Had an interesting day today in London doing some training. Was good to go back to basics and refresh. I have a tendency to confuse and complicate things so refreshers like this help me to keep focused and grasp the basics that sometimes can get lost in the over analytical mind.
Day 1 was looking at the benefits of mutual aid within a community and the importance of partnership working. This is something that I advocate for at all levels in both my work and my own recovery. I guess it’s based on the ‘therapeutic value of one addict talking to another’ quotation that is one of the quotes that I picked up along the way that stuck. I totally agree with the concept that one addict talking to another is one of the most valuable assets in the right environment and with the right motive to back it. And gives depth and weight to the conversation. To hear from someone who has been there, that recovery is possible is empowering and motivating.
We looked at the benefits of Mutual aid within a community and the benefits of having a positive social network around you that works together to achieve a common goal. I noticed when everyone was asked to brainstorm some ideas around these topics it was very focused and there was not a lot of ideas that were outside of the drug environment. What I mean is, while attempting to look at what they would like in their area, what would support them and what they would like to see happening within their local services, there was a definate lack of things outside of the drug mentality. I stood up to do my little bit here and spoke about things that I felt would be of benefit to my recovery. I talked about other mutual aid groups in the community and the possibilty of connecting with them. I spoke about focusing on individual assets and finding groups where those assets would be used to the maximum, art groups, rambler groups, music groups, excercise classes, college courses, to mention a few. My opinion on this stuff is that if I keep moving in circles where the problem is the focus then I will be very lucky to find a solution, but if you take me out of that environment and empower me by focusing on my assets then I stand more of a chance to achieve whatever goal it is that I have set myself. It was really interesting to hear other peoples feedback and opinions around the whole concept.
The afternoon was spent discussing different models of recovery. This was good and very informatively delivered. Some of the models discussed were….
THE DISEASE MODEL.
The disease model has been adopted by the 12 step model of recovery and looks at the nature of addiction as being an illness and therefore the individual as being a victim of disease or ‘dis-ease’. The concept behind 12 step is that it is a threefold illness which starts in the mind, manifests in the body and can be arrested on a daily basis by the spirit. It explores the idea that the individual has an ‘allergy’ to substances and once a substance is put into the system it sets of a bodily reaction that does not occur in the ‘normal’ recreational user. The 12 step fellowship is based on a spiritual concept and finds its solution in achieving spiritual ‘wellness’ which reduces the risks of thoughts of craving becoming problematic. It is a self support, mutual aid model which is closely linked to the Minnesota model of addiction. The Minnesota Model, also known as the abstinence model, was created in a mental instutute in the 1950s by two young men, one who was to become a psychologist, the other who was to become a psychiatrist, neither of whom had prior experience treating addicts or alcoholics. The model was first used in an organization called the Hazelden Foundation and then, as it became succesful in what it was trying ot achieve, it spread throughout the country. The key element of this approach to addiction treatment was the blending of professional and trained nonprofessional (recovering) staff around the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). There was an individualized treatment plan with active family involvement in a 28-day inpatient setting and participation in Alcoholics Anonymous both during and after treatment. The education of patients and family about the disease of addiction made it a very comprehensive program.
THE BIO PSYCHO SOCIAL MODEL and LEARNED MODEL.
These models are where addiction is seen as a learned behaviour stemming from cognitive processes. These can include role model influence from an individuals past and current status and behavioural as well as genetic influence. It looks at the belief that an individuals current status, whether good or bad, cannot be attributed to any one singular ‘influence’ from that persons past but instead can be an accumulated effect of numerous events that have occurred resulting in current situation. I have used these models with clients to explore possible cognitive pathways that may have led to the current situation in an attempt to ‘rebuild’ the journey by replacing the negative and reaffirming the positive.
As human beings we learn much of our behavioural traits through the observation of others and this can impact us on both negative and positive levels. This looks at certain events and people that may have influenced us both negatively and positively in the past trys to focus on the positive influential sources. This is, in effect, retraining the brain to benefit us as individuals. In observing others we can form our own ideas on how behaviours can be performed, this in turn is learned and later becomes our basis for action.
These models also looks at things around us that may have a detrimental effect on our current status or where we are actually trying to get to. Addiction is not an isolated problem for most individuals who are going through it. There are a number of outside influences that can result in an individual using substances. These can include broken family units, employment, poverty, health, housing, peer pressure, etc, etc.
In order to fully support someone to get where they want to be, you must first understand where they come from and look at the reasons behind why they do what they do. This ties nicely into what I was saying earlier about thinking outside the box when looking for mutual aid groups and reconnecting people to their communities. It’s a all encompassing package deal which needs more than a discussion around what drug or how much they have taken that week!!
The biopsychosocial model is a general model or approach that posits that biological, psychological (which entails thoughts, feelings, and behaviors), and social factors, all play a significant role in human functioning and development in the context of disease or illness. Indeed, Health is best understood in terms of a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors rather than purely in biological terms and looking at all these parts of the self in a setting that is fully supportive of the needs that arise from exploring all the different parts of self that are an individuals make up can be very empowering and educational to both the individual and the supporting other, counselor, sponsor, drug worker, family member, etc, etc.
Although these models are highly succesful in addiction treatment, the current state of play is not really supportive of the needs of the individual. There are numerous elements in our communities that create barriers to this way of promoting recovery. Employment restrictions around past criminal involvement, CRB checks of a high percentage of those who come from an addictive lifestyle are quite often colourful and therefore make getting sustainable employment quite a chore. On top of that the current drive is that if you don’t go into treament to address your addiction then your benefits may be stopped. That’s all well and good but treatment doesn’t eradicate my previous convictions!! Housing associations are now looking at evicting people who have a historic record of drug use. They also have access to that information via the freedom of information act, so chances are you may not be able to get housed in the first place. General aacceptance within the community is sometimes tainted by ignorance and stigma making it hard to reconnect to certain elements that you may have an interest in getting involved in.
It’s an uphill struggle coming out the other end of an addiction and sometimes it’s a tag that is hard to shake. We need to look at the damage this can cause to our communities and ALL those who make up our communities, perhaps looking at the assets and not the deficits is a good place to start.