By Adam Kincel

There is nothing worse than an underused and dated blog. That is what I thought before I started to write my own. Now I am more inclined to make sure that the quality of our posts is of a good standard and to provide information that is not only useful but also inspiring. This film talking about trauma and addiction certainly is.
Dr. Gabor Maté, a psychotherapist and trauma addiction specialist in Vancouver, has a unique way of linking great knowledge with humbleness. I find this to be a great skill of some of the practitioners and researchers. During my recent holiday I decided to put away all my research books. I had a shock on my way back when I started to read about the evidence-based practice in England. Do not get me wrong, I believe that we need to think reflectively about our work, but the atmosphere of value for money present currently in the politics of counselling in the UK is not benefitting our clients. Quantification of hard work psychotherapy miracles is not only not possible but also detrimental to the health of our clients and practitioners. Most of the current research is not being used to enlighten the healing process but to compare, contrast and judge. Funnily enough this is something we psychotherapists often point out to our clients. We often say: “just pay attention to yourself, try not to judge”.
The process of quantifying therapeutic miracles is even more saddening in addiction services. With limited financial resources all dependency services have to provide data showing that their treatment is the most cost effective. Furthermore they are also encouraged to get rid of their clients after a certain time as otherwise their treatment would not be seen as efficient enough. One can imagine the level of stress and pressure on psychotherapists and subsequently their clients to deliver. This pressure creates resistance but not support – this is not a safe place to work with the often traumatic experiences of our clients. It also prevents the therapist from looking at how they actually work, attending to their weaknesses and providing adequate support.

Maté’s film is a beautiful antidote to this process. Starting from the humble point of his own addictions he is able to better understand his clients. He is not looking to do the “best job” but to “do whatever he can”. When he says that he helps less than five percent of his clients this is both shocking but also quite realistic. Although he works with heroine dependency, all work with addictions is a difficult and painful process. From working with drugs to food addictions we touch on childhood traumas, shame and fragile relationships. These traumas are often being transferred to next generations so working with adult children of substance dependent parents brings even more complex pain and difficulty. Some funding providers believe this kind of work could be undertaken in time limited therapy, even in as few as six sessions. My experience of this is different.

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