By Dr. Dina Evan

Addiction begins in your brain and is normally caused by trauma, different forms of which change your natural chemical balance and wiring. Those neuronets create your cravings and the constant awareness of your addiction. Add that to the physical dependencies when your body begins to rely on a drug or alcohol and even coffee or Diet Pepsi in order to perform normal functions. So then, why is therapy, which directly addresses both issues, almost never a tool recommended for your tool box for healing your addictions?

To successfully and fully recover from addiction, healing your brain is essential. That, is exactly what therapists who are specifically trained in trauma resolve do. Without healing the brain, could this be one of the reasons people continue to experience negative consequences? And… even though they want to stop and they try over and over again, and relapse, and they try and they relapse, and they sometimes go deeper into addiction?

I won’t get into a detailed explanation of what drugs and alcohol do to the brain. A simple explanation in Psychology Today, tells us Neuroscience research supports the idea that addiction is a habit that becomes quickly and deeply entrenched and self-perpetuating, because it is aided and abetted by the power of dopamine. With an excess of dopamine the brain becomes more focused on the cravings — even in the face of negative consequences or the knowledge of positive outcomes that may come from quitting the alcohol or drugs. The point here is healing past trauma could have a great impact on reducing the craving and addiction to drugs and alcohol. So why don’t we get this help?

For some, there is a fear of being labeled with some mental disorder. Most extreme mental disorders have a very specific list of symptoms that are not included or identified with people who are working on trauma or basic issues. The therapeutic community even understands today that clients who experience dissociative disorders are not mentally ill, they are experiencing the most intelligent response for coping with abuse. In addition, most diagnoses are not life-long. They are only for the term of time that the client is actually dealing with specific symptoms and are often for the purpose of dealing with insurance. In addition, they are never shared with anyone including family, without the patient’s permission unless the patient is a risk to him or herself or others. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports between 70% and 90% of those who pursue psychological treatment recover from mental health issues without prolonged therapy.


There is no shame or weakness in asking for help

Some people may feel ashamed and think that seeing a therapist makes them look weak or reflects on their worth as a person. They fear being judged. When in reality, seeking a therapist reflects on the person’s commitment to health and his or her courage. And it’s your choice about who you wish to share this with if anyone. My experience tells me once people experience therapy and their fears are alleviated, they very often find other friends and associates, seek them out for referrals when they are hurting.

Other people fear if they do start therapy, it will take forever and they will never stop. The truth is some people come to therapy simply seeking more self-awareness or purpose in their lives, or needing tools for career or family issues that need to be resolved. Once they have the tools they need to deal with these issues, they stop the process which may be within a few weeks or months.

There can also be other reasons. People have a hard time imagining being totally open to a stranger. That’s why I often tell people go for one visit and see whether or not you feel the therapist is a person you feel you can open up to, and if not, keep shopping for one you feel comfortable with and can trust.

The most common reason for avoiding therapy is fear opening up will make you feel worse and cause you to drink or use more. Even those who are not in the program, may also feel they will be in even more pain. The reality is once the trauma is opened up and faced, the pain is not only reduced but very often, gone. The only thing left is a greater sense of self-respect and strength, knowing you faced the trauma and healed it. Therapy is not a substitute for the program or the 12 step process, however for some, it can be a great added benefit that supports your sobriety and sense of well-being. And adding it to your tool box can create a faster road to healing and another tool for support.

Dr. Evan is a marriage, family, child therapist and consciousness counselor. She has presented nationwide seminars and workshops, written several books and created meditation CDs for couples, individual and mental health professionals. She has also won national acclaim as a human rights advocate. Visit or call 602-571-8228.