Our field is full with ideas on how one should best conduct the process of recovering, or how best to understand the very essence of addiction.
Humans have a talent to create ideas, but are cursed with an inability to shed them when their prime has passed.
One such addiction treatment idea that needs abandoning is harsh confrontation. It had its prime time in the 1970’s. During those days, one could hear shrill, obnoxious, hateful voices booming down the hallways of many a treatment program. It was all done under the guise of breaking through denial. Denial was seen as the central barrier to recovery and had to be breached at all costs. This was the central idea at the time.
A most despicable harsh confrontation practice of the day was called the “honesty circle.” A client was made to sit in the middle of a circle of staff and other clients, while all manner of foul words and indictments where hurled at the individual. It was always justified in the name of get through denial or “getting honest.”
The “technique” amounted to nothing short of verbal abuse and cruelty, and needs to be considered as what it was and is – an ethical violation.
It was a sad and dark chapter in our ethics and history.
In the past three decades, there has never been a scrap of data to support that calling clients fetid names or trying to intimidate them into the recovery works. In fact, a few years ago Bill Miller found that the practice was correlated to relapse.
While the “technique” has gradually diminished over the years, pockets of the harsh confrontation remain. And the pockets continue with the same sad justification that one has to harshly break through denial.
Such ideas have outgrown their prime and need to be laid to rest once and for all. No human, no person should ever be exposed to such treatment. The addiction field has found better ways to engage our clients, and hopefully we have grown above such techniques.
Should you disagree, your need to create an argument, not an example, but a whole and complete argument with cogent reasons (preferably many of them) that condone verbal abuse.