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Tia Gardner September 21, 2012 Humanistic Perspective and Addiction There are several theories of addiction. All of them are imperfect. All are partial explanations. It is for this reason that it is important to be aware of and question addiction theories. One contemporary psychoanalytical view of substance abuse is that it is a defense against anxiety (Thombs D 2006). Addicts often abuse alcohol and other substances to guard against anxiety and other painful feelings like shame, guilt, loneliness and depression.

Psychological problems including substance abuse disorders are viewed as a result of inhibited ability to make authentic, meaningful, and self directed choices about how to live. The Humanistic Perspective views the human nature as basically good, with a natural potential to maintain healthy, meaningful relationships and to make choices that are in the best interest of self and others. Humanistic and existential psychotherapies use a wide range of approaches to case conceptualization, therapeutic goals, intervention strategies, and research methodologies.

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Consequently, interventions are aimed at increasingly client self-awareness and self-understanding. Humanistic and existential therapies delve to a much deeper level, to issues related to substance abuse disorders and addiction, often serving as a catalyst for finding alternatives to fill the emptiness that the addict may be feeling. In the 1970s, there was a breakthrough in receiving insurance reimbursement for treatment of addictive disorders-an agreement between Smithers Rehabilitation Program and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of New York designating the 28-day rehab benefit.

Addictive behavior was now considered a primary illness, a symptomatic expression of an underlying mental disorder. Axis II disorders were not considered “serious” mental illnesses whose treatment could be underwritten by insurance companies and, later, by managed-care policy makers. Fragmenting symptoms as if they derived from separate illnesses led to a misuse of the concept of so called “dual diagnosis,” flying in the face of Jellinek’s original ideas and enabling patients to minimize the severity of their core ego deficits by splitting them into disparate and unconnected parts serving their delusions f denial and the maintenance of dependency. All interested parties are aware that the most frequent outcome of treatment is relapse. Although patients are held responsible, in fact, for their own behavior, the public perceives such behaviors as a failure of the treatment environment. Therefore, grasping the humanistic perspective and aspects of addiction and its treatment can only work to advance the knowledge and technology of effective treatments of addiction. There are many different kinds of addictions, from drugs to interpersonal relationships.

Although these diverse addictions vary in many ways there are common threads that bind them together. There are several theories that model addiction: genetic theories, exposure theories (both biological and conditioning), and adaptation theories. To be successful, an addiction model must blend the multidimensional aspects of addiction. It must account for regional and cultural variation, interpersonal preferences as well as hold true for the variety of addictions.

In addition, a good model will describe a cycle that exists that encourages increasing use until the addiction is overwhelming and leaves the host lame. Lastly, theories must be able to describe addiction as it occurs through human experience. Although animal studies can aid in understanding behavior, results need to be carefully interpreted before they are applied to the much more complex nature of a human being. Though a genetic component seems likely, exactly what the gene codes for has not been elucidated.

Questions arise as to whether or not it is the addictive behavior that is encoded or a biological mechanism that drives the behavior. Are there differences in the metabolism of various addictive substances that allow an individual to have varying levels of a drug in the blood stream and have a psychological experience different from someone else? Is there some genetic difference that perhaps allows some to realize when an elevated blood alcohol level has been reached and transmits a message to the brain to stop drinking that others do not have?

These questions have not been clearly answered and are under persistent investigation. Among the numerous definitions for addiction, there lies yet another to define it from a biochemical perspective. Milkman (1983) defines it as “self-induced changes in neurotransmission that result in social problem behaviors. ” This definition encompasses the psychological, biochemical and social aspects of addictive processes. It is not limited to substance abuse and can be applied to any activity characterized by compulsion, loss of control and continuation of the substance despite harm.

This has helped investigators gain a better understanding of the nature of addiction. It has been shown that individuals turn to drugs that elicit a mood or level of arousal consistent with their mode of dealing with stress. Those who deal with stress by confrontation choose drug stimulants. Those who withdrawal from stress chooses opiate drugs. Others who deal with stress through activities related to imagery or fantasy turn to hallucinogens. These differences between behavior and drug preference are thought to be biochemically driven.

Although I primarily favor a synthesis of the biological and behavioral perspectives, I believe the humanistic perspective is more useful in understanding the phenomenon of recovery from alcoholism and/or drug addiction. For me this is a very unusual and interesting paradox. That a psychological disorder has been best explained by the biological and behavioral perspectives, but not necessarily best dealt with using those same perspectives is fascinating, and I think it is very true for alcoholism and addiction.

The biological and behavioral perspectives do well to explain addiction Recovery from poses people towards addiction. Addicts also learn certain behaviors and cognitions from their environment; avoidance, irresponsibility, self-doubt, and self-loathing, that predispose them towards the self-destruction of addiction. It is quite possible that these things, a genetic predisposition and environmental factors, go hand in hand given the dynamics of a family with an alcoholic parent: children are far more likely to become an alcoholic/addict themselves.

Of course, at this point, I have to fess up to personal experience to support my argument in favor of the humanistic perspective regarding recovery from drug addiction. Having been diagnosed a drug addict, I have been exposed to all sorts of treatments stemming from biological and behavioral theories. Rewards and punishments, all fell somewhat short of the mark with respect to achieving long-term abstinence and overall improvement in the quality of my life. It wasn’t until a completely different approach was taken, that recovery from addiction was possible.

I feel that the usefulness of the humanistic perspective isn’t particular to my experience either, but might be fairly universal to others also recovering from addiction. In the case of drug addicts, at a certain point, a natural inclination to grow and achieve a more fulfilling existence can over-power the causes of addiction. Nurturing these desires is far more effective in overcoming addiction than relying on the causes for answers. Take, for example, success rates of recovery in 12-step programs.

Rather than focusing on the causes of addiction, or drawing the outlines for recovery from the cause, 12-step programs take a distinctly humanistic approach, encouraging people to better themselves, their lives, and their communities. These programs rely on the addict’s personal desire to better himself and then direct him in how to do it. The reasons for success of 12-step programs are not completely understood by psychologists or doctors, but the fact that they help people recover from alcoholism and drug addiction is largely undisputed.

I think, in this particular case, it’s because the humanistic perspective is used. And through experience, I have found that any sort of therapy emphasizing personal choice, self-betterment and self-fulfillment goes a lot further in treating addiction than does medication or reconditioning efforts. Despite personal biology and environmental factors that teach an addict to deal with life by avoiding it, the humanistic perspective allows an addict to overcome these things by taking control of their choices and the behaviors that were harmful to them.

Where the biological and behavioral perspectives maintain that addiction is a result of factors beyond the addict’s control, which may, in fact, be true, recovery from addiction has proven best served by free-will and consciously striving to improve one’s self. In the particular instance of drug addiction, while biology and behavior may be responsible for the problem, the tenants of the humanistic perspective provide the most effective cure. http://www. psychologytoday. com http://www. addictioninfo. org http://www. ncbi. nlm. nih. gov

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