“To thine own self be true.” Polonius

Beliefs have been mentioned several times already. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to address this topic. The beliefs of the consumer (client, patient, explorer) are vital. We need to discover, explore and examine the beliefs of our clients.

As an example let’s use someone who has decided to seek or enter into a treatment program. It can be a mandated criminal justice program or a voluntary one. Drug Court programs can be 12-18 months or more. By the way, the longer someone is in treatment, the better. Yet, some folks are just more motivated than others and do not require as much time.

There are only two kinds of beliefs: Limiting and empowering. Don’t you think it would be a great idea to explore beliefs from the beginning? Why would we let a consumer go through an entire program without changing limiting, perhaps harmful beliefs about using alcohol or other mind altering drugs?

If a person successfully completes a 12 month program but has the same beliefs the only thing that has changed is – that person is 12 months older. With the same beliefs and the knowledge that they can fake their way through – negative behavior may simply be reinforced. Relapse will not be far behind.

Clinicians need to learn how to help a client to change limiting beliefs. I use what I call Brief Eye Movement Therapy (BEMT) which is modeled after two other useful methods. It is very powerful and effective.

Clinicians’ beliefs too are critical. I had a conversation just last week with a treatment professional who said “you can’t change 75-80% of them.” First, “can’t” reflects a limiting belief about capability. This looks to me to be about his beliefs about his strengths, resources and capabilities. It also kind of reflects on that counselor’s beliefs about the clients’ capabilities to change.

Personally and professionally I believe that anyone can change any belief and behavior that they no longer find useful or desirable as long as we are not trying to defeat the laws of physics. The beliefs that the counselor holds about the client’s capability to change are so important. These beliefs can become self-fulfilling prophecies.

In his book “The Biology of Beliefs”, Phillip Lipton, PhD, states “I was exhilarated [sic] by the new realization that I could change the character of my life by changing my beliefs.” Isn’t this what clients approach us about in the first place?

They have found something in their lives that is no longer desirable. They want to change something. I want to help them change that to something they want, just like someone once helped me. It’s “paying it forward” as Oprah talks about.

My hope here was to demonstrate how important beliefs are in the change process. Our beliefs, thoughts and feelings are critical to the alcohol and other drug abuse issues we are facing. In the next section we will explore the process of how the addiction or alcoholism develops.

For now the take away from this is that it is the beliefs of the client and counselor that lead to thoughts, feelings, emotions and behavior as well as change. There are only two kinds of beliefs: limiting and empowering. How many times have you heard ‘if you always do what you have always done you will always get what you have always got.’

If you really want the alcohol and other drug behavior to change – learn how to change your limiting beliefs. To thine own self be true.  I’m not pointing fingers. It’s for me too.

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