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Review Ch. 10 of Fundamentals of Abnormal Psychology. Choose a theoretical viewpoint based on your readings. Answer the following questions: How does your theoretical viewpoint explain the causes of substance abuse, and what treatments does it recommend? What are some of the strengths or weaknesses of your viewpoint?
Psychodynamic theorists explain the causes or substance abuse as related to dependency issues dating back to early childhood. This view claims that a when parents fail to satisfy a young child’s need for nurturance the child will grow to be highly dependent on others for help and comfort. This dependence and need for nurturance can easily be translated into a dependence on drugs or alcohol if the child is introduced to these substances in their search for nurturing. What is known as a substance abuse personality is a response to their early deprivations according to psychodynamic theorists. Research has in fact shown that people who abuse drugs and alcohol do tend to be more dependent, anti-social, novelty-seeking and depressive than others. A major weakness of this viewpoint is the wide range of personality traits that have been tied to substance abuse as different studies point to different traits as the key causal factors or traits that could possibly be linked to substance abuse and dependency. It is unclear from current research if any one personality trait or group of traits can be directly linked to substance abuse related disorders. Treatment for substance abuse under the psychodynamic theory would involve the therapist guiding the patient to uncover and resolve underlying needs and conflicts which could have led to the dependency issue and substance abuse. The therapist would then try to help the individual to change their substance related style of living. This treatment style is not very effective and is usually of greater help when combined with other approaches as a part of a multi-dimensional treatment program.
A major weakness of this line of argument is the wide range of personality traits that have been tied to substance abuse and dependence. In fact, different studies point to different “key” traits. Inasmuch as some people with a drug addiction appear to be dependent, others impulsive, and still others antisocial, researchers cannot presently conclude that any one personality trait or group of traits stands out in substance-related disorders (Chassin et al., 2001; Rozin & Stoess, 1993).
Psychodynamic therapists first guide patients with substance-related disorders to uncover and resolve the underlying needs and conflicts that they believe have led to the disorders. The therapists then try to help the individuals change their substance-related styles of living (Stetter, 2000; Hopper, 1995). Although often applied, this approach has not been found to be particularly effective in cases of substance-related disorders (Cornish et al., 1995; Holder et al., 1991). It may be that drug abuse or dependence, regardless of its causes, eventually becomes a stubborn independent problem that must be the direct target of treatment if people are to become drug-free. Psychodynamic therapy tends to be of greater help when it is combined with other approaches in a multidimensional treatment program (Galanter & Brooks, 2001; Carroll & Rounsaville, 1995).
The Psychodynamic View
Psychodynamic theorists believe that people who abuse substances have powerful dependency needs that can be traced to their early years (Stetter, 2000; Shedler & Block, 1990). They claim that when parents fail to satisfy a young child’s need for nurturance, the child is likely to grow up depending excessively on others for help and comfort, trying to find the nurturance that was lacking during the early years. If this search for outside support...