Someone facing addiction issues recently discussed being encouraged to seek professional therapy or treatment for their addiction. The response? Speaking with a clergy member was help enough. Others might insist that friends and family are sounding boards or that the 12-step fellowship and their sponsor are all they need to maintain sobriety. While there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for sustained abstinence, there are many good reasons to turn to a qualified clinician. These reasons include:
- A safe setting for exploring emotions that might factor into the problematic behaviors.
- An objective perspective that family members or close friends might not be able to offer.
- Clinical resources geared toward addressing the roots of addiction and developing strategies to prevent relapse.
- Expertise in treating symptoms of depression and anxiety – which could contribute to self-medication.
- Teaching stress-management skills that reduce the chances of letting major life changes lead to substance abuse.
- Training in focusing on family of origin patterns, as well as current family interactions.
- Trauma treatment, which may address a core wound.
Spiritual counselors — such as priests, ministers, imams, monks, rabbis, nuns, or spiritual directors —focus on the theological matters related to recovery. Someone with that orientation is more likely than most therapists to examine the impact of the client’s relationship with the God of his or her understanding. Subjects such as illness, death, or other major life shifts are placed in a spiritual context. Shared prayer might be part of the session. Forgiveness might also be a key topic because some of those in recovery often need to make amends. Clergy and other spiritual directors have a focus that aligns with their faith traditions, although there are ecumenical practitioners who might counsel those of varying spiritual orientations.
How 12-Steps or Alternatives Can Help
Attending meetings, working a program, engaging with a sponsor, moving through the steps, and taking part in meetings can help with recovery. But these activities aren’t meant to be therapy or address spiritual needs comprehensively. Rather, these programs are intended to provide accountability partners who offering experienced guidance on sobriety.
The Mixed Blessing of Family and Friends
Although your issues might be familiar to loved ones, their support can only stretch so far, especially because they might be dealing with their own addiction or mental health struggles. Enmeshment and enabling are common conditions that might have contributed to your addiction, and a loved one’s need to maintain the status quo might supersede any desire to help you grow and change.
Putting It All Together
Separately, each of these approaches to recovery can only go so far. But if you combine them, the chances of maintaining a healthy, sober lifestyle increase as you address your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. By Edie Weinstein, LSW Follow Edie on Twitter at @EdieWeinstein1