A full audience of TAP members and guests attended to Paul Sunderland’s most engaging presentation ‘Introduction to modern addictions’; held in the contemplative setting of the Friends Meeting House in Taunton.
With 30 years’ experience of working, researching and managing in the field of addictions, Paul provided many thought provoking insights into addiction; possible origins, treatment process and the place of the therapist.
He provided an introduction to conditions of substance misuse, finance, couple relationships, romance, love and sex addiction. It was fascinating to learn of the basic criteria that define and describe addiction as a disease and how these symptoms are shared with a wide range of compulsion processes.
There is a preoccupation, a loss of control; abstinence, tolerance, withdrawal and impact of functioning, possibly leading to symptoms of depression and anxiety, relational and legal issues – all amounting to a ‘full time job’.
Addition can be described as a ‘migrating disease’, often showing up as a dis-ease in other areas of life.
Treatment approaches begin with addictions of ingestion, abstinence, the disease process and the underlying trauma, or dis-ease. Group therapy as well as individual has been found to be effective in treatment and we heard how ‘people get well in counter-transference’.
Therapists may remind themselves that in order to be effective and compassionate require three basic elements: learning. Supervision and work on themselves.
Paul referred to addictive experience as ‘a thing’. Individuals are not bad, or weak, but primarily unwell. Behind it all tend to lay negative cognitions and un-thought knowns. The limbic brain stores trauma. There is a suggestion that we have many brains and that in the case of addictive conditions, the limbic brain acts before the frontal cortex has a chance.
‘You can’t change what you don’t know’.
Psychotherapy and counselling aid and support the knowing.
A vote of thanks on behalf of the TAP Council, members and guests was followed by copious applause and no doubt, plenty to think about.
Feedback showed that over 90% of attendees thought both the workshop and Paul Sunderland as speaker were 'Excellent'.
Extra chairs were needed on 16 September to accommodate a pleasing number of TAP members and guests to a presentation entitled `Understanding and Recognising Sex Addiction` by Nick Turner. Nick is a Sexual & Relationship Psychotherapist and Sex Addiction Therapist and explained that his work encompasses clients of all social differences, ages and genders.
The audience heard how sex addiction is defined as any sexual activity that is used to modulate emotion and which `feels` out of control with an inability to stop or stay stopped, despite significant harmful consequences. It’s also seen as an unhealthy relationship with a mood-altering experience, however it was stressed that it is not the activity that defines addiction but the dependency upon it.
Nick explained how our brains become addicted by the creation of Neural Pathways that `wire` the brain from sexual activity such as porn, which then becomes an optimum source of dopamine to the dependent person. This can lead to increased shame that increases the desire to escape painful feelings with more of the chosen activity.
The impact on partners was discussed and this included the damage to intimacy and the sexual relationship, the reigniting of old wounds, the compromising of parenting and the triggering of unwanted behaviours or other addictions within the partner. Unsurprisingly common reactions include shock, betrayal, disgust, isolation, despair and hopelessness, many of which closely resemble bereavement.
Thankfully, there are many treatment options for those considered to have a sex addiction and these include individual Counselling/Psychotherapy, Group Therapy, Group Support – 12 step or similar and Couples Counselling.
In his vote of thanks, TAP council member Ian Stevenson said that this is what TAP is all about i.e. the provision of quality speakers, who in turn provide useful and long lasting information for people to take away with them and use in their work. A very sociable tea and coffee time concluded the evening.
Nick Turner's presentation is available to download HERE
The next TAP Talk takes place on October 14th 2016 when JULIET GRAYSON presents `The phone call from hell: What do we do as a therapist when a sex offender calls? ` All are welcome. David Trott TAP Council Member
On October 16 a substantial audience welcomed Andrew Newton-Cox, who presented an absorbing and informative talk entitled `Tales from a specialist eating disorders unit’ which was based on Andrew’s first hand experiences with patients within his unit. The audience heard how 725,000 people in the UK currently suffer from eating disorders, the most prolific being Anorexia Nervosa which involves deliberate weight loss.
The scheduled speaker for the 18th September was Maria Byrne, however it was with deep regret that her sudden death necessitated a change. She will be sorely missed by the very many she knew and a commendation to her is here on the TAP web site.
As a consequence TAP is very much indebted to Max Dalda Müller who stepped in at very short notice. Max is a counsellor in addictions and a lecturer in counselling at Bridgwater College. His chosen title for the talk was ‘From Addiction to Recovery’ and as part of his presentation he related in a moving way his own often turbulent life story.
Max summed up addiction as having no control and this lack can apply to anything, be it chocolate, drugs, drink etc. Many theories have been postulated as why people become addicted and he mentioned several including a lack of morals, lack of spirituality, a diseased state, social influence, a learnt experience. However Max’s preferred theory is termed biopsychosocial which covers aspects pertaining to biology, society, and psychology. He maintains all three have to be addressed during treatment to enable a successful outcome.
Max born in Germany moved to Spain at the age of two. His father was substantially absent and resulted in an early separation. However after the death of his stepfather there was a repatriation which was never discussed and as a consequence he suffered repressed emotions.
Like many others at that time in Spain he became politically active and was caught up in the drug scene going from cannabis eventually to heroin. Ending up begging in London with a very low self he was rescued by a PCSO who arranged for therapy. For the first time ever in his life he recognised what being happy felt like. As part of his continuing therapy he now shares his experiences for the benefit of fellow addicts.
There was a sizable audience to hear Max with his warmth and clarity of presentation and this was much appreciated.