Thoughts on Addiction
Michael Craig Clemmens PhD
Presenter at the Gestalt Institute of Ireland
Addiction as Creative and Self-Regulating Process
Addiction continues to grow in our present world. After years of “wars on drugs” and medication that promise to curb the craving, eventual crime and loss of life, a growing number of addicts and impact faces us in our practice of Gestalt therapy. It becomes easy to try to “fix”, become frustrated, or for some practitioners, to grow cynical about healthy outcomes. The alternative is to both understand and explore with the client who is engaged in this process, their use of substances as a self-modulation, a mode of managing one’s experience. As Gestaltists, our work is to explore the draw of intoxication for our client, not as a legal issue or faulty behavior but as a pattern that had some functionality for the addict. Without this we are trying to eliminate behavior or change people. Therapy doesn’t change addiction, it is the awareness of self (our embodied narratives) and the development of options to manage life that allow addicts to change.
The second important aspect of working with substance and process addictions is to sit with our clients from both a compassionate and practical perspective. Compassion lies in our appreciation of their experience, family history, and often denied pain. Be practical is to focus on the impact of our client’s drug use on themselves and others, literally “what happens”. Gestalt therapy is an approach that is compassionate and practical, allowing the client to experience themselves without judgement or excuses.
As a practitioner of over forty years of working with the whole range of substance use and addiction, I support clients and supervisees to “lean into” both sides of this self-modulation and confront themselves and the field in which they co-create. In this workshop, we will explore situating ourselves in the world of the addict as the mode to support this awareness. We will practice and apply this model of working with addiction through experiential exercises, demos and discussion of applying this gestalt model.
Dates: Friday 18th – 20th May 2018
Venue: Teach Bhride, Tullow, Co. Carlow