by memories of his motherís death and had ongoing daily urges to drink.
Robert (identifying information has been changed), 43-year-old computer programmer had been drinking for 12 years. He learned how to use the energy therapy technique on himself and reported that " I have been able to really deal with my anxiety when ever I have the urge to drink. I am really surprised that after I do the stuff that I learned, somehow I donít feel like having a drink."
Examples Using Focused Self-Hypnosis
Risa is a 53-year-old part time secretary with a drug problem. She had tried rehab twice and had been to four therapists. She felt stuck. By using Focused Self-Hypnosis she was able to let go of much of the tension and anticipatory anxiety she had felt for years. She had never realized how much she had pushed down her anger and sadness over a number of events she had buried years ago. FSH helped discover those things she had long since "forgotten" and in combination with some Nuero Linguistic Techniques, she was able to "let go" of the negative habits and programming she had unknowingly developed.
At 28, James suffered from a gambling problem that began as a teenager. He had already gone bankrupt and experienced constant migraine headaches. By accessing his unconscious using Focused Self-Hypnosis, he was able to relax and let go of his pent-up tension. He reduced his discomfort when he felt a headache coming on and also realized how he was using gambling as an antidepressant and to deal with the severe ego problem he was experiencing. Additionally, the FSH helped raise his awareness of the social factors connected with his gambling. Over the 10 years he had been gambling, he had developed many friends and his social life revolved around his betting. He was able to build his self-image and then slowly reconnect with a new social support system. The awareness of the role of his social group had not come out when he was in traditional therapy. It was not until after a Focused Self Hypnosis session that it became "obviousí to him the role that the social group played. Having discovered that information, he was on his way to dealing with one of the important factors in his addiction.
I find Energy Therapy and Focused Self Hypnosis useful in helping addicts deal with their addiction. These are powerful therapies and add a valuable dimension to my treatment approach. They are not intended as a cure all, but they are effective aides in helping people get past their addictions.
A word to those "meaningful others" who care about someone who is addicted
In my experience, the first one to reach out for professional help is the addictís "meaningful other." A meaningful other might be a wife, husband, parent or an adult child of the addict. If "meaningful others" are not also addicted, there are several reasons they are more likely to seek help before the addicts themselves do.
A. They have a more objective view of what is really happening to the addict.
B. They are more aware and concerned about the implications of the addiction on others, such as the children of the addict.
C. They are being harmed by the addictís behavior and need to take care of themselves.
As a result of these factors, effective counseling often starts with the non-addicted spouse or adult child. If you suspect or know that someone you care for is addicted, you should seek help immediately. DONíT WAIT FOR THEM TO BE READY. The biggest mistake "meaningful others" make is they donít think they need counseling, so they passively wait for the addict to get help. A wife waits for her husband to be ready for counseling. After all, it is his problem. A husband complains about his wifeís drinking problem, or a 34-year-old man does nothing about his motherís abuse of medication. People who have an addiction problem are often defensive or in denial and are very reluctant to seek help.
Some More information on Addictive Personalities
If you would like to understand more about addiction, there is a personality system
called Ennegrams, there are two articles you can read:
Section507 Ė Personality Mapping (P.M.): Figure out your personality type/ Learn about your partnerís personality. I have written a brief article on my web page. This article will give you a brief overview of 9 different personality types.
This section on the Enneagram Instituteís web page will give a general background about how particular personality types are prone to particular types of addictions.
So if you want some more insight about addictions and addictive personality types read my section on Personality Mapping and the Enneagram Instituteís article on addictions and personality types.
Dr. Tashmanís Background
Dr. Marty Tashman holds a Doctorate in Psychology (Clinical & Organizational) and a Master's degree in both Counseling and Social Work (Case/Group Work). He has had extensive training in hypnosis and in EFT, Thought Field Therapy (TFT), Neuro Linguist Programming (NLP) (Master Practitioner), and other alphabet soups. He is the creator of Focused Self-Hypnosis (FSH). He has been a faculty member at Rutgers Graduate School of Social Work, Brooklyn College, and St. Johnís University. In the past three years he has been asked to give several presentations to the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey. "Healing the Healer" (emotional self care for the counselor/therapist), "Survivor Therapists" (therapists' struggle with their patientís suicide) and most recently Ė Out Patient Treatment of Compulsive Gamblers (right brain approaches)
If you have comments or questions you can reach Dr. Tashman at (732) 246-8484 or firstname.lastname@example.org.