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Page Contents: ADD, alcohol addiction, and psychotherapy.                    


I have developed a mild addiction to alcohol, and have a severe case of Attention Deficit Disorder (not hyperactive). I went to see a psychotherapist and she assured me that 7 hours of therapy would cure me. After about 4 months of therapy, and really throwing everything into it, there is less control over the drinking than ever before.
Her reasoning is that no antidepressant or other drug or any behavioral therapy would help, as both ADD and alcoholism are acquired conditions.
I really believed in what we were doing and had a positive attitude.
But: I have a huge problem with the process of almost “brainwashing” me into believing that certain things happened to me as an unborn and during the birth—I am not stupid; those things simply didn’t happen. What is very real, though, is 1) the fact that ADD people are genetically predisposed to have lower levels of dopamine, adrenaline and sometimes other neurotransmitters in the brain than other people, which also probably predisposes them to addictions; and 2) that the constant negative feedback received throughout my life as a result of being ADD, has left me with a feelings of worthlessness; and 3) I have very real behavioral problems.
The therapist did not know anything about ADD—I had to take her reading material. . . .
I feel as if I have wasted a lot of time, energy and money on therapy. I do not believe in the process, unless she is not practicing it correctly. Should I continue?

From what you say, your so-called “therapist” doesn’t seem to be practicing much of anything correctly—not even brainwashing!

First of all, no competent psychotherapist can ever promise anyone that a certain number of sessions will be a “cure” for anything. Because psychotherapy depends so much on the client-psychotherapist relationship and on client motivation, a psychotherapist can speak only in generalities at best: “It’s possible that . . . ” or “It might happen that . . . ” or “No one knows for sure, but . . . ”

As for the “brainwashing,” common sense and anecdotal evidence tell us that prenatal experiences can definitely have an effect on infant development, but it is simply impossible to reconstruct prenatal experiences with psychotherapy. In genuine psychotherapy, you must come to terms with your emotional and behavioral life of the present. If constructing an “hypothesis” about prenatal and birth traumas helps you accomplish the psychotherapeutic work, fine. But if not, you should not have such ideas forced on you by anyone, and especially not by a psychotherapist.

Third, if your psychotherapist knew nothing about ADD, then she had the ethical obligation to have said so, upfront. Then you would have had the opportunity to find someone else, or to continue working with her on an “experimental” basis. There really is nothing wrong with experimenting in psychotherapy, as long as the client agrees to it.

Finally, everything psychological is an “acquired condition”—from prenatal experiences, through infancy and childhood, and even into adulthood—and only psychodynamic psychotherapy can get to the core causes of any disorder; medications supress the symptoms but do not cure anything. Still, different persons need different interventions in different circumstances. It can be possible to get to the core of alcoholism with psychodynamic psychotherapy, but maybe you personally might need cognitive-behavioral treatment with a psychologist who specializes in treating addictions.

So it seems that you have wasted a lot of time, energy and money on this so-called “therapy.” Should you continue? Well, ask the question like this: Should you have terminated at the end of the seventh hour after you were “cured”?


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
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