July 18, 2019 in Psychology

Theories of Addiction

Many people do not understand why some individuals become addicted to drugs, substances, or certain behaviors. In most cases, it is mistaken than those who abuse drugs and develop addiction do not have the will power or moral principles to enable them to stop these behaviors by simply changing the respective behavior. In fact, getting to a point of being addicted to drugs is a complex process and refraining from it takes more than a tough will and good intentions. Since drugs alter the brains in ways that facilitate compulsive drug use, it makes quitting a difficult endeavor even for those who want to. Scientific advances have made it easy to understand how the drugs alter the functioning of the brain and the best means of treating drug addiction in helping those who want to stop using drugs and continue with their normal life. Nonetheless, the Christian approach in addiction counseling has also been effective in addressing such matters. 

This study strives to understand and apply the cognitive behavioral theory in addiction and the ways of its application in Christian counseling. The study will also apply Crabb’s model in Christian counseling, particularly in the perspective of the Sovereignty of God to understand the development and origin of human psychotherapy. This study has been developed in accordance with the basic components of the cognitive behavioral theory in analyzing the addiction behavior and Larry Crabb’s Model in Christian counseling. The study also focuses on sin, forgiveness, and the sovereignty of God in relation to addictive behavior. 

A Focus on Cognitive Behavioral Theory in Explaining Addiction

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a counseling approach that considers an individual’s maladaptive behaviors, dysfunctional emotions, and cognitive contents through various systematic and goal-oriented processes. This theory is best used by counselors in addressing issues related to addiction, depression, and anxiety of their clients. The main tenet in this theory is some behaviors may not be moderated by way of thought alone. In essence, the theory focuses on the factual problems and is “action oriented”. 

According to Bandura, cognitive theories deal with the thought processes and the way these thoughts influence people’s understandings and interactions with their surroundings. Cognitive theories are not without their strengths and weaknesses. Thus, one of the strengths of cognitive theories is that they provide a better understanding and knowledge on how people think in making decisions regarding their lifestyles. For instance, individuals may decide to resort to using drugs as a way of seeking pleasure. There are also those who start using drugs in order to solve their various problems, including anxiety and depression. Still, there are also those who would be influenced by their friends or peers in engaging in drug abuse. Additionally, the conducted researches indicate that there have been positive influences of cognitive theories, which has made cognitive theories gain popularity as they can be dependent on understanding people’s thought in relation to their reactions to their environment.

The focus of Cognitive Psychology is majorly on the thoughts, understanding, and knowledge of individuals. This theory emphasizes on how individuals comprehend and perceive their real world through their mind. In addition, it is concerned with how such perceptions and thinking influence their behavior, whether in a negative or positive way. As for addiction counseling, it involves the changing of information from a particular environment setting into knowledge on the dangers of drugs that is eventually stored in the individual’s mind. An addict will be able to understand the dangers of his or her behavior when new knowledge is obtained or the extant knowledge is transformed through experience and with the help of a professional counselor. Cognitive theories emphasize the aspect of thinking consciously and represent a positive view of development.  

However, just like many other theories, this theory is also not short of criticisms. Among them is that since the focus of this theory is the patients with depression and anxiety, not all psychological problems are related to depression and, hence cannot be applied in all psychological situations. Further, this therapy is not very specific as compared with other psychotherapies. 

Despite the criticisms that the cognitive theories may face due to different definitions provided by various researchers, these theories has been useful in Christian counseling. For instance, through the information provided by these theories, counselors have the opportunity to understand that human reactions to their surroundings are influenced by people’s thoughts. Therefore, such practitioners are able to understand through the cognitive theories that what may drive someone to do right or wrong depends on their thoughts as revealed by Bowers-Campbell. For instance, as revealed above, it is an individual’s thought that influence him or her to consider engaging in drug abuse. Although there are different types of theories, one of the most common theories is the social cognitive theory. This theory has merits depending on the understanding of the theory among different people.  

Larry Crabb’s Counseling Approach

The counseling model by presented by Larry Crabb has two assumptions that explain the nature of human beings. The first of these assumptions is that individuals were created in God’s image and that this image is regarded as an infinite and personal as explained in the Bible. Further, an infinite God has no contingent and does not depend on any other being or object for sustenance. Crabb articulates that it is important for human beings to understand whether the infinite beginning is personal or impersonal, and whenever that infinite beginning is considered impersonal, then objects and elements could be regarded as phenomena of pure chance and cannot therefore claim importance and meaning.

In respect of an individual’s personality, an absolute being or chance could be introduced.  It is certain that the principle of creation relates a person or any other living being as dependent on the creator for sustenance. With a consideration that a created being cannot be infinite just like his creator, the term “created in his image” translates that an individual is personal as God is personal. Subsequently, this personal nature also becomes a significant factor for a human being. The understanding of Crabb on the personal need could be considered as the deepest need for individuals. The author explains that the majority of psychological issues including depression, addiction, and anxiety are the consequence of one’s attempt of meeting his inner needs or as a defensive attempt.

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Applying Theories in Christian Counseling

The theory of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be applied by Christian counselors in evaluating the client’s thoughts in this context because the significance in discerning the thoughts of addictive individuals to analyze their situations cannot be overemphasized. As already seen, CBT theory is focused on using individual’s thoughts to analyze their conditions and on devising ways of addressing their situations. However, it should be noted that CBT does not rely on thoughts alone, but other factors in analyzing and addressing individual’s thoughts as well. 

 Cognitive Behavioral Theory has been used in many areas within various societies. For instance, one of the uses of social cognitive within society is that it is used as a tool for treatment as revealed by DiClemente, Crosby, & Kegler.  For individuals with emotional problems, the application of cognitive behavioral theory through interaction and consultation has been found to be helpful in addressing their situations effectively. Through cognitive behavioral therapy, the emotional aspects of these individuals have to be changed by means of interaction and communication. Using this approach, individuals and particularly addicts can be observed, evaluated, and the best therapeutically mechanisms can be designed and implemented to address their situations.  

The cognitive-behavioral therapy for addiction consists of gradually and carefully making the patient expose his or her feelings, thoughts, and situations that may have influenced or exposed him or her to engage in the vice. This kind of therapy also consists of evaluating these thoughts of an addict, and how the environment contributes to his or her problem. In particular, thoughts that should be identified include irrational and distorted ones. If identified, the counselor takes an initiative of replacing these negative thoughts with a more balanced picture.

According to Lahey, cognitive therapy, which is a type of counseling, has appeared to be effective for patients suffering from emotional issues. It offers patients and caregivers new ways to handle distressing thoughts as well as helps in gaining an understanding of such events and situations. In addition, cognitive therapy changes the way a patient views himself, others, and the world. In essence, the way individuals think and views things directly influences their feelings and actions. This type of therapy assists the patients in balancing the beliefs acquired before and after their experience. Through this approach, the addicts will find out why it is wrong to engage in the drug abuse and the necessity of stopping the same.

Additionally, Crabb’s model can be applied in treating different addictions such as gambling, addiction, workaholics and shopping addictions. Other types of addictions that can be resolved by the Crabb’s model include sex addiction and Christology addiction. The most critical element in Crabb’s counseling theory is the concept in the prevalence of one basis need, the necessity for personal worth, which is satisfied in two main ways. The first longing or input that must be met is for significance. In this concept, significance is defined as the need for purpose, adequacy, impact, adequacy, and meaningfulness. The second input according to Crabb to have an individual feel valuable is the need for security. Security is regarded as unconditional love that is consistently expressed and that has permanent acceptance. 

In the event that the two basic needs are met, the individual will develop a feeling of being worthwhile and he will consequently be freed from his or her psychological problems. Crabb observes that all individual problems emanate from one trying to meet or fulfill such needs apart from God. In his later books, Crabb has changed the needs aspects to belongings. He points out that there are some people who claim that the needs of man in significance and security defines his basic nature. The outcome has been a man- centered focus to fulfill such needs rather than focusing on God and obeying him. This points out on why individuals get addicted to various substances as they attempt to fulfill their security and sense of significance needs.

Confronting Sin in Addiction Counseling

For many decades, psychologists have searched for a kind of personality prone to developing addiction. They have tried to find out whether such a person who develops addition easily is the weak-willed, impulsive, dependent, anxious or the depressed. Researchers have as well tried to figure out whether a person who becomes an addict is a type A individual, who has been predisposed to developing an addiction. Interestingly, these inquiries have not found a definitive profile of an “addictive personality”.

It is possible that addictions, more than any human illnesses, portray in living and loud color the battle with sin that occurs in a human heart. It is currently estimated that in America alone, 27% of the citizens at some point in their lifetime become dependent or abuse some sort of substance. These estimated do not include other behavioral addictions such as gambling or pornography.

Addicts come in all smells, shapes, and sizes. They may be white-collar professionals, CEOs, Sunday school teachers, or deacons. Other addicts include homeless street persons and office workers. Nonetheless, there are common factors among all drug addicts and these include craving, longing, lust, and thirst. Addiction is closely related to the human condition. From the Christian’s point of view, something has gone wrong with an addict’s desire. Not only have such individuals been taken hostages, but they have also been hijacked from their normal status. What began as a friendship developed into infatuation and then a love affair, and eventually, the addict became captive to a lethal attraction. An idol who is intended to serve a person turns the table until at some moment; an addict finds that he is already hooked. Through a person’s choice, the addict creates a link in his or her chain.

Jesus Christ, who was a wonderful counselor, had put this more succinctly where he said that individuals who committed sins were slaves to sin. According to the apostle Paul, one who offers himself to another as a slave has to be obedient to that particular person. This obedient may lead to either death or righteousness. The conception of sin in Biblical perspective perfectly aligns with both purposeful/voluntary/rebellious/deceit/enslaved and out of the control aspects of addiction.  In essence, addiction is a kind of bondage that one voluntarily signs up for and then as time goes, he or she realizes that he got into something that was not necessary. 

In effectively confronting sin related to drug abuse, there has to be first an understanding and trust between the counselor and the one to be counseled. In other words, the counselor has to understand the patient fully as well as all the factors that have influenced him or her to engage in the vice. This is where CBT comes in. According to McMinn, there exist four stages in the process of sin conflicts. These include pondering, silence, direct censure, and questioning. However, direct censure should be taken cautiously as it has the potential to damage the relationship of the two persons. Silence, as McMinn notes, becomes very important in the whole process. Just keeping quite in the course of discussion makes the client reflect on that he or she has just spoken about. Counselors must not transfer to themselves the duty of a jury or judges and the rule that an individual is right or wrong. Instead, their purpose ought to be to help the client in realizing the truth and eventually uniting him or her to God.

Brewer on the other hand, explains that counselors should understand the goal of their counseling as chiefly pertaining to redemption, healing, and reconciliation. Therefore, they should first evaluate their own motives on why they have to confront sin in the client. The guiding determinant on the correct form of confrontation and its appropriateness should be focused on how the client will benefit. Brewer seems to support McMinn when he says that counselors should be focused on guiding their clients and restoring their broken relations with their God, others, and themselves. He also postulates that confrontation is related to direct censure. The aim of direct censure is to expose sin, a factor that can worsen the situation, especially if the client was not ready for this. Brewer explains that some of the effective approaches to be used in counseling include questioning, pondering, silence, reflection, and prayer. These approaches can be utilized effectively in making the client reflect on his or her sin.

In the event that an addict is disordered or is in idolatrous or sinful worship, then four steps have to be employed in addressing the situation. These steps include Detection and Confirmation, Loving Confirmation, Triage, and finally Counseling. Once an addiction is noted, counselors have to evaluate it and look into the issue lovingly rather than averting their attention or being fearful on the issue. During the second step, counselors have to be gentle and lovingly address those that are overtaken by the life dominating sin. The Christian counselor or church minister may decide to convene some friends, relatives, or other church leaders to love the addict and request them to repent while presenting to them a plan for change.

The Sovereignty of God

The Sovereignty of God is also a good foundation for Christian counselors when counseling addicts. In essence, God is people’s rock, safe haven, refuge, and everything.  Throughout potential, which is in him, God can help anyone to climb mountains and do other great things. Any potential with the exclusion of God cannot be considered to have reached that potential. As a matter of fact, there is no other being in this world who can assist individuals to be all that they can be, except for God who is the almighty creator. God understands each intricate detail about people’s minds, body, and soul alongside their way of thinking each minute. God is the father, doctor, brother, friend and rescuer. The reason why God is so many things to anyone is because he is everything. Therefore, he has the power to change evil aspects in one’s body, and there are no “cumbersome” things to him. Therefore, one should let God hold their hand and heart and change his or her direction. God is capable of rescuing an addict from the grips of addiction.

To begin with, before one can counsel a drug addict, they should make sure that they do it when the person is not under the influence of the drug. Otherwise, any help offered will simply be futile or even counterproductive, a conversation with the drug and not with the intended person. A meeting should be arranged or the person can be called when they are sober. In addition, since addicts could be deceivers and dishonest or con artists, one must portray a ‘tough love’ in talking to them. Ask if they really want help, or they just got in touch to make excuses and blame other individuals or things for their troubles, while attempting to conceal their real issue. In taking the tough stance, one must avoid being judgmental in any way and must not use the Bible in any way as a club. Supportive scripture texts will naturally come out as one presents the gospel. One should make an assurance to the addict that they are speaking to the right person, that one is glad to speak with them, and one does care.

After this, a counselor should return to the things that they had discussed about what the addict must or must not do. They should make the addict accept never again to use the drug. This can be supported by the scripture that says: Living one day at a time, they must learn to trust in God’s promise regarding temptation. They must also be told to sever all the relationships that cause dependence to this behavior pattern. This can be supported by 1 Corinthians 15:33 that says bad company corrupts good character. They must then establish new relationships with people who are morally upright and who believe in God and follow His commandments.

The counselor must be honest with the addict and warn them of possible relapses, but should encourage them that this would not mean that all is lost. That renewal can be sought because the heavenly father loves all his children and he is always ready to forgive them as long as they acknowledge their mistakes and come to back to him. As such, the addict must be informed of the value of living a life of prayer for deliverance from the compulsion and bondage that they are under, and also a prayer for transformation of their minds and live by heavenly father’s power.


The life of an addict is not an easy one. An addict is controlled by a substance that he has to take irrespective of the consequences in the addict’s life and health.  This owes to psychological and physiological dependence on the substance. A study conducted by Toussant & Friedman established that forgiveness and gratitude was a key factor that could positively contribute to the well-being of patients undergoing counseling and psychotherapy. The authors note that forgiveness and gratitude led to improved wellbeing and decreases problematic behavior among patients. Counselors could employ forgiveness therapy for addicts to help in the recovery process. 

In accordance to Berecz, processes of forgiveness and psychotherapy are related since they both involve reframing and empathy. According to Berecz, reframing is the core of forgiving since it enables individuals to disconnect from their past pain, and subsequently move to higher-level possibilities. Additionally, forgiveness reframes life and that rapport is the emotional basis whereas reframing is the emotional component of forgiveness. 

In forgiveness therapy, the client must be forced to understand that God is ready to forgive his sinful nature or bad behaviors committed in the past. Further, this process is a consequence of dealing with painful emotions and the result of dealing with wounds generated from transgressions. In essence, the counselor should avoid exploring painful emotions that may open the old wounds, but be skillful enough in encouraging the journey to assist the client reach or attain emotional freedom that comes with forgiveness. 


In order to address the problem of addiction in Christian’s point of view, counselors should advice patients or addicts for this matter to depend on God, their creator. Dependence on God, rather than their willpower, is the ultimate counseling direction for all addicts. In other words, God should be introduced as the alternative object for addictive behavior and substances. This study has clearly explained the inner dynamics and different types of addicts, those needing significance and those who need security. The model of counseling used in this paper focuses on providing positive and active feelings and behavior to addicts. This facilitates the objective of counseling addicts in developing and not simply quitting the addictive behavior at once, but also to establish a biblical way of feeling and thinking. In this context, counselors are expected to evaluate the deepest dynamics of addicts and establish some possible alternatives. 

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