Understanding our addictive behaviours is a recovery journey unique to each individual and by offering a supportive, safe and non-judgemental therapeutic relationship, clients are able to address the psychological aspects of human and social experiences such as loss, abuse, relationship conflict and trauma. My therapeutic approach brings together biological, psychological and social understanding of the individual.
My experience of working within a multi-disciplinary team as part of an NHS outpatient/community addiction services offering support to adults and young people, I have seen clients face multiple stressors: the loss of loved ones, feelings of rejection/abandonment, feelings of being out of control, increased isolation and a fear of the future. This leads to high levels of anxiety and may lead to acute traumatic stress responses.
Indeed, my work in understanding addictive behaviours has shown that trauma and early adverse experiences can be passed down through multiple generations and can take place at many different levels:
• via genetics
• our ties to our families
• the atmosphere in which we grew up in
• the stories that we are told and the stories that are untold
Our well-being is linked to our ability to process harmful and stressful experiences, to overcome them by grieving and to integrate them into our own life stories; unprocessed trauma is often passed onto the next generation revealing itself in feelings, behaviours, dreams and flashbacks. These accumulation of stresses leads to a breakdown in functioning and hidden re-enactments i.e. the characteristics of a person or the circumstances of a situation can trigger unresolved trauma and stress responses.
Knowledge Is Power:
My approach aims to empower clients and their families with knowledge through psychoeducation on the profound impact of dysregulation on one’s psychology, cognition, emotional tolerance, basic bodily functions, immune function and significantly on interpersonal relationships and identity formation.
Clients begin to understand how alcohol, drugs, food and sex can be used as a form of self-medication to assist with numbing pain, calm and soothe overwhelming feelings. It is important to understand if the addictive and repetitive behaviour begins as a survival strategy aimed at self-regulation and coping day to day.
Communicating, Understanding Using Compassioned Focused Empathy:
In understanding the client’s stress responses, we can anticipate together other coping strategies in order to deal with those symptoms which will threaten again to overwhelm. By developing compassion and self-respect for oneself, clients can counter-act the shame and guilt that is often a by-product of addictive behaviour.
I Explore And Work Through With Each Client:
What was the timing of the addictive behaviour?
How does it help them cope?
When did the addictions begin to negatively affect their ability to cope and function?
How has the addictive behaviour helped them to survive?
What stress responses has the client been attempting to treat through their harmful behaviours?
Family history and adverse life experiences
Neuro-biological and psychosocial factors
Relationship dynamics and communication challenges
Triggers for use including stress and vulnerability factors within the client’s own environment, family and culture
Dysregulated nervous system states and the body’s innate physiological responses to stress
Hyperarousal symptoms such as anxiety, restlessness, chronic pain, irritability, hypervigilance, emotional flooding, panic, anger, rage, impulsivity, chaotic responses, sleeplessness, over-eating and shame
Hypo-arousal symptoms of emotional numbness, depression, lethargy, chronic fatigue, disconnection, pain, poor digestion, and memory loss
Previous successes and failures within the abstinence and relapse cycle
Effective coping responses and emotionally regulated states to manage high risk situations
Increased self-efficacy strategies incorporating self-regulation strategies and healthy stress responses
‘Together’- Building on Strength, Safety and Stability by Anticipating, Managing and Coping
As your therapist I seek to establish a positive working alliance with a focus on trust and establishing rapport working towards mutual discovery and positive change.
I seek to highlight your strengths and to validate the survival strategies you have used as a way of maintaining control and coping. In acknowledging these survivor traits, we can acknowledge and harness this strength alongside the wiser parts of self that can determine healthier choices of behaviour.
My aim is to help clients to reclaim their sense of choice by working together to anticipate triggers/ high stress situations by increasing the client’s own skill building and sense of control over cravings, impulses, triggers, symptoms, stresses and events; to be always aware of the warning signs but to recognise each setback as a learning opportunity. These learning opportunities provide potential to foster new inner- resources, by re-framing symptoms and behaviour, and thereby developing new cognitive schemas which will increase resilience and decrease self-loathing by focusing on progression not perfection.
Significant within the counselling work is reconnecting mind, body and brain (somatic sensory embodiment) so that they remain connected to themselves and the outside world. Techniques for calming the body, mindful body awareness, anticipating triggers and differentiating between facts and feelings are sought alongside alternative coping behaviours which in time become the automatic response and the more acceptable and healthier survival strategy aiding long term stabilisation.
My therapeutic approach helps clients to build their own internal support mechanisms and self-regulation strategies and to promote coping and positive development enabling them to get structure into their lives, increasing their self-confidence and regaining control of their day to day functioning and implement life goals.
Addiction Counsellor with NHS/Community Outpatient Addiction Services
Working with one of the leading providers of addictions services on behalf of local authorities and the NHS, and as part of its psychosocial support, I offer one to one counselling to clients as part of their successful recovery and wellbeing programme. I bring this knowledge and experience to support my clients in my private work with an empathic and compassion focused approach to understanding each of my client’s unique experiences utilising attachment and trauma theory, person centred, cognitive therapy and somatic psychology principles.