Whether the addiction is drugs, alcohol, gambling or sex, the problem behaviour can become so focal that the person’s life and the lives of people close to them can be torn apart. As a Calgary psychologist, I help my clients in addictions counselling take steps to regain control over their lives by targetting the many factors which contribute to their issues. In this regard, I help my clients to identify and cope with high-risk situations, change dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs, learn and practice skills to address issues driving their addictions, and cultivate support to help them stay on track.
IDENTIFYING AND COPING WITH HIGH-RISK SITUATIONS
I help my clients identify high-risk situations which make it more likely they will engage in addictive behaviours. These include particular settings in which they find themselves, certain times of day, being in the company of particular people (such as people who engage in and/or encourage the addictive behaviour) or being alone, and negative emotional states. Next, I help my clients prepare and implement plans to cope with these high-risk situations by taking steps to decrease the likelihood of engaging in the addictive behaviours. Finally, I help my clients take steps to improve their lives so that they are more likely to be regularly engaging in constructive behaviours and less likely to find themselves in high-risk situations.
CHANGING DYSFUNCTIONAL THOUGHTS AND BELIEFS
Dysfunctional thinking contributes to addictions in two primary ways: (1) Negatively distorted thinking can cause and maintain negative emotional states which often lead a person to use addictive behaviours as coping mechanisms; (2) Enabling thoughts and beliefs often occur which give the person the ‘green light’ to engage in addictive behaviours. I work with my clients to help them address both types of thinking patterns. My clients learn skills to substitute balanced thinking for negatively distorted thinking so that they are able to manage their emotions without the need to resort to addictive behaviours as coping mechanisms. I also help my clients become aware of their enabling thoughts and prepare accurate substitute thoughts which make it less likely they will give the green light to engage in addictive behaviours.
LEARNING AND PRACTICING SKILLS TO ADDRESS ISSUES DRIVING THE ADDICTION
For long-term success in overcoming addictions, I help my clients learn and apply skills to address the psychological and emotional issues which are at the root of their addictions. Gaining confidence in using these skills to cope effectively with their issues reduces my clients’ tendency to resort to addictive behaviours as coping mechanisms. Skills in problem-solving, assertiveness, setting boundaries, communication, relationships, self-care and relaxation are just some of those which help my clients effectively address their issues so that their need to engage in addictive behaviours is lessened.
CULTIVATING SUPPORT TO STAY ON TRACK
I help my clients in addiction counseling to cultivate support outside of sessions to stay on track. This entails building relationships with supportive people and spending less time with unsupportive people including those who make it more likely that they will engage in addictive behaviours. Many clients find it helpful to attend support groups on a regular or semi-regular basis so I often facilitate their involvement with such groups. I also help my clients connect with treatment facilities, physicians and other resources that can be helpful or necessary in making progress.