Controlling addictions requires more than willpower
By the time most individuals turn to therapy, they have tried to give up their addiction many times with willpower alone - therefore, suggesting that they use willpower alone again during a counselling session may not be very productive. Instead, it may be more beneficial look at the addiction from a multitude of viewpoints. First, we need to find a motivation for change: tell stories about what led to the addiction; explore deep feelings of self-worth; discuss what the addiction is robbing them of; review and consider new values to live by and discuss new default reactions when confronted with feelings of loneliness, anxiety, depression or stress that lead to the GO TO addiction.
This comprehensive awareness helps to create an implicit reason for change rather than just relying on an explicit ‘must do’ behaviour change. In the end, what the client wants is to get in control rather than the addiction controlling them.
Welcome to the human race. Whether it is Grindr, pot, tobacco, alcohol, gambling, porn or whatever, you will know if the compulsion to repeat uncontrollable behaviour is causing you stress and feelings of negative self-worth by not having complete control.
Not having personal control is frightening to clients deep down. We are all prone to addiction as our brains are built that way. If you feel pulled to look at your phone more than you secretly want to, and you are not in complete control of this behaviour, then you have a form of addicted behaviour. If you feel a loss without access to a mobile or Internet then your brain is wired to the dopamine hit of finding something interesting, new or exciting. Our brains do not enjoy boredom. This type of addiction is part of modern life; addiction to Grindr, porn or alcohol is a whole new negative ball game.
Getting self-control back takes effort and self-talk by understanding how, why and what else is there to the addiction. Taking new risks with curiosity for “what else” achieves creative change. Now that's interesting!
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About Gerry North
Gerry North works with gay couples and treats depression, anxiety, panic attacks, addiction, sexual matters and self-esteem. He has worked in LGBT counselling for over 10 years. Gerry writes articles for newspapers and online gay websites. A mature counsellor who has experienced single and couple life. He now lives in London with his partner.