It’ll make you feel better in so many ways, and that’s why therapists are adding a bit of creativity to their addiction recovery programs: to help patients achieve a greater sense of well-being that goes beyond abstinence. Whether it’s a strum of the strings or a brush to the canvas, the arts heal your damaged psyche and enrich your life physically, mentally and spiritually. Here’s how.
This is the basis for good health. Difficult situations in life, such as being laid off, getting dumped or struggling with an addiction, can lead to stress, which has physical effects such as high blood pressure. That, in turn, causes even more stress. Creativity ends this vicious circle, as it brings peace of mind and helps you become energetically engaged with your body, according to A Lust for Life, a website devoted to well-being.
When you play an instrument, you focus your ears and eyes on what your hands are doing to produce a specific sound. This is a form of mindfulness, or being in the moment, in which nothing outside of you and your music matters, and that includes those worries and anxieties that you’ve been dragging around all day that are compounded by the pressures of readapting to a sober life. You can gain the same benefit from the visual arts.
Artistic expression allows you to let go of the troubles that have been weighing on your mind. Painting is especially therapeutic for some people in addiction recovery. The Treehouse points out, “Whether it’s watercolor, acrylic, or oils, painting is a wonderful way for those suffering with addiction to cope. Not only is painting a quiet, soothing activity, it allows an artist to bring out whatever emotions they’re dealing with onto the paper or canvas and leave it there. Because drugs and alcohol can dull a person’s emotions, painting can bring you back to yourself, little by little.”
Start with plucking a string while you tap your foot to the beat. Now, add another string to the mix. Then, place your fingers on the fingerboard, and add new notes to the composition. The next session, you’ll build even more complexity, and as your skills grow, you’ll learn to play songs in their entirety. Do you see how that works? Little by little, you become better and better. That’s how you accomplish things, and accomplishment is how you build your self-esteem.
Imagine yourself in front of the canvas for the first time, making your first tentative brush strokes. Seeking the same release of negative energy, you come back to the same place at the same time the next day to add to your budding work of art, but this time, with a steadier hand. You’re gaining skill, but also creating a routine, one that’s invigorating to your mind and spirit. This adds structure to your life, which you need to overcome the negative habits you developed in your previous life.
“Express yourself in some way you enjoy on a regular basis, just once a day, and benefit from a more positive state of mind,” says a doctor writing in Psychology Today, citing research in which over 600 people were surveyed on their artistic endeavors and the positive and negative emotional responses they felt. The study also revealed that creativity increased happiness in their relationships as well as positivity in the workplace.
There was a time when you were full of hope, before the weight of the world came crashing down on your shoulders. That child is still there inside you, waiting to reconnect. Art offers a way to reach them. Children are masters at creativity, naturally diving into lumps of clay and pots of fingerpaint to bring their imaginations to reality, and here you are doing the same thing, adding a dash of playfulness to your life. “Nothing is more important than creative play through imagination. Never stop playing, and never stop imagining!” says writer Carmela Dutra.
Painting, sculpting, music – any of these creative arts can be added to your recovery efforts, whether in-patient or outpatient, 12-step or holistic. Talk your therapist for some suggestions, or begin your personal vision quest with a trip to the music or art supply store. Either way, it starts with you.
This article discusses alternative treatments for addiction recovery.
I hope you enjoy this article.
Determining the most effective treatments for addiction recovery isn’t easy, because not all methods work for everyone. Many experts agree that treating the body and the mind effectively helps people focus their minds and relieve stress and anxiety—triggers for substance abuse which often lead to relapses during recovery.
You’ll want to explore different methods with your doctor after you evaluate the holistic, non-traditional therapies available. The benefits they offer include:
A comprehensive approach that addresses your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.
A more natural approach to healing by using the body’s ability to heal itself.
Accessibility for people who are intimidated by or uncomfortable about the more traditional treatment options.
An increased possibility that you’ll uncover underlying issues that talk therapy might not discover.
An opportunity to learn new skills and ways to exist happily in the world. You’ll increase your ability to maintain your recovery and more successfully and healthfully handle future challenges.
Less emphasis on religion; these alternatives don’t bash religion, but do provide a more secular approach, which increases their appeal for those who don’t follow a Western or Christian religion.
More emphasis on self-empowerment by encouraging recovering addicts to channel their own strength to overcome their addictions.
A willingness to stay updated with current research in evidence-based approaches, like cognitive behavioral therapy, to treat addiction and incorporate those techniques into their systems.
Mental health disorders are often intertwined with substance abuse disorders (SUD), and GoodTherapy.org provides a comprehensive breakdown of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) used in combination with traditional methods to treat mental health and SUD.
Alternative recovery methods
If you’re exploring other possibilities besides the traditional 12-step programs to aid in your addiction recovery, this list—while by no means exhaustive—is a good place to start.
Yoga. Often partnered with meditation, yoga gently improves your flexibility and helps your body to heal physically from the effects of substance abuse.
Meditation. Focusing on inner strength, peace, and connectedness, meditation helps you to narrow and focus your thoughts, block out negativity, and quiet your mind. By increasing your self-awareness, you learn how to embrace that inner strength and reduce cravings.
Exercise. Daily exercise, even if only 20-30 minutes a day, boosts your mood and releases endorphins, which increase feelings of well-being and happiness. Exercise improves the functions of your endocrine, pulmonary, and cardiac systems; improves oxygen and nutrient delivery; and positively affects your brain’s executive control processes, which include memory, multitasking, and planning or strategizing.
Healthy eating. Healthier food choices can control cravings, depression, anxiety, and other factors that trigger addictive behaviors. This food chart provides a roadmap of options that address nutritional deficits by incorporating more proteins, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory vitamins and minerals, omega-3 essential fatty acids, and fibers into your diet.
12-Step group alternatives. There’s no doubt about the efficacy of 12-step group programs; however, not everyone benefits from participating—for many different reasons. Other nationwide programs have existed for decades, including:
Women for Sobriety (WFS), a national self-help program geared toward women recovering from addiction.
SMART Recovery, which uses cognitive behavioral approaches in its 1,200 groups worldwide.
Secular Organizations for Sobriety, founded by a recovering alcoholic in the mid 1980s as an alternative to AA.
LifeRing Secular Recovery (LSF), which focuses on human efforts and individual motivation to maintain addiction recovery.
Regardless of where you are in your addiction recovery, experts agree that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. Recognizing their effectiveness when partnered with more traditional treatments, many treatment centers have embraced alternative therapies. More recovering addicts are using these holistic treatments in conjunction with more traditional methods. While not a panacea for treating SUD, these alternative treatments do have a profound, positive influence on the recovery process—and beyond.
This article is based upon Kimberly’s work and research on alternative recovery methods.
Kimberly is currently working on a book about when addicts should seek alternative addiction treatments…and when they should be avoided.
I hope you enjoy this article.
Each year, millions of Americans have to contend with addiction to drugs or alcohol. You never think that addiction will happen to you, until it does, and then who’s left to pick up the pieces. Everyone’s recovery story is unique. Sometimes you never lose that safety net of a family to catch you and help get your life back in order. Sometimes you are left alone, after addiction has created a rift between you and the people you love. Sometimes there is counseling, group meetings, traditional 12-step programs and on-campus rehabilitation.
Even after taking all of these steps to get life back in order, you can still feel incomplete and normalcy can seem so far away. Perhaps it’s time for you to consider alternative addiction treatments to help you find that missing piece. Here are a few treatment alternatives to help get your life back on track.
Sweating it Out
Addiction recovery can be found in a variety of places, one of which can be your local gym. You’ve probably been told many times how a healthy lifestyle can transform lives, and maybe even seen it firsthand in friends or family who started eating better foods, or began training for a marathon. Well, diet and exercise can benefit more than just people looking to shed a few pounds. In fact, many recovering addicts have rediscovered that putting an emphasis on their diet and fitness routine has done wonders for helping them get through the turbulence of addiction and find the silver lining in their life after drugs and alcohol.
Exercise on its own is known to reduce stress and anxiety, while eating better foods gives us more energy, and can improve our overall mood. Beyond the immediate effects of healthy living, you’ll also benefit from a more structured routine that balances your fitness with everyday life. After seeing and feeling the results of diet and exercise you might notice that piece you have been missing is finally filled, and you are finally back to living your best life.
Another alternative that may supplement your current addiction treatment can be found on the page, or in the studio. Expression is a powerful form of release. It allows you to get all the thoughts and feelings that have been bottled up inside of you out and in the open air. This is why so many recovering addicts turn to the arts as an outlet for their troubles and past traumas.
When expressing yourself, there is no right or wrong way to go about it. Find a medium that speaks to you, be it painting, or singing, or dancing. Start investing in old hobbies like writing or drawing, and harness your emotions as you go about your work. You’ll feel a million times lighter once you’ve put what your feeling into something you made, and you might even discover something about yourself along the way.
Giving it Back
Another way you can assist your addiction recovery is by reaching out and giving yourself back to others. In the past few weeks or even months, you’ve spent a lot of time focused on yourself and your needs. Looking inwards is important to understand who we are and figuring out how to make ourselves better, but sometimes we need more. The answer lies in looking beyond ourselves.
Volunteering in the community is the logical next step for recovering addicts who have dealt with their own issues, and are in need of some perspective. Serving people in need is a great way to see the bigger picture and find a deeper meaning and purpose for your life now that you’ve overcome addiction. You may find that your experiences are not mistakes, but valuable lessons that you can pass on to others so that they can live fuller, happier lives and in the process you, too, will feel proud and satisfied.
These are just a few alternative treatment ideas. By choosing to quit giving in to your addiction, you’ve already proven that you have what it takes to fulfill your recovery. It’s not if you will find that missing piece, but when.
Would you be interested in writing an article for the Institute of Counselling’s journal called The Living Document?
We are looking for people to contribute articles for publishing within our quarterly journal ‘The Living Document’.
We accept a wide variety of topics and subjects, with many of our previous contributions being focused within the areas of spirituality, personal reflection, personal development and counselling and therapy.
We do not require articles to be a certain length as we accept short articles for inclusion.
We adopt an open approach to publishing within our journal as we are more than happy to cover a wide range of topics and subject areas.
Here is the second part of Alana Fraser’s article ‘Alcohol Abuse And Domestic Violence’. This article was originally published within the Institute of Counseling’s journal ‘The Living Document’.
Men, Women, Alcohol and Domestic Violence
It is a common stereotype that, in domestic violence, men are the abusers and women are the victims: but this is not always the case. Also, alcohol can play a
major role where women are abusing the men in their lives.
For example, research indicates that in relationships where the male partner abuses alcohol, the woman may push, grab or slap the man out of frustration at the man’s continued substance use or relapse. Also, in couples where the female partner abuses alcohol, women report that, when intoxicated, they tend to argue and initiate physical aggression with their male partner(1). These crimes are typically reported less-most likely because of society’s views on sexual norms and stereotypes. It is a common view in our society that the man is the head of the household, and the dominant one in the relationship. Hence, it makes sense to think that a man might feel embarrassed to admit that his wife is abusing him:
“Incidents in which men abuse women are perceived more negatively than incidents in which women abuse men.”(2)
What the Research Shows
Dealing with domestic violence that is closely intertwined with alcohol consumption means dealing with two separate issues. This can make therapy a challenge.
In the past offenders have been asked to attend two different types of therapy groups: one for alcohol dependency and one for aggressive or violent behaviour. The relationship between the two has generally been missed, so the problem has not been dealt with properly.
One study(3), which addressed both issues together, took the form of a twelve step CBT group for alcohol dependent men with interpersonal violence issues. The men were divided between a Twelve Step Facilitation (TSF) group and a Cognitive Behavioural Substance Abuse Domestic Violence (SADV) group. The participants had been approved by the DSM as having alcohol dependency; they had also been arrested in the past year for domestic violence.
The SADV group concentrated on problem solving skills related to violence, awareness of anger, managing emotions, coping with alcohol cravings, dealing with feelings of loss of control, and emergency planning. The TSF group focused on better understanding both alcoholism and the recovery process, learning how to manage their negative feelings, developing an effective support system, and maintaining recovery.
Results showed that the SADV group experienced a reduction in both violent episodes and levels of substance abuse. Group therapy, here, was more effective as it focused on the relationship between alcohol consumption and domestic violence.
Another effective treatment approach is Behavioural Couples Therapy for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. The purpose of this therapy is to improve relationship functioning and to create support for abstinence from alcohol and drug consumption.
In this form of treatment, the abuser participates in counselling and an Alcoholics Anonymous group. At the same time, their spouse participates in counselling and an Al-Anon group. This gives both individuals a chance to deal with the situation separately. The abuser is aided in learning how to effectively control their emotions and cravings. The spouse learns more about the nature of addictions. He/she also learns how to influence their partner in a way that is loving- but does not permit the use of alcohol or other substances. This approach is effective because each spouse learns what their roles and responsibilities are.
The Impact on the Family
Domestic violence and an alcohol addiction are serious issues that can greatly affect, not only the couple, but the wider family, too. Also, domestic abuse is viewed as including a range of different levels of involvement. This varies from witnessing aggression and violence …to being caught up in a violent situation (for example, intervening to protect another family member) … through to being a direct victim of abuse(4).
Children often bear the negative effects of alcohol abuse and domestic violence by observing the abuse, being neglected, and by being abused themselves. Being under the influence of alcohol affects one’s ability to decipher responsibilities and what is, or is not, appropriate behaviour.
Thus, the intoxicated parent may leave their child unattended or neglected.
They may also emotionally, physically or sexually abuse the child. This is clear from the following statement:
“The parenting skills and behaviours of adults with alcohol problems are significantly impaired: they are frequently neglectful, abusive, unreliable, inconsistent and violent.”(5)
Furthermore, any kind of neglect or abuse can be detrimental to a child’s development. That is:
“The interplay between witnessing family violence, suffering child abuse, observing chemical dependency in a parent, and experiencing parental separation increases the likelihood that developmental problems will occur.”(6)
Children who experience abuse can develop low self-esteem, a lack of trust, feelings of helplessness, self-hatred, depression, anxiety, boundary issues, violent behaviour, and so on. They usually find it hard to manage these emotions – and the effects may continue into adulthood.
Indeed, abused children often become abusing parents. They then perpetuate the negative cycle of abuse. They may respond to their own children out of anger and rage as that was how their parents responded to them.
“In alcoholic and abusive homes behaviour may be very unpredictable or it may be rigid and very painfully predictable. The child may be perceived as intentionally frustrating his parent or as being bad and uncontrollable.”(7)
So, when a child resists control or starts to misbehave, a parent who was previously abused themselves may believe that their child is ‘doing it on purpose’. They then relate this purposeful, unpleasant behaviour to how their parents treated them in the past (intentionally causing them pain.)
This gives rise to angry feelings towards their child and, in response, the parent may become abusive.
Abuse is an emotionally devastating occurrence. It is provoked and intensified when alcohol is present. Both of these abuses can be extremely painful and devastating to a family.
Domestic violence is a serious issue that is significantly influenced by alcohol abuse. Alcohol consumption facilitates violence as it negatively impacts decision- making and cognitive functioning. This can have dire consequences for the person, their spouse and any children in the home.
When intoxicated, it is more difficult to think through the consequences of our actions. People act in ways that may be out of character as they lack control over their thoughts and behaviours. Specifically, while under the influence of alcohol, they may react emotionally instead of rationally.
Most therapy deals with the two issues (domestic violence and alcohol dependency) separately. This is usually ineffective as it ignores the connection between
alcohol and domestic violence. Research shows that a combined approach is more effective as offenders are taught to control their cravings, as well as their negative, destructive emotions.
(1) O’Farrell, T. J. & Fals-Stewart, W. (2006). Behavioural couples therapy for alcoholism and drug abuse. New York: Guilford Press.
(2) Seelau, S. & Seelau, E. (2005). Gender-role stereotypes and perceptions of heterosexual, gay and lesbian domestic violence. Journal of Family Violence, 20(6), 363-371.
(3) Easton, C. J., Mandel, D. L., Hunkele, K. A., Nich, C., Rounsaville, B. J. & Carroll, K. M. (2007). A Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for alcohol-dependent domestic violence offenders: An integrated substance abuse- domestic violence treatment approach. American Journal on Addictions, 16(1), 24- 31.
(4) Velleman, R., Templeton, L., Reuber, D., Klein, M. & Moesgen, D. (2008). Domestic abuse experienced by young people living in families with alcohol problems: results from a cross-European study. Child Abuse Review, 17(6), 387-409.
(5) Velleman, R., Templeton, L., Reuber, D., Klein, M. & Moesgen, D. (2008). Domestic abuse experienced by young people living in families with alcohol problems: results from a cross-European study. Child Abuse Review, 17(6), 387-409.
(6) Potter-Efron R. T. & Potter-Efron P. S. (1990). Aggression, family violence and chemical dependency. London: The Haworth Press.
(7) Potter-Efron R. T. & Potter-Efron P. S. (1990). Aggression, family violence and chemical dependency. London: The Haworth Press.
Barnwell, S., Borders, A. & Earleywine, M. (2006). Alcohol-aggression expectancies and dispositional aggression moderate the relationship between alcohol consumption and alcohol-related violence. Aggressive Behavior, 32(6), 517-527.
Hittner, J. B. (2004). Alcohol use among American college students in relation to need for cognition and expectations of alcohol’s effects on cognition. Current Psychology, 23(2), 173-187.
McMurran, M. & Gilchrist, E. (2008). Anger control and alcohol use: Appropriate interventions for perpetrators of domestic violence? Psychology, Crime & Law, 14(2), 107-116.
I hope you enjoyed this article.
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This is the second part of the article about Grief and Bereavement Counselling Models from Neil Morrison. This article was published in the Institute of Counselling’s journal ‘The Living Document’ Spring 2010 edition. Please enjoy.
Murray Parkes moved from stages to phases and cycles, which were fluid in their construction. He worked with Bowlby (l6), the father of attachment theory, and so began to understand the dynamics of attachment and separation and the pain that this dynamic caused. Dr. Parkes presented a lecture to Cruse Bereavement Care (17) which included the following powerpoint slide:
All social animals become attached to each other.
The main function of attachment is to provide security.
The function of crying and searching following separation is to provide reunion.
The nuclear source of security is the family.
The above illustration of social attachment shows how security, reunion and the family are all impacted by death and bereavement. That is, “the ideas that Colin Murray Parkes shared together go beyond description to propose an explanation, rooted in attachment theory, for the nature of complicated responses to bereavement. The thinking expounded here is destined to become part of the accepted fabric of those working in this field and will undoubtedly prompt continuing debate and further research.” The key word here is complicated – no matter whether it is ‘stages’, ‘cycles’ or ‘tasks’ of grieving and mourning.
Stages of Grief –
A Cyclical Model (ColinMurray Parkes)
By describing different stages, Murray Parkes (18) implied that grief was a journey. It has various landmarks and the route will meander and change direction along the way. The final destination or end point of the journey is the healthy resolution of the loss.
Four stages are identified. These include:
1. Shock versus Reality –
– Characterised by numbness, denial and a sense of unreality.
2. Protest versus Experience
– Characterised by yearning and longing for what is lost.
3. Disorganization versus Adjustment
– Slowly realizing the full impact of the loss and finding a way of coming to terms with the changes death precipitates.
4. Attachment versus Reorganization
– Accepting that life has changed forever. Reattaching and forming new relationships. Establishing a new and fulfilling life separate from the deceased.
Colin Murray Parkes emphasized that these stages manifested in cycles which could reoccur during the grief journey.
William Worden – The Tasks of Mourning
William Worden (19) introduced the ‘Tasks of Mourning’. This not only observed what happened to grieving clients but was also proactive in that it suggested ‘tasks’ that clients could work through in order to facilitate the grieving experience. These are summarised below:
Task 1: To Accept the Reality of the Loss.
Task 2: To Work Through the Pain of Grief.
Task 3: To Adjust to the Environment in Which the Deceased is Missing.
Task 4: To Emotionally Relocate the Deceased and Move on With Life.
When a grieving client cannot work through each task successfully, they may experience complicated mourning.
This can be described as follows:
Task 1 not tackled: This is where the person does not acknowledge the reality of the loss.
Task 2 not tackled: This is where the person has not allowed himself or herself to experience the pain of grief.
Task 3 not tackled: This is where the bereaved person is unable to adjust to living without the person who has died.
Task 4 not tackled: This is where the person is unable to move on and does not, therefore, have the energy to adjust to the environment without the deceased(20),(21)Worden’s Task 4 has received some criticism, as is highlighted by the following quote from a University paper on ‘Holding on and letting go: The resolution of grief in relation to two Xhosarituals in South Africa’:
“While the dominant emphasis in contemporary bereavement literature is on the need for the bereaved to sever their ties with the deceased, this is not a straightforward issue … (It is possible that) some ties are not easily severed. Maintaining the polarity between the ‘holding on’ versus ‘letting go’ distinction is thus not always helpful, as this ignores the references within contemporary literature to holding on and disregards a multiplicity of meanings of what holding on and letting go entails”.
Worden himself has moved on from ‘letting go’ to ‘relocating’ the deceased in the mind of the bereaved. This is viewed as being a more humane way of counselling the person.
(16) Bowlby J. (1988). A Secure Base: Clinical Applications of Attachment Theory. Routledge: Hove.
(17) w w w.crusebereavementcare .org ,uk
(18) Parkes C.M. (2006). Love and Loss: The Roots of Grief and its Complications. Routledge: Hove.
This is an article about Grief and Bereavement Counselling Models from Neil Morrison. This article was originally published in The Living Document Spring 2010. I hope you enjoy.
GRIEF AND BEREAVEMENT COUNSELLING MODELS
By Neil Morrison
Historically, counsellors will look to the work of Dr Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (13) the pioneer of support to personal trauma, grief and grieving, associated with death and dying. Her work dramatically improved the understanding and practices in relation to bereavement and hospice care.
Kubler-Ross’ ideas, notably the Five Stages of Grief Model (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), are also transferable to personal change and emotional upset resulting from factors other than death and dying.
Dr. Kubler-Ross was at pains to stop practitioners thinking of her Five Stages of Grief Model as linear. However, it seems that this has been the thinking of many practitioners. (Worden (14), Parkes (15)). A common criticism was that not all clients come to the acceptance stage and may seem to be ‘stuck’ in the grieving experience at anger or depression. That was certainly my experience whilst in clinical training as a hospital chaplain. Many patients were stuck in their grieving experience and acceptance was by no means universal.
The concept that people in bereavement go through a grieving process is now also being challenged.
Is there a universal grieving process?
What seems to be developing is the view that people go through a grieving experience which is different for different people. This would, then, suggest that the Stages of Grief model is somewhat out of date.
Other theorists, while accepting the value of Dr. Kubler-Ross’ work, have moved on to phases and cycles, rather than stages, of the grieving experience (for example, Worden, Parkes and Ainsworth-Smith).
Russell Friedman and John W. James of The Grief Recovery Institute state: “We hesitate to name stages for grief. It is our experience that given ideas on how to respond, grievers will cater their feelings to the ideas presented to them. After all, a griever is often in a very suggestible condition: dazed, numb, walking in quicksand. It is often suggested to grievers that they are in denial. In all of our years of experience, working with tens of thousands of grievers, we have rarely met anyone in denial that a loss has occurred.