An addiction involves a constant need to perform a behaviour or consume a substance. Addictive behaviours vary and can include shopping, gambling, hoarding, drugs and alcohol, and exercising. When clients engage in addictive behaviours, they feel as if they are unable to control their actions. They may also feel distressed or anxious if they were to abstain from the behaviour. Due to the perceived inability to control actions, clients often feel disempowered and hopeless, which significantly impacts happiness and wellbeing.
In therapy, rather than solely focusing on the detrimental effects of the addiction, we focus on the purpose and function of the addictive behaviour. Clients frequently engage in addictive behaviours due to experiencing beneficial effects. If the behaviour would fail to be reinforcing, clients would have no reason to continue with the addiction. Once clients acknowledge the purpose of the addictive behaviour, they often view their situation through a compassionate, rather than judgmental lens. Gaining insight and self-compassion are essential ingredients for change and growth.
Another fundamental aspect of therapy is gaining insight into the cause of an addiction. Individuals with addictions often engage in dysfunctional behaviours in order to compensate for something that is lacking in their lives.
The addiction may also be linked to past events, such as trauma or abuse. As a result, we explore the underlying cause of the addiction in order to assist clients with targeting their core issues. With the incorporation of multiple treatment models, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT), and mindfulness approaches clients also learn to sit with uncomfortable thoughts and feelings that accompany the addiction.
Over time they learn that having urges does not mean they have to act on them. Instead, they learn how to replace the urges with adaptive coping styles. As clients gain control over their addiction, they often feel a sense of empowerment and strength, which instils hope for a new and improved future.