Reflective journaling can address the challenges of addiction

Addiction treatment requires awareness of the situation in which a substance abuser finds himself. Rather than opposing symptoms, reflective journaling provides a mechanism through which a person can see his or her situation in his or her own terms and understanding. It is through the lens of critical pedagogy (CP) that the challenges of addiction can be addressed.

Power differentials within treatment exist within two separate levels: 1) the power differential between non-abuser and abuser and, 2) the power differential between the abuser and the substance of abuse. CP teaches that, in order to disrupt those power differentials:

  1. Prescription must be eliminated
  2.  A person must name the situation; reflect upon its meaning, and then act upon the situation

When family and friends confront a substance abuser during traditional “interventions,” the Substance abuser’s initial response is often defensiveness and resistance. From my experience, this response is the correct response. Too often, the non-abuser’s stance is one of prescription of consciousness: My way for your life is the right way. By definition, the Substance abuser is mired in a state of non-awareness. Therefore, he or she cannot possibly understand the prescription offered by the non-abuser. As evidence of this prescription, for example, is the requirement of twelve-step programs for its member to identify themselves as “addict,” and/or “alcoholic.” These labels are not neutral terms. Rather, they are in and of themselves terms of prescription. They lead to self-fulfilling cycles of substance abuse: An alcoholic drinks and an addict uses.

CP would rather propose that the Substance abuser: 1), name some aspect of his circumstances in terms from his or her contextual frame of reference; 2) reflect on the meaning of this aspect, also within terms of his or her contextual frame of reference; and, 3) devise a behavior such that the meaning can then be fully understood.

A treatment professional can be instrumental within this process. Not by being another agent of prescripted consciousness, but through guiding the process of: Name, Reflect, and Act.