I completed a college practicum at a drug treatment center. There were many treatment options at this facility from a 28-day residential program, to an eleven-month long-term inpatient/outpatient program. Part of my practicum experience was to help a clinical staff member run group therapy. Group therapy offered me a unique opportunity to connect with the residents. One resident in particular will always stick out to me. He had been to the facility twice already that year, one day during group he said “What if this is all there ever is? What if there is nothing left except a cycle of coming here, going home, relapsing, and coming back again. Why does it matter if I am here for four weeks or eleven months, if it’s all going to end the same anyway? Look at all the people here who come right back.”
I thought about this client interaction for days. The treatment center was run by recovered addicts. What is the factor that determines whether addiction recovery programs work and stick or not? Why are some people chronic relapsers while others are able to shake their addiction?
I believe the answer boils down to a basic social work theory, person-in-environment. “The person in environment theory, is a popular social work concept that states that a person is heavily influenced by their environment; therefore, their problems and issues can be largely understood by environmental influences” (NASW press, 2017, para. 2). We know this theory explains how a child’s life and upbringing can increase their chance of becoming a drug addict. I believe this means if a person in recovery leaves treatment for an environment that is not conducive to their recovery, they increase their chance of relapse.
True addiction recovery starts in the mind, the same way relapse does. To find true recovery, a person has to renew their mind and the way they think. Part of this change has to come with a responsibility to avoid environments that cause temptation to use. This could mean staying away from people who aren’t sober, avoiding high stress relationships, and making active decisions to be in an atmosphere that supports their recovery, at all times.
“What if this is all there ever is?” My answer is, what if it’s not? The key to recovery is within. The deciding factor in successful recovery is help in an individual’s willingness to change their mind. If you can change your mind, you can change your life!
By: Angela Marple, EKU social work student
NASW press. (2017). Person-in-Environment System Manual.
Retrieved September 20, 2020, from https://www.naswpress.org/publications/clinical/inside/pie-manual-intro.html
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