Three Approaches to Treating Addiction, Part 3: A Language of Hope

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March 14, 2013 by Dr. Bob Weathers

Tying into Parts 1 and 2:

Cynthia Osborn (2012), in a recent overview of psychotherapeutic approaches to working with addiction, proposed a holistic approach, or “informed eclecticism.”  I would like to summarize three evidence-practiced models, with examples from each, which might add helpfully to those individuals in recovery whose primary work may be occurring in the 12-step program; in the spirit of holistic, informed eclecticism and adding auxiliary support and behavioral encouragement to that quality, ongoing 12-step work.

Finally for here, Osborn summarizes “solution-focused” approaches to treating substance abuse.  In her discussion of core assumptions underlying these approaches to treatment, one in particular stands out: a “language of hope.”  Osborn observes:

“Use of the word ‘alcoholic’ or ‘addict’ to describe the counselor’s assessment of the client may not initially engender cooperation and may actually further aggravate the client’s frustration and reluctance to be in counseling.”  (p. 155)

Of course this issue is a source of controversy — especially when contrasted with the 12-step  program’s clear designation of those same words (above) when “the shoe fits.”   Yet if the suggested “language of hope” provides a bridge for the addict, moving from denial to later acceptance of the problem (addiction), perhaps there is value in considering its use.  The goal, in both AA and solution-focused approaches, is after all very much in common: to empower the individual to begin to take responsibility for his/her life.  In this case, what works?  Empirical evidence would suggest that the offered approach (solution-focused) can be quite effective with large numbers of otherwise “treatment-resistant” addicted individuals.


Osborn, C.J.  (2012).  Psychotherapeutic approaches.  In Capuzzi, D., & Stauffer, M. (Eds.), Foundations of addictions counseling (2nd ed., pp. 142-164).  Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.



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