Apr 29, 2023

Recovery and Individuation: Embracing Psychological Wholeness

Newly sober addicts often arrive at treatment in a fragile state, but it is crucial to remember that early recovery can be a favorable time for positive change. Psychological crisis can be a catalyst for transformation, making it essential for clients to feel safe and welcomed. Carl Jung believed that “individuation” was the goal of analysis – the process through which a person becomes their unique self and experiences psychological wholeness. The 12 Steps can also accelerate individuation, particularly during times of crisis.

Individuation and Recovery: The Three Phases

Jungian psychology describes individuation as occurring through three phases: 1) containment/nurturance, 2) adaptation/adjustment, and 3) centering/integration. These phases can also be applied to the recovery process:


When entering recovery, addicts need nurturance and care. Facing the reality of rebuilding their lives from scratch can be daunting, making support crucial at this stage.


As addicts progress through the first half of the step process, they gradually adapt to their circumstances. Completing the fourth step is often seen as a major accomplishment, giving them a strong sense that they are successfully navigating recovery’s intense transformation. With increased self-knowledge, they are better equipped to face life’s challenges.


Ideally, addicts transition into a sober living facility, gradually re-entering everyday life with its responsibilities and challenges. This phase requires balancing recovery with finding a job, paying bills, and joining a close-knit recovery community. Embracing their new identity is crucial for success.

Moving Beyond Recovery Persona

In recovery, addicts acquire a new persona, which typically occurs organically as they shed their old addict identity during the latter part of the step process. However, stopping at this stage, often referred to as “maintenance,” can hinder individuation’s progress. To continue evolving, they must look beyond recovery and ask themselves, “What is really calling me?” and “What is my heart’s desire?” This introspection is often prompted by “recovery fatigue,” which occurs when one remains in the second phase for too long.

Centering and Integration: The Final Phase

At Massachusetts Center for Addiction, clients are encouraged to reach the final phase of centering and integration. In this phase, they must shed their recovery persona, which has been reinforced by praise and accolades from family, friends, and sponsees. Understanding that the 12 Steps are merely a starting point – a “spiritual kindergarten” – they can embrace the deeper meaning of recovery, which is as much about becoming one’s true self as it is about serving others. This embodies the AA saying, “To thine own self be true.”

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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