Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in Addiction Treatment

by | Oct 27, 2017 | Treatment | 0 comments

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in Addiction Treatment

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In 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow published what would ultimately become his most well-known theory. This theory took shape in an essay entitled “A Theory of Human Motivation,” and built upon many pre-existing studies in developmental psychology to determine the basic patterns that humans follow that will ultimately lead to their highest levels of health, happiness, and personal evolution. We know this theory today as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

This theory of needs-based motivation informs many fields of research and instruction today. We see it applied by medical professionals, motivational speakers, management consultants, social workers and sociologists. Experienced professionals within these fields understand that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs touches upon a very important fact of human development; namely speaking, that it tends to work in layers.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs works because it takes these various layers of necessity and places them within a structural framework. Those who feel unfulfilled can use this framework to approach their dissatisfaction in an organized manner. This helps in addiction recovery, as addiction tends to leave our needs unmet on multiple levels of the hierarchy. We therefore try to build each level into our treatment programs at Amethyst.

If you’d like more information on our general program features, you may contact us at any time. For now, allow us to focus on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and how it factors into our program.

 

Physiological Needs

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The most fundamental level on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs consists of the bare necessities. These include air, water, food, shelter, clothing, sleep and sex. We will leave that last one untouched, as it is not a service that we provide. Those who struggle with compulsive or otherwise unhealthy sexual behaviors, however, will be given ample opportunity to discuss these matters in counseling.

As for the other physiological needs outlined by Maslow, clients will find that we offer them in abundance and style. Clients at our detox and residential center will benefit from our five-star chef, with rotating menus devised by our nutritionist. Meanwhile, clients in day/night treatment will receive catered meals from a diverse range of local eateries. This facility also has a nutritionist on staff, who will meet with clients and discuss how to stay healthy after they leave treatment.

We also provide a great level of comfort when it comes to sleep and shelter. Our state-of-the-art facilities provide clients a sense of intimate luxury while they focus on their recovery. Clients at our detox and residential facility will sleep in any one of forty cozy beds. They’ll be able to start the day off right as they awaken to participate in another day of rigorous care.

Air is a natural resource, so we don’t have to go out of our way to provide it; however, it still warrants mention due to the curative powers of ocean air such as we have here on the Treasure Coast. While the negative ions of the Florida breeze will help balance clients’ serotonin levels, the sun’s vitamin D will help battle depression and the salty winds will metabolize nutrients by infusing the body with rich sources of magnesium.

 

Safety Needs

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The next level of basic needs concerns safety and security. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs suggests that we must acquire a sense of personal security, financial security, health and protection.

Health and protection greatly factor into the physiological needs discussed above. Those who make use of our nutritionist will learn to embrace a dietary lifestyle that will keep their health in tiptop shape. Of course, when discussing addiction, health and wellness take on a deeper meaning. To ensure our clients a safer future, we must teach them about relapse prevention.

Fortunately, our individualized approach to treatment allows clients to form a relapse prevention plan that will be applicable to their own specific needs. Our clinical staff works extensively with clients to determine the greatest threats against their sobriety. We teach them to prepare for any triggers they might encounter once they return to the outside world, focusing on relapse prevention strategies that play to each client’s strengths. Medication reconciliation protocol, regular drug screens and 24-hour patient monitoring will provide personal safety to clients still in treatment as well.

As for financial security, we account for this component of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in two ways. First, we try to help those who seek treatment with limited finances. We accept most major insurance, and provide private pay options on a sliding fee scale. Amethyst also offers access to lending programs, payment plans and possible scholarship opportunities for those in particularly dire need.

Second, clients who struggled with employment during their addiction will have access to life skills training in treatment. We will teach them how to answer questions in a job interview, format their CV, and balance a proper budget. By the time they leave, clients should have all the tools they need to accomplish a life of financial stability.

 

Love and Belonging

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Interpersonal relationships account for the third level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In particular, Maslow feels that humans are motivated to seek relationships that provide a sense of social belonging.

This is a strong need. For many, the need for a sense of belonging outweighs the need for security. This often results in codependency, and causes many people to stay in abusive relationships. While not the primary focus of addiction treatment, we endeavor to cover these issues in our educational groups. Many clients who enter treatment for substance abuse find that their addictive behavior applies to relationships as well. This can become a relapse trigger if not addressed early on. In fact, it is one of the primary reasons that many do not recommend seeking romantic entanglements in early sobriety.*

Concerning the need to feel like we belong, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and the basic tenets of recovery strongly overlap. Recovering addicts require a strong support system, which many find in support group meetings. Those who begin recovery in treatment start trying the waters in group therapy. They learn how easily they can relate to others of diverse backgrounds due to a shared understanding of their pain. When our clients leave treatment, they are able to continue building these relationships through participation in our alumni program.

Family relationships play a role in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as well. Our family program allows clients and their families to work together, building mutual support and overcoming their differences. Between the mending of family trust and the building of peer support, our clients find their interpersonal needs greatly met when attending treatment at our facilities.

*[Interesting side note on romance: One of the greatest criticisms lodged against Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is that he categorized sex under physiological needs rather than love and belonging. It’s irrelevant to this particular discussion, since we still do not offer that service. But we thought that anyone who wondered about its placement on the hierarchy might like to know that several others have wondered the same thing.]

 

Esteem Needs

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Abraham Maslow identified two levels of esteem needs. The “lower” level concerns respect from others. This may take the form of status, recognition, or sheer attention. Those with low self-esteem frequently look outside of themselves for validation of their worth. A high-paying job or a relationship with an attentive lover may provide these.

Lower esteem needs do not generally result in long-term satisfaction, as they tend to prove fleeting and unstable; however, you might say we provide them to a limited extent. We make sure to emphasize success in overcoming personal struggles, providing clients with insights into their own strength. This meets the client’s lower esteem needs by providing on-the-spot validation, but it really serves to help them discover the pathway to unlocking the “higher” esteem considered vital under Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Higher esteem needs provide self-respect on a fundamental level. Maslow associated higher esteem with feelings of freedom, strength and independence. Our life skills education will teach clients self-sufficiency, resulting in these very feelings. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps them to build these qualities on a more internal level. Clients learn to build self-esteem on the basis of who they are, not just what they do. As they gain experience in managing their sobriety, this esteem grows stronger. And while Maslow’s hierarchy of needs does not directly associate self-esteem with a sense of purpose, many of our clients do leave treatment with a better idea of who they want to be as they move forward in their recovery. As we move on to the final level in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, this purposeful sense of self becomes integral.

 

Self-Actualization

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Esteem relates closely to the final level in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualization. After meeting your esteem needs, you can better define your sense of purpose and potential. The self-actualized individual strives to meet this potential to the best of their ability. Maslow referred to this as “metamotivation.”

Many begin experiencing feelings of self-actualization while still focusing on their esteem. You may strive to excel in all things you do, or focus on one particular aspect of life such as career or parenthood. Only you can define your purpose. But only upon meeting your esteem needs will you gain the strength and freedom to pursue it in earnest.

Later in his career, Maslow decided that true self-actualization can only be achieved through self-transcendence. We look outside of ourselves, motivated to achieve goals that help others or better our sense of spirituality. In AA or NA terms, this would be the spiritual awakening of Step Twelve, the point at which we begin dedicating much of our time to service work.

This final level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs depends largely on the individual. We cannot achieve it for you; however, your efforts in treatment will provide you the tools to explore your sense of self and begin traveling the path to greater aims in life. As you do this, we will be there to help you every step of the way. Your therapist will work with you through goal-oriented therapy sessions to determine what you want your future in sobriety to look like and which tools will ultimately get you there. After that, the rest is up to you. The highly personal nature of self-actualization is just one of the many reasons we so strongly believe in the need for an individualized program of care.

For more information on how our programs can help you meet your needs, contact us today. We’re here to help you discover your greater self.

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