Learning About Addiction Treatment, Part 2

In this post, I continue the description of what I learnt about addiction treatment by talking with practitioners at a local treatment agency in Swansea, West Glamorgan Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (WGCADA). You can read my previous post here.

The Primary Treatment programme at WGCADA used key principles of AA and the 12-Step Minnesota model. It was based on the disease concept and on the belief that the illness of addiction is physical, mental and spiritual. A holistic approach was used to help the person recover from addiction, and clients underwent considerable self-examination during the treatment process. Clients could not be drinking or using illegal drugs when they entered the Primary Treatment programme.

Primary Treatment took the clients through the first five steps of AA by means of a structured programme with group therapy sessions (one day a week), one-to-one counselling (one session per week), education classes, and written assignments on topics such as emotional immaturity, anger management and self-esteem. They wrote a detailed life story which they read out to their peers. This was followed by an in-depth Life Story analysis. While the programme was structured, each client had his or her own treatment plan and the model of treatment was flexible and orientated towards the individual. Clients were expected to attend AA or NA meetings.

Treatment generally took between six and twelve months. Clients then accessed the Aftercare programme, which comprised monthly groups sessions and one-on-one counselling sessions. They worked through Steps 6 – 12 of AA and any recovery-related issues that may have arisen. They were strongly encouraged to continue using peer support groups when they finished the Aftercare programme.

The counsellors at WGCADA told me that group therapy was where the real changes take place.

‘I believe that group is the biggest creator of change in the whole recovery process. It works because they [the clients] are not looking at the world through their own pair of glasses, but are being asked to put on someone else’s pair of glasses and look through these.

Group therapy is a vehicle of change. It produces the most dynamic changes. It’s no good just stopping drinking/using. There has to be a massive psychic upheaval. You have to change. That is the key.’ Fred Tuohy

Counsellors used an eclectic approach to therapy, like Lawrence, using therapeutic techniques such as Reality Therapy (a form of cognitive behavioural therapy) and Motivational Interviewing. They also talked about their own experiences in recovering from addiction. They believed that this helped clients, in that the latter thought, ‘If he can do it, so can I.’

DOMINO, run by Keith Morgan, who was a recovering alcoholic, involved a variety of workshops and activities (e.g. cookery classes, gardening, IT classes, music lessons, basic skills training, walks, camping, etc.). The project allowed WGCADA clients—whether they were trying to remain abstinent, use harm reduction services, or had just been assessed—to become part of a friendly, caring group, irrespective of their personal circumstances. The clients could begin to feel valued members of a community, despite the negative effects that substance use problems may have been, or still be, having on their lives. Keith believed that DOMINO played a major role in the treatment process for clients.

‘Once the addiction begins to take over, it’s a natural progression for the drug to take over and become your only friend… and the thought of getting back into society is absolutely terrifying… if I can get anyone to mix with anyone at all then, you know, it’s a start.’ Keith Morgan

DOMINO allowed clients to have fun without drugs or alcohol. It helped them overcome boredom and loneliness. They could meet clients further along in their recovery journey, or clients who were accessing a harm reduction service they were unsure about accessing themselves. DOMINO provided clients with a safe environment where they could ‘find themselves’, build self-esteem and positive feelings of self-worth. It provided hope, a sense of belonging and helped enhance motivation. Clients could also acquire skills or knowledge that could help their recovery and enhance their general life.

Twice-weekly gardening sessions took place in Mumbles, on the outskirts of Swansea. The initial reservations of the local allotment owners were soon replaced by a healthy respect, admiration and pride of what WGCADA clients and staff had achieved on their allotments. The WGCADA allotment was something very special.

Keith also taught clients to play musical instruments and eventually formed a band, the WGCADA Warblers, who performed at the WGCADA Christmas Party. I will never forget one of the clients, a former heroin user, giving a guitar solo like Eric Clapton. His face showed he was in heaven! The WGCADA Warblers also produced a CD of their music.’ Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction. Copyright © 2021 by David Clark

> Learning About Addiction Treatment, Part 3