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Specializations - Addictions and Compulsions

Throughout my clinical career, I have worked with numerous clients recovering from addictive and compulsive behaviors, such as substance abuse, sexual compulsivity, workaholism, disordered eating, spending, and internet use.  Other clients who do not meet the clinical criteria for addiction or compulsion have engaged in behaviors that keep them from experiencing feelings and limit their sense of aliveness.  Psychotherapy can powerfully assist people who want to alter these behaviors.  This is especially true if these coping strategies have outlived their usefulness and interfere with daily life.

As a person recovers from compulsive behaviors, they frequently need help with underlying concerns such as:

  • Building healthy personal and professional relationships and learning how to rely on others to help with the difficulties of life.
  • Improving self-care, self-soothing, and expanding the capacity for pleasure.
  • Developing effective communication skills, especially improving assertiveness and the ability to engage in constructive conflict.
  • Learning how to tolerate feelings of frustration and anger, and how to express these emotions in productive ways.
  • Decreasing impulsivity by improving the capacity to experience feelings.
  • Addressing unmet developmental and maturational needs.
  • Healing unresolved trauma and dealing with the effects of past behavior.
  • Treating the depression, anxiety, and self-criticism which were masked by the compulsive behavior.
  • Facilitating productive grieving by increasing the capacity for empathy with oneself and others.

That’s quite a list.  A recovering friend once told me that “recovery isn’t about not having any more problems, but it is about having different kinds of problems to deal with.”  I would add that the therapeutic work after achieving initial sobriety is more rewarding than managing an active addiction or compulsion.  It allows people to address basic needs that have gone unmet for years.  Over time this work has the potential to bring significant emotional rewards and changes to all areas of one’s life.

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