Addiction is widespread in our society, yet there is still so much stigma about the disease and treatment. How can we destigmatize addiction and best treat it as individuals, mental health professionals, and as a society? What is addiction, and how are mental health professionals working to treat it? How are therapists serving their clients, and what are they hopeful about in the field of addiction treatments? Join us in a conversation with mental health professionals, Misty Grant and Wendy Harris, to discuss how they are trying to address these questions in their practice and teaching.
To learn more about the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program at Antioch New England that Misty teaches in, and the Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology at Antioch Los Angeles visit our website.
This episode was recorded on August 4, 2022, via Riverside.FM and released September 28th, 2022.
The Seed Field Podcast is produced by Antioch University.
The Seed Field Podcast’s host is Jasper Nighthawk, and its editor is Lauren Instenes. Special thanks for this episode goes to Sierra Nicole DeBinion, Karen Hamilton, and Melinda Garland for their contributions.
To access a full transcript and find more information about this and other episodes, visit theseedfield.org. To get updates and be notified about future episodes, follow Antioch University on Facebook.
Dr. Misty Grant is an Assistant Professor at Antioch University, New England. As a Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CMHC) in Utah and a National Certified Counselor (NCC), spending the last ten years specializing in addiction, mental health services, and trauma survivor services for adults. She has developed and implemented full spectrum treatment programs that assist patients with various diagnoses. She holds a Master of Science degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and a Doctorate in Counselor Education and Supervision with an Emphasis in Trauma & Crisis. In her clinical work, she has been in various roles supporting those struggling with co-occurring disorders, trauma, crisis, and incarceration. Most recently, serving as the Director of Mental Health for the Utah Department of Corrections; currently, she has a private practice where she specializes in assisting individuals struggling with substance use issues, co-occurring disorders, and trauma.
Dr. Wendy Harris is teaching faculty at Antioch University Los Angeles and interim director of the Addiction and Recovery Specialization in the MA in Clinical Psychology program. She is dedicated to preparing students to understand the complexities of addiction and to compassionately treat those who suffer through a multi-dimensional framework. Committed to bridging the gaps that exist between academia, clinical settings, and the Eastern-based practices of Kundalini Yoga and mindfulness meditation, she incorporates aspects of her personal practices into her daily interactions across settings. Dr. Harris has a PsyD in Clinical Psychology from Alliant International University at California School of Professional Psychology.
S4 Episode 3 Transcript
Jasper: This is the Seed Field Podcast, the show where Antiochians share their knowledge, tell their stories, and come together to win victories for humanity.
I’m your host, Jasper Nighthawk, and today, we’re joined by two experts in the field of addiction studies, Misty Grant and Wendy Harris. We’re going to have a conversation about addiction, and I’m really looking forward to learning more about how mental health professionals understand that disease today. I think they’re both working at the cutting edge, and also at the place where addiction studies and questions of social justice and trauma all intersect. I know that we’re going to have a great conversation here. We’re going to specifically talk about treatment of this, both on the individual and mental health professional level, but also on the societal levels.
Before I introduce them, I want to give a little personal context for why this conversation matters to me. When I was a teenager, one of my aunts became addicted to heroin, and started engaging in really reckless behavior around the drug. I have a really big extended family and one with all the resources that a White American family in the 2000s, where all of my aunts and uncles had college degrees. We had all of those resources, and still, it was a really hard time. We had a big family intervention, she went to rehabs, she had that will to get off the drug, and still, it took years.
There were many times where it seemed like nothing was going to work. I got to really see up close and personal the difficulty of addiction and how scary it can be, and how hard it can be on your body, and just all of these different things. I tell this story, both because I think a lot of us have stories like that, a friend who struggle with alcoholism, or other substances, or other types of addiction. I also bring it up because we had so many resources, and it was still so hard to help our beloved family member and find the help that actually would work for her.
As I look- I live in Los Angeles, and as I look around our city streets, and there are so many unhoused people dealing with addiction. There are so many people who have mental health crises of other sorts, and are perhaps self-medicating with substances and falling into addiction. Or maybe we can talk about the terminology if we want to use falling into addiction, but they’re dealing with addiction, this disease that we seem wired for. I think that it’s really important to grapple with the intersections of privilege and power with this disease in a big way. I know that both of your programs are dealing with it, so I think it’s going to be a great conversation, and one where I have so many questions. I want to introduce you both for our listeners.
Misty Grant teaches in the clinical mental health counseling program at Antioch New England, where she helps run the addiction certification. Through the miracles of telecommuting, she actually lives in Utah and is joining us from there today. In a previous position, Misty was the Director of Mental Health for the Utah Department of Corrections and helped build drug diversion programs in the criminal legal system there. She has a PhD in counselor education and supervision with an emphasis on trauma and crisis, and is really an expert in all sorts of ways. We’re so happy to have you on the Seed Field Podcast, Misty.
[00:03:38] Misty: I’m excited to be here. I’m excited for this conversation today.
[00:03:42] Jasper: Let me introduce our other guest, Wendy Harris. Wendy teachers at our Los Angeles campus in the Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology. She actually has also, during the pandemic, been living in Santa Fe. She was asked years ago to create the addiction study specialization in that program. In this task, she was able to implement her dream curriculum, and now directs that program. Wendy also has a doctorate. Hers is a Doctor of Psychology. Wendy, welcome to the Seed Field Podcast.
[00:04:15] Wendy: Great to be here. Thanks.
[00:04:18] Jasper: At the beginning of all of our conversations, really, we like to disclose our positionality because we’re coming in an audio format, people can’t see us. Also, even if you could see someone, you don’t necessarily know where they’re coming to our conversation from. We’re talking about questions of power, race, and different things that may intersect with addiction in our society. I will start. I am a White, cisgendered man, I have a graduate degree. While my sexuality is complex, I present to the world basically as straight. I have steady housing, steady income, and I’m not living with a disability right now. I feel like I bring a lot of privilege to this conversation, but I’m excited to be here. Maybe we could start with you, Wendy. As much as you’re comfortable, would you disclose your position here?
[00:05:06] Wendy: Sure. I’m White, cisgendered, lesbian with a doctorate. I also have steady housing and income, and I owe a lot of money for student loans.
[00:05:17] Jasper: I’m right there with you.
[00:05:18] Misty: Right there with you, Wendy. Right there.
[00:05:22] Jasper: Misty, could I throw it over to you, as much as you’re comfortable?
[00:05:25] Misty: Yes, you bet. I am a White, cisgender, straight female. I share my life with my husband and our four four-legged kids, as we like to refer to them. I have a history of struggling with PTSD and depression, and have had the privilege of always having food on the table and consistent housing, steady income, graduate degree, a master’s and a PhD, and have spent the last decade working and researching and supporting and counseling individuals struggling with substance use issues and co-occurring life challenges.
[00:05:56] Jasper: Thank you for sharing that. Asking this question, people often bring up other things that are going on with their life. You brought up your four-legged friends. Myself, I’m expecting my first child in a month.
[00:06:08] Wendy: Oh, congratulations.
[00:06:11] Jasper: Thank you so much. I bring that to this conversation, too. As I was thinking about this conversation, and just how widespread addiction is as a phenomenon in our society, I think so many people have had addiction touch their friends and family, if not themselves, but it seems like addiction as a social problem has been getting more acute in recent years. We talk about the Fentanyl crisis, we talk about crises of meth use. Maybe we could start with you, Misty. Would you talk a little bit about the effects of addiction on a societal level today and on the level of people who you work with?
[00:06:46] Misty: Addiction on a society level, really, is that disease that has come to be known, understanding just the complex interactions that come along with it, and the devastating effects that it can have not only on the individual struggling with the disease and the issue itself, but everyone around them. That includes not just close family members, but co-workers, friends, the community, the city, and even the state, depending on what goes on during that individual’s struggle with their addiction. For the individuals that I work with, I see a lot of– I call it ravage. A lot of ravage in their life due to their addiction and the challenges that come up around it, and because of it, and everything and then some, like the kitchen sink almost, but I see a lot of people who, because of what it’s created in their life, they don’t really know how to get the help they need or where to start or where to go. That, I think, speaks to the larger challenge on so many levels.
[00:07:53] Jasper: Before we get into those steps, I should back up even a step further and just try and define addiction. I understand dependence and addiction can sometimes be teased apart as different things. Maybe we could bring you in, Wendy.
[00:08:05] Wendy: Sure. I have a favorite definition of addiction that I use, partly because I think it is very accessible to everyone. It helps to de-stigmatize what exactly addiction is, that it’s any behavior that we crave. It’s not limited to a substance. It provides some temporary pleasure or relief, and it has negative consequences, and we continue in spite of those negative consequences.
I love the inclusivity of it. When I look at addiction, I look at it through the lens of, “This is a person’s best attempt to soothe the pain, even if it’s just for a moment.” It can be with alcohol, drugs, shopping, their relationship with social media.
[00:08:52] Jasper: Yes. I think bringing it up as a craving, it’s like, we’ve all experienced that. I think that broadens it out a little bit from something that happens to other people. It does seem as a set of behaviors that you would clinically diagnose somebody as suffering from an addiction disorder. Is that the right terminology?
[00:09:13] Wendy: It’s called a substance use disorder. We have this diagnostic manual called the DSM-5, and now the new DSM-5-TR, and they never ever use the word addiction in it. It’s referred to as a substance use disorder, and that’s also to help reduce some of the stigma and bias.
[00:09:32] Jasper: I think saying like, “You’re an addict,” that has a lot of weight on it. Other people will probably reclaim that identity and say, “I’m an addict. I’m in recovery.” One thing that you brought up is that people crave these things because they’re trying to address some kind of hurt or pain that they’re carrying with them. I want to ask about the root causes of addiction, when it reaches these levels of resulting in a substance use disorder or some other kind of destructive behavior. When I was growing up in the ’90s and 2000, it felt like it was the heart of the war on drugs. There was a lot of rhetoric around gateway drugs, like, “Oh, yes, you’re going to become an addict. If you start smoking marijuana, like it’s the slippery slope. Next, you’re going to try something else, and you’ll find your life in ruins.” My understanding is that that is not exactly how you guys think about addiction today. Maybe we could talk about, Misty, I want to bring your voice back in, how we find addiction starting or where that comes from.
[00:10:28] Misty: Back in the day, the war on drugs was really the war against people who use drugs. What came out of that is that notion of, “There’s these gateway drugs. If you start using them, you’re more apt to develop this full-blown addiction, this full-blown issue.” What we know to be true now is there are definite risk factors that put you at an increased level of possibly developing them, but there’s also protective factors.
It’s all about this life balance, almost. You could have a whole host of risk factors, and these include trauma in your childhood, these include age of first dabbling or first use of any sort of substance. It also includes poverty. These are all risk factors.
Then the protective factors are your connections to your family, the connections to your community. Do you have an outlook or avenue to do some things? Such as, whether it’s sports or academics or things like that, do you have something that you personally feel connected to on a deeper level than just the interpersonal relationships? There’s not necessarily a gateway drug, but there’s definitely things that place you at a higher risk.
I, with my clients, when I’m working with them, always look at it in regards to, you did your best, usually, to try to exist and try to survive whatever was going on for you at the time, and this became your method of coping. As Wendy so eloquently said, this allowed you some freedom or some ease of the pain. This allowed you to get through. To have individuals understand that, I think, helps take away like, “Oh, I created this myself. I caused this myself.” That moral failing that it used to be viewed as.
[00:12:17] Jasper: Thank you for reframing the war on drugs as the war on people who are using drugs. Wendy, do you have anything to add?
[00:12:24] Wendy: I was going to say, I think about the war on drugs as a war on race and class.
[00:12:30] Misty: Definitely.
[00:12:31] Wendy: Right? There’s a really great documentary called The House I Live In that students watch in my classes, that really, really give some great examples of that. The whole notion of substance use being a moral failing, that addiction’s a moral failing, was really reinforced by the Just Say No campaign, that I certainly grew up with. It’s like, oh my gosh, as if it was that easy that I could just say no. It just lends itself to like, “What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you just say no?”
[00:13:06] Jasper: It’s easier for some people to say no than others, depending on a lot of those dimensions, maybe, that you were saying, Misty.
[00:13:13] Misty: Right? [chuckles]
[00:13:14] Jasper: Wendy, could you talk a little bit more about the multidimensional aspects of addiction?
[00:13:19] Wendy: Oh, absolutely. That’s one of my favorite topics. In order to really thoroughly understand and treat addiction, I think that we need to look at it through this multidimensional framework, what’s actually causing it, what’s maintaining or sustaining it, as well as entry points for interventions. One of the dimensions to explore would be the biological perspective, so what’s going on neurobiologically, the way ongoing substance use actually hijacks the pathways in the brain, and other– I mean I have a whole course on that.
Then there’s another perspective and course that I created on understanding and treating addiction from a socio-cultural and political perspective, where we examine the impact of poverty, marginalization, social exclusion, and so many other factors. Actually, that’s the pain. That’s the underlying pain at the root.
Another approach is the psychological approach, to explore the trauma, to explore attachment, and to then approach interventions with evidence-based approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy. Then to understand the system that the person is living in, the family system, the social system, how governments are impacting us, policies, et cetera.
[00:14:55] Jasper: There’s so much in there, but I guess I’d like to stop and focus a little bit more on the ways that addiction interacts with our country’s many types of inequality. I know that one of the risk factors that you both brought up is having more of a frayed social safety net or not having access to resources or access to intact families. I know that a lot of people who occupy subject positions of less power, whether they’re LGBTQ or trans, or Black, or disabled, or maybe have multiple of these identities intersecting, often have less of that support around them. I’m wondering if there’s an additional risk of developing addictions, or if populations who are dealing with that are at more risk in our society. Maybe, Misty, I could throw it to you.
[00:15:45] Misty: I was just going to say we wholeheartedly know that marginalized individuals, those amongst marginalized populations, are extremely at risk for developing substance use issues. Even if we just look at the trauma that comes from being an individual with less power, we know that. So like, we know that Blacks, specifically, when there’s a drug offense, are more likely to have a higher level of sentencing than someone who is White. We know they are more likely to make the prison population because of my background and the roles that I’ve held. We know there’s a significant bias. There’s a significant disproportion to supporting those that are not in the majority of whatever race that is in their community, are at higher risk, whatever that non-majority is. That right there says they are less likely to use certain resources because they fear what’s coming with them, they fear what might be attached to them. I think of it almost like an avalanche that comes with the community that you’re part of, the community that you connect with, and the community that supports you. That brings in a risk level that shouldn’t be there, but is.
[00:17:09] Jasper: Thank you. That’s very well put, and I guess I worry a little bit in bringing this topic up. I think because addiction is stigmatized often in our society, and there are these ugly stereotypes that have often been attached to marginalized people, so I wonder how you navigate helping populations that may be at increased risk of developing addiction without adding to that stigma, or I guess how we navigate this conversation, even, without adding to that stigma.
[00:17:38] Misty: I always think it’s increasing understanding, but it’s also increasing access. For a lot of individuals, they don’t even have access. When we start to think of those that are struggling with income, with steady income, with steady housing, steady jobs, those that have criminal histories are going to struggle getting and holding a steady job. They’re going to struggle with a variety of even having a job that can afford food on the table on a regular basis, or to have access to health care, which then gives access to treatment.
Really looking at and understanding, have we looked at what’s going on in our communities, our neighborhoods? Then looking at, how do we increase understanding and accessibility? Because, we can gladly treat it- we know how to treat it, we have these beautiful evidence-based practices. We also know we fail horribly when it comes to individuals that are not of specific races or cultures. We don’t do that well because we come in with our understanding and negate theirs, which is not serving them, not helping them.
Understanding and really implementing these practices to best serve individuals that need transparency and need more fluidity and need– I always think of just the racial trauma and the importance of broaching with clients, to understand what has gone on for them, instead of me believing like, “Well, this is how I view it, so this must be how you view it.” Which is not anywhere near the same.
[00:19:13] Jasper: I think that’s a great place to turn and talk about treatment and about how you both approach helping people who have addiction in their lives. I wanted to ask, when you’re helping somebody as a therapist, as a mental health professional, and you’re helping somebody who has addiction or a substance abuse disorder, where do you start? Do you start treating the trauma? If so, how do you do that? You guys are both shaking your head.
[00:19:37] Wendy: We’re both shaking our heads.
[00:19:40] Misty: You can dive in first, Wendy, because I’m like, “No, no, no!”
[00:19:45] Wendy: You definitely don’t start with the trauma because this person, you potentially have just removed every single tool that they have to not feel their pain. They’re not drinking, they’re not using, they might be in treatment where they have no access to any of that self-soothing, addictive behaviors, and now you’re asking them to go to the very root of the pain that they’ve been drinking and using over. We want to give them some tools before we start diving into the trauma.
[00:20:20] Jasper: Okay. Maybe you both could tell us some of what those tools might be.
[00:20:23] Wendy: One thing that I am always curious about is, what is it that brings you here to treatment? Why now, and how can I help you? To step aside from having my own agenda of what I think recovery or treatment needs to look like and to really determine, “How motivated is this client?” and then matching the interventions to that. It’s actually called stages of change.
One person, it may be a 12-step abstinence-based program, and another person, it’s a harm reduction model where they’re using medication-assisted therapies like methadone, for example. Really just assessing what are the client’s needs, seeing them as an individual, letting them know, “I see you, I hear you,” being a validating presence, and then let’s find the best interventions for you.
[00:21:20] Jasper: That sounds like the approach I would want my therapist to take if I was in that situation. Misty, do you have anything that you would want to add as far as our understanding of different interventions?
[00:21:32] Misty: No, my approach is very similar to Wendy’s. I always view it as like, if you’ve had this horrible, horrible injury, and over the years, you put band-aid and medication and whatever on top of it to try to heal this wound that’s not going away, the last thing I’m going to do is rip everything off to be like, “Let’s start poking at it.” Because it’s a wound that’s been there typically for years. This isn’t something that just started overnight. This is something that most individuals that I see as clients, they’ve held on for years, for decades, some of them.
So, the notion of, let’s just start to see where you’re at and what’s going on, and what we can start doing today that might have you feeling better in some way, in regards to making it through today. As Wendy said, I think that is looking at the client for who they are and what they need, instead of saying like, “You have to do abstinence. You have to do medication-assisted. You have to do it my way,”
It needs to be their way because it’s their recovery. Eventually, as a clinician, I’m stepping aside, like you allowed me on your bus, is how I phrase it, and eventually, you’re stopping and I’m getting off the bus and you’re continuing on your life. You’re just allowing me to be part of it for a bit, so what does it look like for them, and what needs to be included for them?
I think if I understand from Wendy, we probably have clients that come in similar aspects. I worked with clients that literally walked in, like, “I used this morning. I am less than 12 hours away. You should be lucky I’m sitting here and not bolting for the door.” I get that. I understand that.
I also have clients that have been like, “No, I’ve done 90 already. I did my inpatient, I did my day treatment and now I’m seeing you as I start to step back into regular life.” I also have clients that come in saying, “I’m here because my job found out. If I don’t do something, I’m going to lose my job and I can’t.” So, all walks of life walk in as a client depending on where you work and how you work with them.
This, for me, is really where broaching becomes so important, is in that initial session, in that first time and the first moment of meeting the client, really starting to talk about some things and ask about some things that in the past, I know in the substance use field, has been shied away from and has been avoided. Like, “Oh! We’re not going there and we’re not asking that because we can’t. It’s too delicate and it’s not appropriate.”
[00:24:01] Jasper: Can you be a little more specific about that? What do you mean by broaching and what those questions might be?
[00:24:06] Misty: For me, it’s typically asking how they identify, like, “Help me understand who you are.” It can be as simple as giving me your name, but it can also be like, “Tell me three things I should know about you as we start working together. What is important that you think I hear from you and that I really understand during our time together?” For some of them, it’s that “We’re dog people, we’re dog and cat people.” For others, it’s, “You need to understand my child means everything to me. You need to understand that the notion of sitting here right now, thinking I can’t use again, makes me want to scream.” Totally get that right. Or the notion of, “It’s this or I go to jail. If I go to jail again, I’m a three-time offender, which means my sentence is huge.”
[00:24:46] Jasper: I want to bring up jail because I think that that is actually one of the main ways that our society brings the treatment of a sort to people with substance use disorders. Misty. I think it would be natural to start with you because you’ve done a lot of work in this space. You were formerly the Director of Mental Health for the Department of Corrections in Utah, and you are no longer.
I’m curious about what you see as the possibilities in that space. I know that there are a lot of prison diversion programs that have been started around the country in recent decades, but there’s also just a lot of people being traumatized by the experience of being incarcerated and possibly being able to use in jail. Anyways, I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the problems there.
[00:25:28] Misty: We know that incarceration fails miserably, whether that’s at the jail level or at a prison level. We know if you want a substance, you’re going to find it and it’s readily available regardless of whether you are in your community and searching for it. If you want it, you’re going to find it.
We know diversion programs have been highly successful. They have greater rates of successful outcomes than incarceration, but we also know when we start to look at those marginalized communities and marginalized populations, that we actually don’t do as great with them. They don’t have the greatest success. They have better success than incarceration, but there are still changes that need to occur there and there are still programs that need to be implemented in different ways to better support marginalized communities all around.
I think it’s first looking at what is going on, again. I’m all about like what is going on in the community and the city and the state level before we start to look at the federal level, because I feel that’s where I, as a clinician, can actually make an impact. I would love to be able to say I could walk into Congress and make this huge impact, but I know that’s not the case. I do know as a clinician, I can start to make a very significant impact for those in my community and those in my city and state. Really looking at, what programs are we offering and where do we need to champion? Utah is way, way behind. We’ve been behind for a while, as far as harm reduction models. The East Coast has wonderfully developed a ton of harm reduction models. When I think of New York and New Jersey and even Boston, they’ve done significant successful work there and Utah has not. We are really, really far behind. So looking at some of those things and implementing them in the communities is definitely needed.
[00:27:15] Jasper: I want to bring you in, Wendy. What opportunities and moral imperatives do you see for reform in the intersection of our criminal legal system and substance abuse disorders?
[00:27:26] Wendy: That’s such a big question. When I’m teaching on this topic, students are often in a position of just feeling so hopeless, like, “This just seems so big. What do we do?” My answer to that is to become the most compassionate and skillful therapist that you possibly can become, because sometimes looking at the really big picture, is just- it’s overwhelming. I really want to empower my students to know you’ve chosen this field. This is a really high-impact field where you can make a really big difference, so when people are coming to you to create safety, to be non-judgmental and compassionate, and be really curious and present because so much healing can occur through connection.
One thing I wanted to add, too, about the question of incarceration is that, if punishment actually worked, people wouldn’t get out of jail and start using again, and so we really have to consider, what’s the system that they’re stepping back into? Once they have this on their record, they can’t return home to a family who might be living in Section 8 housing. They’re not allowed there. It’s such a big ding against them that you’ve got to check that box on an application to get a job or to apply for student loans. The implications of a policeman who goes to a corner and who knows the spot where they can make their quotas and start arresting people and sending them to jail, it has such wider implications on that person’s future. Not to mention that punishing them is not going to work anyway.
[00:29:08] Jasper: Misty brought up these three strikes laws and the way that they can heap down decades of punishment on low-level offenders of these drug laws, that criminalize a substance abuse disorder, like a medical disorder that you have going on in your life. Misty, you were going to say something.
[00:29:25] Misty: I was just going to say like, if incarceration and punishment worked, they wouldn’t use while they were incarcerated. There wouldn’t be a substance use issue-
[00:29:32] Wendy: Good point. Yes.
[00:29:34] Misty: -while they were actually incarcerated. That wouldn’t exist, and we know that that’s not true. So as Wendy was sharing, I just kept thinking, so you leave prison, you leave jail, you’re typically on probation or parole because of your offense, which means you’re not prioritizing connections with family and rebuilding and looking at how to solidify you from actual relapse. You’re actually focused on adhering to the requirements of your probation and parole officer, which are typical, you’re avoiding anyone you’ve ever known that’s had an issue.
[00:30:08] Wendy: Oh my gosh, that’s a good point.
[00:30:09] Misty: You have to get a job.
[00:30:11] Wendy: Good luck. [laughs]
[00:30:12] Misty: Correct. Good luck, right? Their requirements, even while you’re on probation and parole, during the most crucial time for individuals, because we know a relapse rate increases significantly when you have major life transitions. Leaving incarceration is a huge life transition, so they’re already at risk.
We are doing everything we can in the system to push you from what typically is going to keep you actually cleaner and reduce the risk of you possibly stepping back into using any substance, whether you dive back into deep addiction or not, but to keep you from avoiding it, we push you from that. We do everything we can to say like, “We don’t really care. You have to focus over here,” even though clinically, your clinical therapist, your clinical treatment is going to say, “Oh no. You actually need to focus over here. You need to rebuild your connections. You need to build strong, good connections for your recovery,” whatever that looks like for the client or the person. So these are two competing worlds.
[00:31:15] Jasper: I think that is a good final place for us to move into. Addiction treatment is a relatively young field within the larger field of therapy and counseling. Maybe, Wendy, could you tell us a little bit about the changes that you’ve seen, as our understanding of what works and what really doesn’t work, the changes that you’ve seen, and what makes you hopeful about where the field is going?
[00:31:36] Wendy: Substance use and addiction treatment studies is really, really new in the field of psychology and it goes back to the old belief that, if you’re addicted, it’s a moral failing and therefore you need to be punished. Something that really helped move us in the direction of treatment came along with the decade of the brain, which was in the ’90s, where we started to have the technology to actually look at the brain and see what was going on. That there was damage to the prefrontal cortex, which is a part of the brain that helps us to control our impulses, and so that was a big step, when we moved in the direction of recognizing addiction as a disease, but there are actually ways that we can now approach it and treat it.
I guess those are the words of hope in the end, that it doesn’t have to be a lifelong sentence and it doesn’t need to be classified as, once an addict, always an addict, that there is the possibility for deep healing. That if we are able to look at the core wounding that’s at the root, the trauma that’s actually seeding the addiction, and we start to heal that and we start to heal the underlying pain, that we can heal addiction. Which I realize is controversial in some circles, but it’s absolutely what I believe in, that we can actually treat and heal addiction.
[00:33:06] Jasper: Like the 12-step programs often say, you are an addict if you once have been an addict, and you’re just in recovery.
[00:33:14] Wendy: What we end up seeing is this whack-a-mole phenomenon, that a person might get clean and sober, but it’s going to show up as gambling or shopping or sex or any other addictive behavior because we haven’t gotten down to the root cause. When insurance companies will only pay for a person to be in treatment for 30 days, you can stop the bleeding, but you can’t get deep down in there and do the healing. Which, that’s a different conversation, the whole business of rehabs, where you’re just waiting for the person to relapse, so they can bring them back in and keep their pipeline flowing. It takes time to do this deep, deep healing, but I do believe that we can do it.
[00:34:04] Jasper: That’s so beautifully put. Yeah.
[00:34:07] Wendy: I do this for a living!
[00:34:08] Jasper: Speak beautifully about addiction and the mind. I love it. Misty, I would throw the question over to you. What makes you hopeful about where this field is going?
[00:34:20] Misty: What makes me hopeful is the changes that are constantly coming out. Even as Wendy was speaking and you had just mentioned, I thought there’s been the shift though. There’s a ton of individuals who no longer refer to themselves as, “I am a recovering addict.” They are in recovery, solely because the stigma, right? The notion of, what comes with hearing someone’s a recovering addict, or “I was an addict,” compared to someone who stands up and says, “I’m in long-term recovery.”? It’s two totally different perspectives. That is what gives me hope as a clinician, is to see, it’s not always just us clinicians and us in the clinical world, it’s those actually in recovery themselves that help provide the hope and the passion and the understanding of the work that we do. As Wendy said, students, people entering the field are like, “This is hopeless.” Insurance companies, Wendy, I think if they even pay for 30 days now, that’s a Godsend, like wooo!
[00:35:17] Wendy: Seriously. Yes.
[00:35:18] Misty: As someone who was a clinical director of a residential facility before I went into the Department of Corrections, getting like 10 days covered, we felt like woo we’ve achieved greatness. Now, come day 11, we’re praying and hoping and doing everything we can to see if we can get them five more days. That is, in my mind, unfortunately, the dark side of it, in regards to, what has to go on behind the scenes to keep the individual to get the services they need. There’s that double-edged sword, but I do think being able to see what those who once struggled are able to do then, what they achieve, how they shift and change once they address what they need to address, is huge. That is, in my mind, the hope for the future.
[00:36:13] Jasper: That was also beautifully put. We’ll have to have you back on to talk about the intersections of capitalism and addiction treatment and prisons and all of these questions about the root causes, but we unfortunately are out of time on that. Thank you both so much for coming here. This has been a great conversation. I’m honored to be able to sit down with you both.
[00:36:35] Wendy: Thanks for having us. Super fun.
[00:36:36] Misty: Yes. It’s been wonderful. Thank you.
[00:36:46] Jasper: More information about Antioch’s addiction studies programs that Wendy and Misty teach in is available on Antioch’s website, antioch.edu. We’ll link to the specific program pages in our show notes. We post these show notes on our website, theseedfield.org, where you’ll also find full episode transcripts, prior episodes, and more.
The Seed Field Podcast is produced by Antioch University. Our editor is Lauren Instenes. A special thanks to Sierra-Nicole DeBinion, Karen Hamilton, and Melinda Garland.
Thank you for spending your time with us today. That’s it for this episode. We hope to see you next time and don’t forget to plant a seed, sow a cause, and win a victory for humanity. From Antioch University, this has been the Seed Field Podcast.
[00:37:56] [END OF AUDIO]