Q. Sometimes I dread going to counseling because my therapist makes me be very specific about what I am doing, i.e., exactly how many beers I drink. She says it is the only way to be in reality.
I need to get better but I just don’t know.
A. here are some very popular defense mechanisms that we all engage in to “explain away our behavior.” Rationalization works to explain why something really isn’t all that bad for us. Minimization eases some of our accountability. The all time favorite is denial. Who doesn’t gravitate towards denial when we just don’t want to face our reality.
Effective therapy moves us away from these defense mechanisms and challenges us to get real with ourselves. The more vague we are about our behavior, the more disconnected we are from reality.
When Joe came to therapy to discuss his depression and marital conflicts, he mentioned in passing that he had an occasional beer. “Maybe just one or two, usually just on weekends, sometimes a shot or two of whiskey.” As his sessions became more frequent he shared more about his “occasional drinking” and admitted that maybe he did have a problem. At this point it was suggested to Joe that he attend an alcohol treatment program and then continue to work on his other presenting symptoms.
Chris Anderson, MS, LMFT, a recovering gambler and alcoholic is a speaker who educates professionals on becoming more effective counselors especially in working with addicts. His goal of therapy is the following: “To help clients name the truth about themselves so that their own truth confronts their own lie……..to help clients live fully into the here and now reality of their lives, in order to live into a sense of vision that calls them forth.”
So in therapy the dread that many might feel is the “facing the pain.” Every addiction arises from an unconscious refusal to face and move through your own pain. Every addiction starts with pain and ends with pain. Whatever the substance you are addicted to – alcohol, food, legal or illegal drugs, gambling or a person – you are using something or somebody to cover up your pain.
So don’t stop now. If you want to live more fully, keep going and build a strong, positive support network. Good luck!!
Vicki L Mayfield, M.Ed., R.N., LMFT Marriage and Family Therapy Oklahoma City
If you would like to send a question to Vicki, email us at email@example.com