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Counselling and talking therapies are used very widely in addiction treatment and recovery and for good reason.
It’s true to say that some people can stop their addictive behaviour and go on to have a life free of it without counselling, and whilst talking therapies are popular and proven as a recovery treatment, there are alternatives.
However, for many people counselling is life-changing, personally transformative, freeing and the key to a life without addiction.
This is the case because addiction is almost always a product of a greater, larger, more deeply set issue – even for those who really believe their addiction really is only about the irresistible physical urges to drink or take substances or a love of sex, for example.
Counselling is designed to help people to explore themselves, their lives, their experiences, emotions, values, beliefs and desires honestly to aid them to live a life in which they can be truly happy, even when they have reached a point where they no longer believe their deserve to be.
Addiction tends to make people very unhappy, it’s a continuous abuse of yourself, often leading to the deceit of loved ones and pain and disappointment for them and even wider society too.
People who are suffering from addiction, especially deeply entrenched addiction, are often filled with self-loathing born of the things they have done, the things they don’t want to face and the failures they believe they represent.
Tanya Boyce, head of counselling at Delamere, said: “What I have seen over the years from personal experience is that people that engage in counselling appear to have a more enriched recovery; that the relationship with themselves and their relationships with others are enriched.
“I’m a firm believer that it can really enhance your life and take people into a different level of understanding themselves.
“One of the things common to a person with a substance use disorder or alcohol dependency is a difficulty and often the inability to express and convey emotions and experiences.
“That can make counselling seem daunting as although there are a large number of non-verbal indicators, we are asking people to use language and articulate, which is the very thing they often don’t know how to do, or have never done.
“In rehab we see other people being vulnerable. This is powerful, we can be greatly influenced and encouraged by that.
“A number of years ago I heard a statement along the lines of ‘addiction is when you use something outside of ourselves, repeatedly, to fix what’s on the inside, but it’s to our detriment.’ This resonated in me, what we are using to fix our feelings is no longer working, it has become destructive to both those caught up in the wake of our actions and ourselves. We have really damaged ourselves. Counselling hopefully creates an environment where people are able to explore that, with compassion and without judgement. It is within that environment, when a person begins to feel accepted for who they are, that the hope is they will begin to open up and begin to identify, as well as understand, their actions, behaviours and feelings.
“Counselling can be challenging but the rewards can be huge. Many people are genuinely frightened of their feelings. Your feelings won’t kill you, crying uncontrollably won’t kill you, constantly suppressing them and pretending to feel something you don’t, that’s what kills you. Addiction is a mask and when we take away the substance, be it alcohol, gambling or drugs for example, the really hard work is living with what you are left with. We understand this.
“We hear ‘just tell me what to do’ a lot. People want us to fix their problems and make decisions for them. If we were to do this, we would be perpetuating their belief in their inability to make those decisions for themselves. We work with people to help them tell their own truth. ‘Should I leave my husband,’ may become ‘I know I don’t want to be married. I never honestly wanted to get married.’ It is about empowering them to walk their truth, if they choose to.
“In person centred therapy the counsellor isn’t the expert. The client is the best expert on themselves and deep down the client intuitively knows how they feel, what they need and want. We help to navigate them through.”
Some people find counselling feels confrontational and uncomfortable. There are cases where that means it is not right for those people. For others that is an initial hurdle to overcome before the benefits can be felt.
It can be overwhelming and frightening for many people to delve into experiences, thoughts and emotions they have never expressed before and may have actively suppressed. Whilst that is a natural part of the process of counselling for many people and allows all the benefits and positives of counselling to emerge, there are cases where some people benefit more from other types of therapy.
Counselling can be tough, but the rewards are usually vast.
Somatic therapies can be an amazing alternative to or step toward talking therapies and counselling. These are therapies that allow the body to release and connect with emotion without the need to discuss it.
The body retains emotion and trauma, which can be triggered by a sight, sound, smell or memory and allowing this to happen and let it out can be very beneficial in itself. Things like dancing, yoga and meditation are exercises with somatic properties that people can easily relate to – physical actions that have beneficial benefits for the mind.
Counselling in groups and individual settings is usually a part of rehab and recovery from addiction and can be revolutionary for people, but even those individuals who don’t take to it can get well too.
David is our General Manager at Delamere. David brings a huge amount of experience from both the hospitality and healthcare sectors. Find out more about David on our team page.
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