New breakthroughs in the neuroscience of affect regulation and attachment theory have proven that addiction is a brain disease rooted in early emotional development. Dramatic scientific images of the brain demonstrate the changes between addicted and normal brains. Current neuroscience weaves together a compelling argument for addiction as a destructive attempt at self soothing to restore a person to emotional balance or equilibrium.
The process of addiction must be differentiated from the symptoms of recreational use or abuse to assist the clinician in identifying the specific signs of addiction and implementing appropriate motivational methods to guide the client towards treatment.
These recent breakthroughs in attachment and affective neuroscience help explain how early life survival and adaptive mechanisms become barriers to flexibility and change in adult life. Fundamentally, failed attachment to the caretaker creates attachment to survival mechanisms and defenses which eventually become attachments to chemicals and other compulsive behaviors in a vain attempt to find safety, protection, comfort and security.
Addiction develops from the inside out and heals from the outside in. Understanding the role shame plays in separating us from our natural connection to our authentic emotions and inner life helps us assist clients in understanding their own behavior and needs. Description of the stages of development of addiction and recovery illustrate the steps necessary to arrest addictive behavior and repair the distorted thinking, feeling and behavior which limit our adult potential and function.
Addiction affects the entire brain function including judgment and self control centers which create what is now called "the biochemical personality". The progressive destructive nature of this process explains and helps us to understand the erratic, irrational and denial based behavior associated with advanced addiction.
Denial can be described as a neurological condition in which the brain is tricked neuro-chemically into believing that everything is okay even as one's life and health deteriorate.
Hope for recovery and wellness can occur when examples are discussed about the brains recovery process when abstinence is obtained and the vulnerability to relapse can be described through using illustrations of the permanent changes in brain function that are caused by addiction. Treatment options and recommendations can be made more effective through the use of the guiding science behind both the disease and recovery process.
Thomas Hedlund is a marriage family therapist, workshop leader and educator from Santa Rosa, CA. Best-selling author, John Bradshaw, has called Hedlund "one of the select few therapists who I know that thoroughly understands the dynamics of emotional healing." In private practice for 34 years, he specializes in recovery related issues including addiction, compulsive behavior and the healing of trauma, shame and abuse. He has worked as a communications, addiction, and family systems consultant for The Family Intervention Institute, as well as a family business consultant, expert witness and interventionist. His commitment to his own recovery, broad knowledge of the origins addictive and compulsive behavior and the of repair the Self bring great clarity to the treatment process. His trainings and seminars have been in demand at treatment centers across the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.