NEW APPROACHES TO OVERCOMING ADDICTIONS.
By GRAHAM W PRICE.
Psychology has moved forward in leaps and bounds over recent years and our knowledge of how to treat addictions has advanced dramatically.
Most people suffering with addictions still gravitate towards 12-step programmes such as those used by Alcoholics Anonymous, Al Anon and others. These programmes, while somewhat dated, remain helpful and supportive to many. One major limitation is that they depend on relinquishing control to a higher power, whether religious or otherwise, leaving those who cannot embrace such a concept seeking an alternative.
The biggest advance in therapy in recent years has been the development of acceptance-based approaches, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Compassion-Focused Therapy, Mindfulness and Acceptance-Action Therapy (AAT). Acceptance-based approaches are changing the face of therapy, including addiction treatments.
People with addictions live in a state of resistance. They’re either resisting aspects of their lives or they’re resisting ‘internal’ experiences such as uncomfortable feelings and cravings.
Many don’t realise that resistance always reinforces the programming that’s driving uncomfortable feelings. Resistance can make us anxious about feeling anxious and depressed about feeling depressed.
Resistance encourages us to take actions to try to control, satisfy or suppress uncomfortable feelings, such as consuming drugs or food to diminish cravings. This always reinforces the unconscious beliefs that are driving the feelings. A craving, while part physiological, is ultimately driven by an unconscious belief that we need whatever we’re craving. Consuming what we’re craving reinforces this belief. First the unconscious receives a message that we must need whatever we’re craving; otherwise why would we be consuming it? Second the craving subsides as a result, confirming the belief must be valid. And so the behaviour reinforces the belief and addictions develop.
The opposite of resistance is acceptance. Acceptance-based therapies encourage us to accept uncomfortable feelings rather than resist them. We’re then better able to cease unproductive behaviours that reinforce the problem. Through a combination of acceptance and breaking behaviour patterns, we can start to unwind the programming. And so we begin to gain a sense of control over our lives.
Most addiction treatments include some element of acceptance. The latest development in acceptance-based therapies, Acceptance-Action Therapy (AAT), includes powerful techniques for training people to accept their feelings and adopt powerful actions. Acceptance-action approaches have transformed the lives of many, including those suffering from addiction. Addictions of every kind – from food to alcohol, cigarettes and drugs – have been resolved.
Mary had tried many times to give up smoking. Her nicotine cravings had subsided on some attempts but never fully left her. As for so many addicts, her struggle had involved pitting her will power against her desire for cigarettes. Each time the battle had been lost. Through AAT, she discovered that fighting her addiction was not the only way. She was able to fully accept her cravings and so choose not to smoke. She beat her addiction and has since applied the same tools to other challenges such as losing weight. She now feels fully in control of her life.
About the Author
Graham W Price is a chartered psychologist and CBT specialist. He is an accredited member of the British Psychological Society (BPS), the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) and the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) and a registered practitioner psychologist with the Health Professions Council (HPC).
For more information about Graham see www.abicord.com/graham-price