18 Aug 2020

Dangerous desires- psychodynamics of addiction an interview with Martin Weegmann

Martin will be with Wimbledon Guild Counselling Training on Sat May 1, 2021

Martin Weegmann is a Clinical Psychologist and Group Analyst, with 30 years NHS experience. He has specialised in substance misuse, personality disorders and complex needs. Martin brought out Psychodynamics of Addiction (2002, Wiley) and and published 5 other books, his latest the edited Psychodynamics of Writing (2018, Routledge).

Martin will be delivering his CPD workshop Dangerous desires- psychodynamics of addiction on Sat May 1, 2021

What brought you into specialising in the field of  substance misuse?

As a young clinical psychologist, the time came for me to choose a speciality. My then boss was enthusiastic about a place called ‘The Unit’, a therapeutic community for those with drug and alcohol problems.  ‘It’s got a great reputation’, he added, ‘and was a pioneering place in its time'. It's name? The Max Glatt Unit (Ealing, West London).  I had no real map for working in such an area and felt ill-prepared and yet I found myself saying 'yes'. ‘They are’, he smiled, ‘much in need of a good psychologist’.

So there you have it.  Many of the things we end up doing are circumstantial, and encouragement, for me, goes a long way!  

During the C-19 pandemic we have seen a rise in substance misuse and an impact on the support available  what are your thoughts around this?

The lockdown has created two rather rare commodities- (a) confinement and (b) more time.  I am not surprised to hear of elevated drinking during this time, although there is also a countner-story of those who will have stopped or reduced during the same period.  Certainly, for some the bar or the pub will have been moved, so to speak, to home; with normal outlets and  sources of socialising suspended, some will recreate these indoors. Lack of structure may make people less able to moderate what they drink or to drink at different, earlier times-  when does 'wine o'clock' start?   It reminds me that alcohol remains the UK's favourite drug.

How might psychodynamic thought start to inform a way of working with substance misuse ? 

For many years I had a post that was a combination of 4 days in a substance misuse service and I day in a psychotherapy department. I must say that I was upset by a lack of interest and sometimes aversive attitudes that I encountered amongst some psychotherapists to those with addiction- on the other hand there was a lack of training amongst addiction workers in psychodynamic approaches and so I brought out Psychodynamics of Addiction (2002), which has proved popular. The avowed aim of the book was to build bridges of understanding and reduce negativism or stereotypes. 

I have experience in many approaches over the years- from relapse prevention and motivational interviewing to 12 Step facilitation- indeed, I was a non-alcoholic trustee with AA general service broad for 5 years; it is important to be 'needs-led'.   The psychodynamic approach has not been dominant is addiction, it provides an extra, important dimension of understanding the relationships that those with addictive disorders have to their substances.  Addiction is dangerous desire and attachment gone wrong. Psychodynamic sensitivity helps the worker too, in increasing awareness of their own responses and helps us conceptualise the process of psychic change and recovery.   


Are there any books you would recommend to counsellors interested in understanding more about substance misuse

There are many books on the area and any selection is bound to betray preferences and biases. so, bearing that in mind, here goes, just a few. If you enjoy the literary, 'Confessions of an English Opium Eater' is a wonderful confessional account from around 1820 by the Romantic writer, Thomas de Quincey. If yo want something more 20th century, how about Eugene O'Neil. 'Long day's Journey into Night' about addiction in his own family, or Virginian Ironside, 'Janey and Me' about her onw experiences growing  up with an alcoholic mother.

Here are a few other, academic books:- 

Flores, P. (2003). Addiction as an attachment disorder. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson.

Weegmann, M., & Cohen, R. (Eds.). (2002). Psychodynamics of addiction. Chichester: Johnn Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Khanztian, E. (1999) Treating Addiction as a Human Process. New York: Jason Aronson

 Khantian, E. and Abanese, M. (2008) Understanding Addiction as Self-Medication: Finding Hope Behind the Pain.  Plymouth, UK:  Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Orford, J. (2001) Excessive Appetites: A Psychological view of Addicitons.  Chichester: J. Wiley

 Chapter 14 Alcoholics Anonymous and 12 Step Therapy- a Psychologist’s view, in P. Davis, R. Patton, Jackson, S. (Eds.) (2017) Addiction: Psychology and Treatment. Chichester, Wiley  

What are your hopes delegates will take away from your training day with us

I hope that those attending- whether or not you have experience working in this field- will be helped to see the person behind the disorder' and come to an understanding that takes into account the internal world, the social context of the user and the cultures of consumption that may exert powerful influences upon the individual. I will share some models of addiction and go on to share, in an interactive manner, some ways in which we can help those with addiction.  I hope people will find the workshop involving and imaginative, and hence be part of an experience of learning together.



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