Recovery from addiction (with a spiritual twist)

Recovery from addictionI came across 3-s therapy or Spiritual Self-Schema in my recent reading. This is a manual based therapy developed by Avants and Margolin. The chief objective of the therapy is to enable clients to develop, build upon and habitually activate a cognitive schema, which is what is referred to as the Spiritual self-schema. See the step by step guide here.

The therapy is a manual based approach compatible with drug abstinence, HIV preventive behaviour, and adherence to medical regimens. There is a great deal of common ground with CBT in the form of monitoring automatic negative thoughts, verbal disputing, noticing body sensations and observing behaviour patterns. There are obvious similarities with the 12 steps of recovery approach to the treatment of addiction too as the 12 steps employ a range of holistic tools and techniques to bring about personal transformation and heightened levels of consciousness.

Increased levels of consciousness could be viewed as the aim of all therapeutic approaches to recovery from addiction. The means to get there is often the point of dispute between the modalities. For the behavioural school the person should change their actions and their (reformed) feelings and thoughts, it is hoped, will follow and the addictive desire wlll lose its grip. The cognitive school will emphasise a new way of thinking to affect change so that you would feel a different way about your life. The analysts will delve into the past to seek to unearth a developmental rupture, often in psycho sexual development, as the reason for poor life choices. The existential school would explore one’s relationship to the givens of life and reassess one’s life choices in terms of meaning. For the transpersonalists, and here I am aware of being quite generalist, addiction is the result of loss of soul.  

Addiction is essentially a way of blocking your feelings. Feelings can not be contained or tolerated in their present form and, therefore, comfort is sought in the form of addictive behaviour.  I like this phrase: If it feels good get worse, if it feels bad get better. I take this to mean that anything pleasurable whereby I am seeking to escape from discomforting feelings will have a price attached to it. Whereas, if I do something less pleasurable but more healthy in the course of my recovery then in the long term I will get better. For example, I want to sit and eat chocolate and watch tv all day when i feel depressed whereas I could go out for a long cycle. The thought of sitting with chocolate might appear more comforting than getting ready to go cycling.

Addiction can also be seen as a devotion to oneself.  Whilst we may refer to our various vices, what we are really attached to, is ourselves, our desires, our wants, our resentments and our fantasies. Recuperation is another word for recovery, deriving from the Latin word “recupare” meaning “to regain.” Through transformation in the psycho spiritual journey, whether that is by cognitive and behavioural tools and techniques or by meditation, or by surrendering, we can regain consciousness and develop a greater level of peace within ourselves.

Active addiction is a loss of consciousness, as we become obsessed with ourselves. To recover, is to push back the border of our consciousness, to know more and to regain interests in relationships and in the flow of life. We begin to feel more present and happier in the here and now.

Metzner (2009) referred to consciousness as a spherical field of awareness that surrounded us and moved wherever we went. For Metzner, addiction is a narrowing of focus, a contracted state of consciousness that contrasts with transcendent states which involve a moment of attention and an expanded state of consciousness.

There has already been a number of clinicians and theorists who have theorised on the integration of Buddhist and western psychological principles and practices for a number of psychological issues. Avants and Margolin are not alone. These discussions have primarily focused on the potentially important role for “mindfulness” meditation in the conceptualization and implementation of treatment.

Rubin (1996) and Epstein (1995) have discussed how Buddhist thought and mindfulness experience can enrich a Freudian, psychoanalytic framework in the practice of psychotherapy. Segal and his colleagues provide a systematic mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for the treatment of depression (Segal,Williams, & Teasdale, 2002). More broadly, Rosenbaum (1999) describes how psychotherapists can enrich their work, their interactions with their clients, and, indeed, their lives, through the incorporation of mindfulness principles and practices of Zen Buddhism. With respect to the treatment of addictions, Ash (1993) has proposed a Zen Buddhist interpretation of the Alcoholics Anonymous, “12-step” framework.

The primary difference between the 3-s therapy or Spiritual Self-Schema approach and those cited above is their use of an information processing, cognitive self-schema theoretical framework. You might find their free tutorials of use by checking them out by clicking on the link below.


3-s therapy workbook


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