Counseling addiction can be a delightful experience. To get to participate with folks who are making profound changes in their lives is an exciting experience.
Watching confidence grow as hurdles are met and overcome is amazing, and sadness when change is not maintained or is lost can be profound so the emotional side of counseling addiction is strong.
I know that I really enjoyed looking for those triumphs to cheer for so that folks would realize that they were making progress, which is straight out of the solution oriented brief therapy model.
Counseling addiction means to me that I am teaching my clients to be aware and to make choices thought by thought, heart beat by heart beat, which is a skill that is continuously being honed. Folks working in this field need to be able to attend to their own cognitive and physiological well being and sustain an inner balance, and that balance is a dynamic process, which needs attuning frequently.
One of the tools that I have used as a domestic violence educator is the teaching about how fast our central nervous system responds to a thought or a non-verbal communication, and how sophisticated I must be in sustaining my own inner balance, as I teach that same information to my clients.
For example, a thought about relapsing, call it a trigger, which leaves me feeling a craving, takes very little time, much less time than the blink of an eye, which takes about 1/10th of a second, so I had better be aware of my feelings and when I am feeling that craving, I need to switch the words in my head to words like those words in the serenity prayer.
The physiology in my body will follow the thinking. If I miss a relapse thought, the intensity of the craving can drive a behavior and lead right back to my addicton of choice.
So counseling addiction teaches me about how fast I change internally and how major the consequences of a behavior which follows a choice can be.
There a number of tools available which help addiction counselors and those who they work with increase awareness and choice.
Step 11 in AA indicates that at least daily prayer and meditation is a necessary part of understanding your part in a higher power's plan for you, but I think that particular activity needs to be more frequent than daily.
I think it is important in counseling addiction to teach clients that a change emotionally can happen about twice as fast as you can blink your eyes, and that your step response, your breathing and prayer response, your mindfullness response needs to be just as fast.
I think a useful analogy is to think of your emotional, cognitive, physical, and spiritual sobriety as an ongoing movement very similar to driving a car.
When I am driving a vehicle, I am constantly making small adjustments to the speed of the vehicle and its position on the road in response to changing road conditions, and I do mean constantly.
This kind of mindfulness is not a stressful mindfulness, unless I perceive a dangerous change in road conditions ahead, and then I prepare for danger appropriately, take the necessary action and relax.
However, few of us get any training in that kind of mindfulness for the insides of our body. I like to use a tool called Heartmath, which is a heart rate variability biofeedback tool, which is easy to learn as my primary tool for changing thoughts and physiology from stressful to relaxed, or just to continue relaxed if I want to.
Imagine that, just practicing relaxation every five minutes for 2 heart beats until the brain in my heart learns that it should stay relaxed.
Brain in your heart? Yes, your heart has a sophisticated nervous system which can learn and make decisions independently of any other brain I have. (Check our research in the new field of neurocardiology).
Heartmath works wonderfully in conjunction with any other prayer and meditation models, enhancing and amplifying them. I like Heartmath because it is very easy to teach, folks feel the relaxation, like being able to recreate it and are amazed when they see feedback on a computer screen about how their thoughts change their heart rate from coherent to incoherent almost instantly.
I also like using and teaching some of the computerized brain fitness models especially the Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro because to be successful it demands longer periods of attention.
That might sound stressful but believe me it is more fun than stressful, and the increased awareness of where your attention is and the impact on your short term memory will be a wonderful resource in your counseling addiction experience and relapse prevention experience. And these tools encourage neurogenesis and neuroplasticity also. Neurogenesis is the growth of new neurons daily and neuroplasticity is about the increased capacity of neurons to connect in new and novel ways.
There are a couple of other brain fitness tools, the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program, which will have some real bearing on your brains early recovery and Lumosity which is a cool and fun way to maintain your attentional practice.
Using the computerized brain fitness tools will teach you very quickly about how fast your attention shifts from recovery to relapse, and then if you have that craving and no experience at Heartmath or Mind Sparke, it is much easier to make a poor choice after your counseling addiction experience.
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