CHEMICAL DEPENDENCY PROCESS ADDICTIONS
Chemical Dependency Process Addictions
Treating addictions can be difficult because, oftentimes, it’s not about the actual chemical that is being taken or repetitive behaviors that are taking place. It’s about the secondary gain that is being achieved through the behavior. Before going into more detail on what a secondary gain is, it’s important to understand that there are two general types of addictions.
The first is often referred to as chemical dependency, and the other is called process addictions. As the name suggests, chemical dependency is when an individual is taking a substance that is either not prescribed, too much, or illegal, and the taking of these substances impacts the person’s functioning and has negative impacts on their life. Sometimes the individual can take more than one substance as well. On the other hand, a process addiction is classified as repetitive behavior, often compulsive in nature, and leads to a negative impact on an individual’s life.
Here are some common examples of chemical dependency:
- Excessive alcohol use
- Xanax / Ativan
- Opiates (pain pill or heroin)
Here are some common examples of process addictions:
As stated earlier, secondary gains are an important part of understanding one’s chemical dependency or process addiction. A secondary gain is a core reason or driving force that motivates one to use or engage in addictive behavior. There are many reasons why this might happen. Sometimes the driving force is in response to a traumatic situation. Other times the individual might want to “escape from” a specific situation. Learning or understanding one’s own secondary gains is an important first step.
A commonly accepted therapeutic method that is used in addictions counseling is called Motivational Interviewing. Motivational interviewing offers many specific techniques for this area of counseling, one of them being something called Stages of Change. Motivational Interviewing seeks to help the client understand their readiness for change and help the client move from one stage to another.
5 Stages of Change:
- Pre-contemplative: Not serious about the need for change, not sure if there is a “problem.”
- Contemplative: More confident there is a problem and able to see a negative impact on life from the maladaptive behavior.
- Preparation: An internal commitment has been made for the need to change and an acceptance of the negative impact that the maladaptive behavior has had on one’s life.
- Action: The active stage of making changes, reconditioning one’s behaviors, and learning new skills to lower risk or relapse.
- Maintenance: New skills have been learned and implemented to avoid maladaptive behavior. Healthy changes are maintained and are self-sustained.
Perhaps the most important part of understanding therapy for addictions is to understand that the therapist’s job is not to change the client. The therapist has no control over changing the client’s mind. The goal of the therapist is to help the client gain their own understanding of their behaviors and help them make the changes they want to make. It's not about engaging in the power struggle with the client or their family members.