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08 Jul Approaching Addiction with the Disease Model

This disease model of addiction, which describes addiction as a disease with biological, neurological, genetic, and environmental causes, is one of the most common models used to describe addiction, and it approaches addiction as a treatable condition. Many recovery programs—Therapia included—follow this model and provide those who are struggling with substance addiction with multiple methods for treating the physical and psychological effects of addiction. Here are three ways that approaching addiction with the disease model in mind can prepare those struggling with addiction for a successful recovery.

Examine the full range of addiction-causing factors

Approaching addiction with the disease model in mind means looking for the various factors that led to the onset of addiction—much like how you would examine the full range of factors that contributed to the onset of a disease. These factors might be genetic, biological, or environmental, and identifying them better prepares patients and addiction recovery specialists for addressing the root causes of addiction.

Develop a treatment plan to help you overcome addiction

Approaching addiction as a disease means not only examining for causes as you would for a disease, but also developing a treatment plan to help patients overcome addiction. In the case of addiction, which is often described as a lifelong disease, treatment calls for lifelong abstinence. Addiction recovery specialists will also help patients by arming them with knowledge and techniques tailored to what led to the onset of addiction in the first place. If stress was a major factor in triggering substance abuse, for example, an individual suffering from addiction could use stress management techniques learned during treatment to fight the trigger of stress during the early stages of recovery. Patients will find that a holistic treatment approach that addresses the needs of the body, mind, and spirit during recovery will greatly increase the likelihood of a successful recovery.

Recognize that the answer is not willpower alone

Finally, the disease model of addiction recognizes that choice isn’t the only factor at hand when it comes to the onset of addiction. While it’s important to remember that there is, to an extent, an element of choice as substance use develops into dependence and then addiction, environmental and genetic factors are not to be discounted, either. Predisposition towards addiction to a particular substance, co-occurring mental illnesses, and physical dependence all play a role in the development of addiction. This means that those who suffer from addiction need not place full blame on themselves for their addictions, and should instead focus on changing their lifestyles in a way that eliminates or at least reduces the many factors that contributed to addiction in the first place.

Mike Keenan is a Licensed Substance Use Disorder Counselor (LSUDC) and is continuing his education by pursuing a degree in Social Work at the University of Utah. Mike began his career in 2008 working in youth residential treatment. Soon after, he identified his passion for working with the adult population suffering from addiction and chemical dependency and transitioned into adult residential, in-patient, and out-patient treatment. Mike has excelled in a variety of supervisory and director level positions, and is currently succeeding as the Director of Client Relations at Therápia. In addition, Mike has been practicing as a Certified Equine Specialist, using the EAGALA Model, since 2008. Using the EAGALA model, he works in a team to facilitate Equine Psychotherapy and Equine Life-skills sessions. Mike grew up in St. George Utah and has always taken advantage of the wide array of outdoor and recreational activities Southern Utah provides. He has capitalized on his love for and expertise in the stunning surrounding environment to facilitate experiential therapy and metaphorical learning.

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