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Clinical Psychology

Addiction encompasses all aspects of life, consuming body, mind and human spirit. It disrupts relationships and can also result in psychological disorders.

Luxury addiction treatment centres in Switzerland like Clinic Les Alpes have to take into account not only the addiction and its many current ramifications but also what may have contributed to its onset. Such thorough consideration will help optimise the chances of recovery and is why Clinic Les Alpes relies on the collective expertise of a multidisciplinary team in our professional practice.

The knowledge, skills and experience of those addiction and mental health professionals will be called upon individually and in combination to help patients release the grip of addiction and launch their journey of recovery. As addiction co-opts thinking, feeling and behaviour, the team necessarily includes clinical psychologists.

Psychiatry and Psychology – the difference

Woman undergoing a clinical psychology session

Some people are unsure as to the difference between psychiatry and psychology. While both disciplines are concerned with the psychological sphere of life, psychiatry approaches the patient from a medical perspective. Psychiatrists are qualified medical doctors, unlike clinical psychologists that only has some medical understanding but are not medically qualified.

Clinical psychologists work on thoughts, feelings and behaviours and how these interact to healthy or unhealthy effects. When it comes to practice, the main distinction is that psychiatrists may prescribe medication while psychologists (with some localised exceptions) may not. Both may offer psychotherapeutic interventions of one kind or another.

From understanding the problem to fashioning an appropriate response

The overall aim of a clinical psychology program is to help reduce psychological distress, which often manifests itself in psycho-social dysfunction of one kind or another such as addiction, while promoting and encouraging wellbeing. Clinical psychologists have an important role in psychological assessment and behavioral assessment that contribute to and help sustain the person’s condition and in providing an appropriate psychotherapeutic response. They will be assisted in this purpose by other members of our clinical practice, including those offering physical health activities and other complementary therapies.

Seeing the individual not just the addiction – avoiding a formulaic approach

It can be easy to approach everyone suffering from addiction and mental disorders, including families, in precisely the same way; to be formulaic. While taking fully into account the aspects of addiction common to the experience of most sufferers, it is vital to see, understand and respond to each person and family in their own right. Otherwise particular issues will be missed and therapeutic responses possibly misconceived. To begin with, at this luxury addiction treatment centre, the clinical psychologist plays a vital part in the all-important assessment and diagnostic phase of treatment.

In formulating a treatment plan, the team will need to assess the degree of denial and level of insight, as well as the quality of commitment, or resistance, to change. They need to evaluate the patient’s life circumstances, as well as take into account any co-existing psychological, neurological or mental health issues. Comprehensive assessment helps build the most accurate picture from which to make clinical decisions and offer best guidance.

The clinical psychologist participates in this process as a highly trained, empathic observer who endeavours to make sense of the patient’s presentation, communication and experience. Counseling psychologists will draw upon psychological theory about the interaction of feelings, thoughts and behaviour and knowledge gained from research while always being sure to avoid over reliance on these perspectives. Seeing the person for who they are always remains paramount for many clinical psychologists.

Co-existing problems caused by or predating addiction

In addiction treatment, the psychiatrist and the psychologist work closely together. While focusing on addiction, they will both be on the lookout for signs of co-existing and possibly complicating signs of mental illness. Amongst these may be any of the following: anxiety disorders, depression, bi-polar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia or personality disorders. Indications of self-harming behaviours such as eating disorders will need to be assessed if it needs further psychological intervention. The psychologist will additionally help to recognise and devise responses to other potential challenges to psychological wellbeing such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Autism, or learning difficulties.

The clinical psychologist will also be alive to the possibility of cognitive impairment (colloquially referred to as brain damage) such as that often caused by severe alcohol dependence or accidental injury. Impairment may show itself in problems with concentration, memory or verbal communication. Sometimes neurological problems include dyspraxia which affects physical and sometimes mental co-ordination. Most clinical psychologists may propose that the patient undertakes some formal tests to establish the degree of any suspected impairment from which better to inform clinical judgement and treatment. It is important to understand which mental health conditions pre-date the addiction and which may be a by-product of it.

Assessing strengths as well as deficits

The clinical psychologist avoids focusing solely on substance abuse, mental illness and other problems. Doing so can be disheartening for the patient. They must also identify psychological strengths and the personal and social resources on which a person may call to advance their recovery. These are sometimes referred to as recovery capital. The psychologist will draw attention to and encourage the most positive ways of dealing with stress and building resilience, some of which may have fallen into disuse or been overwhelmed by the addiction.

The different modalities of psychotherapy – the benefits and risks of variety

the benefits and risks of psychotherapy

Clinical psychologists often have specialist interests. These may include family systems. Since the involvement of families in addiction treatment, wherever possible, is of great importance, the skills of a family therapist are highly valued. An understanding of the professional psychology of pain management will be helpful in treating those people whose addiction may have originated in the treatment of acute or chronic pain.

Clinical psychologists also generally develop an interest in a particular model of psychotherapy, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) that may be employed to help manage cravings, for instance, or Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) to help ease the lasting effects of trauma, or Equine Assisted Therapy to address anxiety and a lack of self-confidence.

Not everyone responds to the same interventions in the same way and, since the object is to help each person engage with a process of change that fosters recovery, it can be helpful to have a variety of modalities at the disposal of the treatment team. That said, the team avoids presenting the patient with an eclectic smorgasbord of therapies as this may confuse. Interventions are only justified if they make a coherent contribution to the achievement of recovery.

Clinical psychology contributes to understanding, intervention and prevention

Clinical psychology has a role to play first in understanding the patient and what they bring psychologically to their predicament. While reassessment is ongoing, the role of clinical psychology then shifts emphasis to helping the person understand what they need to do in order to recover from addiction and its effects by making changes in attitudes, thought processes, emotional regulation, ways of relating, decision making and behaviours.

Addiction relies upon automatic responses. With the support of colleagues, the clinical psychologist helps the person take the conscious steps needed to move out of this self-destructive groove. From that point it also becomes a case of supporting the person to develop personal strategies to cope with and survive the threats to recovery that will inevitably arise once they leave the safety and comfort of this high-end addiction treatment centre. Continuing remission has a better chance when recovery behaviours become second nature. They will do so through practice.

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