Growth and Recovery

As an interning therapist studying at Kutztown University, I receive specialized training in addictions and co-occurring disorders. Because of this, I view the mental health concerns of my clients through a theoretical lens of addictive patterns. I use this framework for all my clients, regardless of diagnosis, because I embrace a broad understanding of addiction, one that views growth as a type of recovery.

My work is strongly influenced by Gabor Maté, who defines addiction as a complex psycho-physiological process manifested in any behavior in which a person finds relief – and therefore craves – but suffers negative consequences without being able to give it up. The emphasis here is any behavior. Addiction is not a process exclusive to the alcoholic or the heroin user. In the same way, I don’t believe that the process of recovery is exclusively available to the addict.

The linguistic roots of the word recovery come from the Anglo-Norman verb recovrer, meaning to get back. But what is it that we can get back through the process of recovery? I have seen individuals receive incredible gifts from their recovery work. But I believe these gifts are the consequence of recovery, not the recovery itself. I believe that what we get back on this healing journey – what we recover – is our divinity. We become acquainted once again with the spark of the divine that dances within us.

The work of recovery is miraculous. It is a process that radiates outward, like light from a candle. The divine spark that is at the core of who we are is not meant to be hidden underneath the proverbial basket. And yet, for many of my clients, a dense weave of trauma, neglect, fear, and self-loathing has hidden their light, even from themselves.

This is why I believe the growth that comes from recovery is not additive. It is subtractive. In recovery work, I peel away the beliefs and behaviors that no longer serve the best interests of the client. Together, we expose the vulnerable and sublime flicker of self that dances within. For a client that enters my office believing that they are fundamentally broken, worthless, or sinful, coming to the realization that they are enough is radical work.

The growth of recovery is fostered in safe spaces, spaces where someone can simply be. This is the kind of space I work diligently to create for my clients.

My internship experience at Samaritan Center has allowed me to explore this type of work in a way that no other counseling agency could. Over the last year at the Center, I have not only been able to develop my counseling skills, but also a greater understanding of the sacred work of growth and recovery.

It is these transformative journeys in life that help us recognize our strengths and weaknesses, and achieve lasting and significant personal growth.

By Josh Tonkay, Masters Candidate Therapist

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