May 2, 2023

Unraveling the Self: Depth Psychology and Addiction Recovery

At the Massachusetts Center for Addiction, we hold that recovery is centered on connection rather than abstinence. As such, the healing process typically involves mending relationships within families and communities. Although this may initially appear overwhelming, we believe that the benefits of our program become evident in a short amount of time.

However, it might be less obvious that recovery also necessitates developing a more truthful connection with oneself. By integrating depth psychology with the 12 Steps, we offer addicts effective tools to reestablish this connection.

Depth Psychology: Exploring the Unconscious

Originating in the early 20th century, depth psychology delves into the unconscious mind’s contents and processes. Pioneered by Sigmund Freud and C.G. Jung, this approach acknowledges the human psyche’s divided nature, where conscious thoughts, emotions, and feelings coexist alongside unconscious forces. As poet W.H. Auden wrote, “We are lived by powers we pretend to understand.”

The Importance of Narrative in Depth Psychology

Depth psychology prioritizes narratives over symptoms, encouraging clients to share their stories. Instead of fixating on symptoms, we ask, “What happened to you?” By understanding the societal, cultural, and personal narratives that have influenced a client’s psyche since early life, we can identify and address the debilitating themes that often surface. For instance, clients may express beliefs such as “I need to please others to feel safe” or “Nobody is ever happy with me.” These narratives can give rise to what Jung termed complexes.

Understanding Complexes and Confronting the Unconscious

Complexes can be viewed as patterns of stored energy in the unconscious, consisting of emotionally charged memories and emotions. The widely known inferiority complex exemplifies this concept. People afflicted by an inferiority complex may feel inadequate and inferior, and if they don’t confront these feelings consciously, they may compensate by demeaning or controlling others. However, it is important to note that these behaviors often occur unconsciously. The healing process involves confronting the unconscious, which can take place through narrative therapy or writing a 4th Step.

Symptoms as Messages and the Path to Transformation

As addicts establish a relationship with their unconscious, they begin to comprehend why certain relationships, dreams, or symbols hold greater power than others. Over time, they recognize that their symptoms (e.g., depression or anxiety) are not merely problems to overcome, but messages to heed. They learn that self-understanding, rather than suppression, alleviates anxiety. By genuinely confronting and deciphering their symptoms, they undergo transformation.

The Commitment to Long-Term Recovery

Both depth psychology and the 12 Steps place substantial demands on clients and providers. Recovery is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. While addicted individuals (like many others) and insurance companies often seek quick solutions, genuine recovery does not work that way. At the Massachusetts Center for Addiction, we dedicate ourselves to supporting clients in the long run. This involves nurturing a thriving alumni community, connecting clients to established networks, and assisting the clients’ families and friends. Although clients must work diligently to achieve relief, they can take pride in their achievements.

Corey Gamberg
Written By

Corey Gamberg

Professional Overview Corey Gamberg, a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor with over a decade of... Read More

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