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Addiction and Transformational Counseling

by Harry Henshaw, Ed.D., LMHC 

Transformational Counseling is a process of assisting others to transform their lives.  Transformational Counseling is a process of assisting others in their reinventing themselves, of creating a life that they love and living it powerfully.  Transformational Counseling is a process of creating a space for others to get present to or become aware of their self limiting belief, to create or invent a possibility for themselves and their life that could not have existed before and to learn how to be in their possibilities as opposed to being that which has always stopped them in the past.  While the technology of Transformational Counseling will assist anyone in their personal growth and development, when utilized with individuals suffering from alcohol and drug dependency the results are extraordinary.  

The development of transformational counseling has been the result of my work in counseling, psychotherapy, hypnosis, recovery, neuro linguistic programming, the work of Louise Hay and Landmark Education.  To understand and be able to utilize the technology of Transformational Counseling with those in recovery, of being able to make a true difference in the life of an individual who is suffering from alcohol and drug dependency, requires that one understand certain concepts or distinctions about what it is to be a human being and reality itself.  While the distinctions of Transformational Counseling are initially presented separately, it is in their practice or communication with a person in treatment that a true synergy is reached and its potential or power actualized for the client in recovery.  For the counselor as well as for the client in recovery the synergistic learnings that take place within Transformational Counseling is nonlinear in nature.               

The recovering clients that I work with at the Holistic Addiction Treatment Program are all experiencing a loss of power, freedom and full self-expression in many of the various domains of their life.  The clients that I see are all being stopped in living a life that they love and living it powerfully.  If they continue being as they have been being nothing will change, life will be as it has always been, consumed with the use and dependency upon alcohol and drugs.  They will remain stuck in life, unable to be in recovery and to reach their true potential in life.  The clients that I counsel know that something needs to be different in their life but are unsure of what that something is all about, of what is not working, of what is missing, of what needs to happen.  The tendency is to blame alcohol and drugs what has happened to them and their life.  It is in assisting the client in recovery to discover or become present to that which has been causing their alcohol and drug use and the depression, sadness, anger, frustration that accompany the dependency and to learn how to create a new way of life and being that the work of Transformational Counseling is all about.        

One of the fundamental distinctions of Transformational Counseling is that our thoughts are very important, if not the most important component of what it is to be a human being.   We tend to believe that the external world, or what we commonly believe to be reality, is that which is truly important.  As a result of such a belief, we are constantly engaged in trying to change something in the external world, constantly believing that this type of activity will bring us true happiness and contentment in our life.  However, it is our thoughts or thinking that is of immense importance to us and our process of living.  It is our thoughts and thinking patterns that literally shape or determine our feelings, behavior, experiences and reality.  More specifically, it is our thoughts that we have about ourselves that tend to create or shape our experiences, that form the background of our life and our sense of reality.  It is from the thoughts that we initially create about ourselves that we subsequently develop into a belief about who we think we are, our self-image, of how we define our very being and it is from this belief that we live our life.  A belief is merely a thought that we think is true or real, that expresses some sense of ontology.  

Inside the conversation of Transformational Counseling it is also important to understand that we are truly responsible for the thoughts that we have, including and especially those that we have about ourselves.  We literally invent or create all of our thoughts and with them our feelings and behaviors.  To truly understand our responsibility in how we actually create our experiences or reality is to get how we create or invent all of our thoughts about ourselves.    Reality itself has no meaning outside of what we give it.  We are, as human beings, meaning making machines, beings that wrap meaning around everything in our life, including and most importantly about ourselves.  Being responsible for our thoughts, getting it that we create them, is completely different from experiencing guilt or blame.  It is not that we are to blame for our experiences but merely that we do create what we think about ourselves, who we think we are, how we feel about ourselves and how the world appears to us.  Getting the distinction between responsibility and blame or guilt is huge for the recovering client. 

What we tend to think about ourselves has at its core what can be referred to as our self-limiting belief.  The self-limiting belief is a thought that we have about who we think we are, that defines our identity at its core, a belief that was developed between the ages of three to six approximately.  During this time frame in our journey through life something happened, an event took place and it is from that event that we developed or created a thought or belief about ourselves.  The original event is not so much of importance as the fact that we created a belief about ourselves, a belief that has actually limited us in life.  The self-limiting belief is a sense of inadequacy, an idea or thought that something is wrong with us, that something is broken.  Once this self-limiting belief is created or invented we tend to live our lives as if it were true.  Our self-limiting belief is a fundamental, core belief that we have about ourselves, about who we think we are, that creates our feelings about ourselves, affects our behavior and determines our experiences.

Our self-limiting belief affects our behavior in that we are constantly trying to fix it.  For example, if ones self-limiting belief is that the individual is "not enough", that person will constantly try to be "enough", constantly be doing things to compensate for what or who they think they are.  While an individual is constantly attempting to fix it, the self-limiting belief is also in the process of fulfilling upon itself, of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, of causing the person to be "not enough."  Given the fact that ones self-limiting belief is hidden from them, we are not aware of its existence or its affect on our life, of its influence or impact on our life.  Even though it is not true, not real, we believe it to be so and as a result the self-limiting belief is that which keeps us stuck, keeps us living in the past, prevents us from living a life that we love and living it powerfully.  Our self-limiting belief is in a very real sense our personal affirmation, an affirmation that determines how we tend to feel about ourselves, an affirmation that guides and determines our behavior in life, that defines our very way of being.  Knowledge of the self-limiting belief is a real missing for the recovering client and especially those who attempt to treat them.

The first goal of Transformational Counseling is to assist an individual in becoming present to his or her self-limiting belief, of bringing it into ones awareness.  It is this distinction or awareness of ones self-limiting belief that is crucial to his or her recovery and transformation.  Without such awareness ones future will be as it has been, will be what can be referred to as the "probable almost certain future".  Without such awareness, ones future will merely be the past and even with a constant attempt on the individual's part to fix the self-limiting belief, his or her life will merely be to continue with its fulfillment and actualization in their experiences and life.  Awareness of ones self limiting belief can be gotten by the person experiencing its genesis or the originating event and with it the belief that the person invented or created about themselves at that time.  An individual can also become present to the self-limiting belief by monitoring his or her spoken word.  The self-limiting belief exists in our language, in the words we say or speak.  Mirror work will also facilitate this type of awareness as ones self-limiting belief exists inside the feelings that one will become present as the individual observes his or her image.  Regression can also be utilized to assist one in getting the genesis of his or her self-limiting belief.                

Once one becomes present to his or her self-limiting belief, the opportunity then exists, possibly for the first time in the person's life, to invent a possibility for his or her life, to begin to reinvent his or her life anew.  An individual's possibility is how that person will be in the present, free of the constraints or barriers of the past, a creation from nothing.  Within Transformational Counseling, an individual's possibility is a new or different way of thinking about himself or herself, of who they are, of who they will be.  Like the individual's self-limiting belief, a person's possibility is a personal affirmation or declaration.  Like a person's self limiting belief, an individual's possibility also exists in language, and once generated by the individual, will begin to create or invent his or her experiences and sense of reality through the power of his or her thoughts and word.  Unlike a person's self limiting belief, an individual's possibility will allow him or her to create a life that they truly love and be able to live it powerfully.       

The third component of Transformational Counseling has to do with the individual learning what Landmark Education refers to as the process of enrollment.  Given that a person will either be his or her possibility or their self-limiting belief, there will be a tendency for a person to go back to or stay in his or her self-limiting belief.  This is what is very familiar to us, that is, being our self-limiting belief.  Learning the process of enrollment will assist the individual in being able to get out of his or her self-limiting belief and back into their possibility.  When we have a breakdown, we have gone back into being our self-limiting belief and as we do so will truly experience a loss of power, freedom and full expression that is from the past.  It is in our breakdowns that we are being inauthentic, that the self-limiting belief becomes hidden again.  The process of enrollment allows the person to become authentic about how he or she has been being inauthentic, to again become present to his or her self-limiting belief, and in the process to continue generating his or her possibility or invent a new one for themselves and their life.

The implementation or practice of Transformational Counseling with a client takes place inside a conversation about integrity.  Integrity is simply planning your work and working your plan.  Clients are encouraged to develop a plan, a plan for their daily life, a plan for their recovery.  A written plan allows the client to take on creating or reinventing themselves and their life.  Implementing ones plan also allows them to confront that which has always stopped them in the past.  As clients begin the process of fulfilling on their plan, of working it, of living the life that they desire, they will have a tendency to get stopped, to have a breakdown and as they do so will develop an inauthenticity.  It is in working with a client and his or her plan through the enrollment process that he or she has the opportunity to learn how to get out of their self-limiting belief and back into their possibility and truly transform their life.  For the client enrollment is the practice of continuing to experience a true sense of power, freedom and full self-expression.  It is through staying in and working with ones integrity that a person will have the opportunity to stay committed to living a life that they love and living it powerfully.            

The conversations that take place with my clients at the Holistic Addiction Treatment Program are conducted primarily within the language used through my personal training and development with Landmark Education.  These conversations are done so by design.  While it is important for a client to begin to act and behave differently, it is crucial to their recovery that they begin to think differently too.  The language used in Landmark Education is unfamiliar and tends to create a space, at least initially, of confusion.  This confusion acts as a pattern disruption for the client, causing him or her to start to seriously question what is being said, the meaning of the conversation.  It is through this confusion and questioning by the client that they will have the opportunity to become present to their very thought process, to that which has been the true cause in the matter for them, to that which has been creating their experiences and their sense of reality, especially as it applies to how they have been thinking about themselves, how they have been being.

As the client begins to live a life of recovery and transformation it is also important that the counselor be very present to the client's tendency to acknowledge or thank them for their assistance.  As a counselor I let the client know that I can not fix or help them, that they must do this work if they are to live a life of recovery, a life that they love and live it powerfully.  In my work with clients I make a stand for the client to assume total and complete responsibility with true empowerment as the goal.  To step over the client acknowledging the counselor is essentially the same as encouraging a client to use a blame pattern on someone.  As with blaming, thanking another for this type of work does not allow the client to truly get it that he or she is the real cause in the matter and in both instances the client will not experience his or her true sense of power, freedom and full self expression.  The client is truly responsible for being in recovery and transforming their life and it is vital to the process that they get this completely.   

Transformational Counseling is an extremely powerful technique for assisting others in making a true difference in their life.  For the client who is suffering from alcohol and drug dependency it is a gradual awakening to that which has truly been the cause in the matter, to that which has created and shaped their thoughts, feelings, behavior, experiences and sense of reality, to that which has been an part of their alcohol and drug use.  To assist a client in being able to stand in their possibility, of being the possibility of "acceptance, freedom and creativity", as opposed to their self-limiting belief, of being "not enough", will allow that individual to live a life that they love and live it powerfully.  When used in conjunction with other techniques, such as mirror work, positive affirmations, therapeutic relaxation music, self-hypnosis and NLP patterns, a space is created for a client to transform his or her life forever.

In addition to learning the above-mentioned distinctions and the process of Transformational Counseling itself, it also is important for the counselor to have an experiential understanding of this technology.  To truly make a stand for a client and be able to make a difference for another will necessitate that the counselor have gotten his or her self-limiting belief, have invented new possibilities for himself or herself and also to have learned the process of enrollment.  Being able to assist another in the process of transformation can only is achieved when the counselor is in his or her own personal transformation.  For me this journey started when I enrolled in the Landmark Forum.  It was through experiencing the Forum and the curriculum that followed that the process of transformation began for me as a counselor and more importantly as a human being.  Within the conversation of transformation we are merely human beings assisting other human beings to transform their lives, to live a life that they love and to live it powerfully.      

Dr. Harry Henshaw is the Director of Outpatient Services for the Holistic Addiction Treatment Program in North Miami Beach, Florida. Click here for more info.

Empowered Recovery Editor's Note:

I do not in any way endorse nor recommend Landmark Education or the Landmark Forum, neither of which are aimed at alcoholics. While I have no issue with Landmark's teachings in general, I do not approve of its coercive and cult-like marketing approach. Dr. Henshaw is a trained and experienced mental health counselor, and as such, is fully able to distinguish between what is beneficial and what is not. In other words, he knows what information to accept and not accept without getting drawn in to something potentially dangerous. Please beware, and do your research before getting involved with any questionable organization.

--Doug Kelley, Founder of ER and Cult Survivor




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