Helga Matzko, Gestalt Institute Rhode Island

Who would have thought that my meanderings over "What is addiction" in my last blog would lead me to an Ezine article by Melanie Solomon, July 11, 2010 and her amazing book AA-Not the Only Way - Your One Stop Resource Guide to 12-Step Alternatives-Second Edition?

 In it she cites many statistics based on government research and other reputable institutions that validated my experience working in the treatment field for 30 years.

I felt happy for my clients gratified given the many programs for recovery and beyond that I have designed and taught with passion, conviction, and results.

I have long been a supporter of views and research by people like Stanton Peele, Herbert Fingarette, and Thomas Szasz, Gordon Marlatt as well as George Vaillant, Edward J Khantzian and other more traditional researchers and writers.

Their work has brought an important counterpoint to what appears a one-sided view of addictions and treatment.

Why is this crucial? Because I believe we human beings are much too complex, creative, strengths and value based to be defined by a simple disease label, Addiction, and AA attendance that promise success.

Perhaps some of the behaviors when under the influence can be lumped into categories but not the human being who engages in these behaviors.

Hence we need treatment programs (is treatment the right word?) who see individuals as unique and respected for who and how they are in the moment and that their being where they are has meaning and purpose even if we don't understand that.

I do not imply that anything goes or works - to the contrary - choice, responsibility, and consequences are musts to gain freedom and often require learning many long-forgotten developmental skills.

However, how to make it happen?

The answer lies deep within each individual. In Gestalt we call this an interdependent, co-created process in the ongoing present in a I/Thou dialogical relationship.

Now to the above question - what is the answer, the right approach? The client has the answers, clinicians do not. We may have hopes, wants, and dreams for our clients, we may be well-trained with all kinds of degrees but a client will render us helpless if we attempt to know better. Our presence serves to support, listen, and assist birthing the long-forgotten "I" and never work harder than the client will or do more than s/he is able to process.

As a Gestalt Clinician, I work from a relational, dialogical perspective and have the flexibility to approach a client's present needs from almost any perspective i.e. I can work with the Bodymind, emotions, feelings cognitions, perceptions which are all interconnected as long as the focus is the client and not my agenda.

Given that treatment outcomes are rather low no matter what treatment is offered, the question remains, what makes the concept that many roads lead to Rome so unacceptable? Is this a competition; if one approach works why would another approach be excluded?

Is it not possible that just as individuals from different cultures may have their own ways of problem solving that those in the addicted population may have their own preferences for getting beyond sobriety? Before we all take ourselves too seriously let's not forget that 77 - 82% cure themselves (Solomon 7.11.2010) without using formalized treatment.

My belief has always been and still is. If it works, great, if it does not meet your needs, look for another approach - and don't forget to consider your Self in the equation.

Let's celebrate the many men and women who dedicate their lives to find answers to the elusive questions posed by addiction and human nature and are willing to create innovative programs.

As for myself, I want to celebrate my clients, their stamina and determination to create a life worth living because or in spite of their overuse of substances. There is no better remedy to gain freedom from addiction and dreaded relapse than to fulfill one's potential as a human Being.

I hope that all find a program that speaks to their heart and soul - one human being to another.

You are not
"Once an Addict, always an Addict"

rather you are
"Once a Human being always a Human being"
always in the process of becoming


Fingarette, Herbert. Heavy Drinking. ISBN 0-520-06754-1
Khantzian, Edward J. Addiction and the Vulnerable Self. ISBN 0-89862-172-0
Langer, Ellen J. Mind-Fulness. ISBN 0-201-09502-5; ISBN 0-201-52341-8
Szasz, Thomas. Ceremonial Chemistry. ISBN 1-55691-0193
Vaillant, George E. Spiritual Evolution. ISBN 978-07679-2657-7

Gestalt Institute Rhode Island


Also see article AA Is Not The Only Way, By Melanie Solomon

treatment for alcoholism, private recovery coaching, secular alcohol treatment, alternative alcohol recovery