My Approach to Addiction

I have extensive experience working with addiction in Portland and I have collaborated with clients who have seen real results in our work together.  Any compulsive behavior that causes internal, external, and/or relationship problems in our life could be seen through an addiction lens.  These addictions can often be looked at as survival skills that offer us certain benefits.  However, when the consequences of our addiction outweigh the benefits, we often develop a desire to stop or reduce the behavior.  Drug problems, alcohol problems, sexual issues, shopping problems, and excessive internet use, are all examples of addictive issues that therapy has been shown to provide support for.  Feel free to utilize my free 30 minute consultation to find out if we are a good fit.

Common Problems In Addiction

One common problem resulting from addiction is the price that our relationships pay.  Often times what comes with addictive behavior are other behaviors that are unwelcome such as dishonesty, preoccupation with our addiction, lack of consistency, unreliability, irritability, flakiness, emotional unavailability, etc.  Basically, in our addiction we become more invested in our relationship with our substance or our addictive behavior than we do the relationships in our life that are meaningful to us.  When we place the addiction as a higher priority than our relationships the relationships suffer.  So, one of the things the recovering addict can do is involve their family in the healing process.  Studies have shown that family therapy and couples counseling in conjunction with treatment for addictions increase the addicts chances for sobriety and assist the family in recovering together.  Many people feel that addiction is a family disease that affects everyone in the family and therefore needs to be treated as a family.

Like I said, there are consequences to addiction and sometimes not everyone is aware of them.  Our addiction alone can be the source of additional symptoms of anxiety and panic.  When we know deep down that what we are doing is destructive towards ourselves and hurting other people our instincts attempt to alert us that we are in fact heading down a harmful road.  Amazingly, our bodies have subtle, and not so subtle, ways of talking to us in these instances. Racing heart beats, feelings of being out of control, constant worry, and even paranoia can be associated with our addiction.  The idea that the actions from the day or night before might come back to haunt us is something that generally doesn’t feel good.  Knowing that we are hurting ourselves and our loved ones is difficult to tolerate.  So, our bodies and our minds attempt to both deny the pain and at times show us the pain.  Over time, this becomes exhausting and anxiety provoking.  When we are looking over our shoulders all the time and worrying about ourselves and our loved ones, due to our actions in our addiction, it can feel an awful lot like anxiety.

Finally, an extremely common problem in addiction is financial and career issues.  As I said before, the addiction takes a higher priority in our system of survival and we often neglect our work and our finances in the process.  So, whether our addiction is expensive or whether our addiction simply distracts us from our financial goals, financial stress is a common consequence in addictive behavior.  Or, sometimes people quit jobs they actually love, get fired, or cannot find work when unemployed due to their addiction.  By seeking treatment, we can reduce or eliminate the impact that the addiction is having on our financial life.

Addiction Treatment

To treat addiction, it is important to understand the addiction first and foremost.  In treatment we will determine the true nature of your addiction, talk about the highs and lows in your addiction, and come up with a plan for treatment based uniquely on your life and your specific goals.

In a general way there are some consistent issues that typically need to be addressed in addiction.  Since we can acknowledge that the addiction did in fact serve a purpose for you at one point, we need to identify the specific needs that you are trying to meet.  One common need people seek in their addictive behavior is to tolerate emotions.  People often find that their addiction helps them tolerate life’s ups and downs.  So, a primary treatment objective is emotional regulation skills.  Dialectal Behavioral Therapy can be very helpful in giving people important emotional regulation skills so that when a feeling comes up, they can use other tools to maintain their sobriety and not reach for the addiction to tolerate that feeling.

Another consistent issue in treating an addiction is social support.  There is something magical about having people in your life who “get” you and who can identify with what you are going through.  This is why there are so many successful self help groups out there for cancer survivors, battered women, teen-agers of alcoholics, etc.  In the beginning maybe our therapy sessions will be your source for social support, which is great.  And, at the same time we will come up with a plan of how you can find support around your addiction with people who understand you and can support you in a healthy way outside of our therapy sessions.  The research around social support and addiction is very clear.  The people who find the right social support to process their addiction issues with, have a much higher success rate than those folks who try and go it alone.  Breaking the isolation is an enormous component of recovery from addiction.

Finally, the development of specific coping skills for you that are meaningful to you will generally be an important aspect of treatment.  When we talk about coping skills we are talking about boundary setting skills, refusal skills, distress tolerance skills, healthy relationship skills, anger management skills, and mindfulness based skills.  The list could go on for a long while, but those are some of the common one’s that I use.  I use a lot of my training in DBT and mindfulness approaches to find skills that will work for each of my clients.  Most of our time will be spent talking and processing your feelings, but occasionally I will provide you with helpful handouts and explain how to use certain skills in your ever day life.

The information on this page is not intended to explain everything that we do in addictions therapy.  I have information about my work with Dual Diagnosis on my depression page.  But, this page should have given you a perspective of what kind of work we can do and some sense of how I view addictions work.  If you have any questions about addiction please feel free to call me and we can chat.