Challenges in Addiction Treatment: Denial, Resistance, Ambivalence, Cravings and Triggers
by David Rourke, EFT Master
Addictions are cunning, powerful and baffling! Using EFT to help treat an addiction to a substance or behaviour will be extremely helpful but can also be tricky. In this article I will cover some of the issues that will come up in treatment and how we can use EFT to help the client through their dilemma.
There are many facets to addiction. It is not just about using EFT to deal with a craving and all will be well. Addiction is a multi-faceted problem. People who are struggling with an addiction have incredibly strong defense mechanisms that often present as resistance or “denial.” Cravings and triggers can also cause an addict to relapse. In addition, another issue that needs to be addressed is the client’s ambivalence regarding giving up the problem.
1. Cravings and Triggers
Cravings are caused by a desire to reduce an anxiety. These cravings can be of a physical or psychological nature. Tapping on the craving is a very helpful (and necessary) thing to do. Use setup statements such as “Even though I’m craving this …”, “Even though I feel this cocaine craving in my stomach…”. “Even though I want to use when things are going good…”, “Even though I want to smoke a cigarette every time I have a coffee…”. Try and be as specific as possible as to the intensity and the location of the craving.
The goal, when dealing with cravings, is to get to what is causing the anxiety (trigger) which, in turn, is causing the craving. Your client experiencing the craving might not recognize that there is a link between their anxiety and their desire to use a substance. Good detective work is important here. Questions you might ask are “When did the craving start? What was happening before the craving started? Did something exciting happen prior to your craving? Were you in a conflict with someone? Were you thinking about an unresolved conflict? Were you thinking of something shameful that had happened in your life? Were you watching a high impact television show? Etc, etc.
As you can see, there are many reasons why a craving may develop. Cravings are not always caused by something negative. Your goal, as an EFT practitioner is to help your client recognize that a craving may develop when he/she entertains certain thoughts or actions. Tapping on the triggers that bring about anxiety gives your client the choice that will reduce their cravings.
Addicts who want to give up an addiction often have the “I want to but I don’t want to” dilemma. They are in incredible conflict regarding giving up the substance or behaviour. The reason they use a substance in the first place is really quite simple. In the addict’s mind, “It works”! Why would they want to give it up?
Conflict comes in three varieties; there is a win-win conflict with the person torn between two equally attractive alternatives. There is a lose-lose conflict where a person has to make a choice between two evils. This conflict is about being “caught between a rock and hard place”. The champion of all conflicts is a win-lose conflict. This conflict has a way of keeping people stuck for a long time and creates a lot of stress The internal conflict an addict faces while trying to make a decision on whether to quit or not is like a “fatal attraction”; a love affair that says “I can’t live with it and I can’t live without it”.
There are many issues that will arise when an addict is contemplating giving up their “drug of choice”. What will replace it? Will I have to give up my friends? Can I handle the withdrawal? Pay attention to all the tap-able issues that come up while they are sorting through this conflict. Ambivalence around making the decision to quit a substance or behaviour is high. The conflict they feel can keep them “stuck” for a long time.
Another way to help an addict with this conflict is to have them do a decisional balance sheet. This is a simple pros and cons list. Have a client write out both sides of an issue. For example, the pros and cons of giving up cigarettes versus the pros and cons of not giving up cigarettes. The perceived benefits and costs illustrated through the balance sheet will bring up all kinds of tap-able issues. EFT can be used to reinforce the positive benefits and can also be used to eliminate the fears and the perceived sense of loss associated with giving up the addiction.
3. Denial and Resistance
Nobody likes change. It’s the human condition. When a change is required in our lives, before we can accept that change, we first deny the need to change and resist the change. It is much like the stages of recovering from grief. When an addict has to face change, denial and resistance are the best forms of defense. Sometimes, as practitioners, we can get frustrated. Sometimes we may entertain the thought of sending our clients away and telling them to come back when they are ready because, as we know, acceptance of the problem is the key to resolving the problem. Use EFT on your own frustration. These fears, denials and resistance are openings where EFT can work wonders to help an addict break through their denial.
Meet the client where the client is! A client may come to you and say they don’t have a problem; they are just here because somebody is complaining about their drinking behavior. They are probably angry or resentful towards the person pushing them into change. Good detective work is important here. With exploration you’ll find, more often than not, that there’s more than one person upset with the client’s behavior. Tap on the anger and resentment the client is feeling towards certain people that are pushing for a behaviour change. When the anger and resentment is at low suds, a great question to ask at that point is, “What do you think you’ll have to do to get these people off your back?” Usually, at this point, the client may come up with several solutions that will actually help resolve the problem, for example, their response to the question may be “Well, maybe if I don’t drink during the week but just on weekends…” The solution may not be perfect, but it’s a great start! The next question you might want to ask is “What can get in the way of you achieving that goal?” New tap-able issues will emerge.
These are just a few of the issues you might encounter when working with people with addictions. Recovering from addictions can be a long, frustrating, painful process but with the help of EFT we can help our clients move on the road to recovery.