Can counseling alone for addiction treatment cure addicts?

Can we classify addiction as an illness of the mind? Has modern psychology developed a way to use counseling to cure addiction? Do medication, electroshock, psychotherapy, and other addiction treatments work on their own to cure addiction? Your feedback is needed on this topic.

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The mental health model of addiction

Given that chemical dependency definitions can not wholy or sufficiently classify addiction, we may feel compelled to classify addiction as a mental health issue, an illness of the mind. If that were our conclusion, we would be getting slightly closer to a better understanding of addiction, but wed still be left with a plethora of inexplicable facts. Most pointedly, why hasn’t modern psychology developed an effective method for curing addiction or, at least, treating it into remission? Addicts have been thrown into asylums since asylums first existed. They’ve been given medication, electroshock, psychotherapy, and a multitude of other treatments. Yet, the typical addict will continue to confound mental health professionals with relapse after relapse despite having benefited from even the most prodigious and harrowing efforts that the field of mental health has to offer.

Psychiatric or psychological treatment can work (for some addicts)

We should be honest in fully disclosing that there certainly are people for whom psychiatric or psychological treatment has been effective in curbing their substance abuse problem. Indeed, there are people for whom completely physical means of treatment are effective as well. But then there is that curious and peculiar lot who cant seem to keep sober for any significant period of time no matter what medications they are prescribed, no matter what kind of therapy they undergo, no matter how long they’ve been clean, no matter this, no matter that, no matter what. They change jobs, change cities, change spouses. They try to work more, work less; relax more, relax less; be more assertive, less assertive; more expressive, less expressive. They try anything and everything, and eventually are right back where they left off only, in almost every case, even worse off.

Your experience with addiction counseling

What have you experienced with psychotherapy treatment for addiction?  Can counseling work to cure addiction in a vacuum?  Or are other interventions required as a complement to working with the mind?

About the author
Rabbi Shais Taub is one of today's most respected young scholars of Jewish spirituality and practice. National Public Radio called him "an expert in Jewish mysticism and the Twelve Steps." He is the author of God of Our Understanding: Jewish Spirituality and Recovery from Addiction.
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