Recently I’ve been reading Anne Fadiman’s “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down”, a work of non-fiction that chronicles a Hmong family’s life in the U.S., and how their culture’s conception of human ailments clashes with Western medical practices.
This got me thinking about cross-cultural considerations in addiction recovery treatment. How do you treat an addict whose worldview doesn’t include the concept of addiction as a disease? What if addiction is considered, for example, karmic retribution for something done wrong earlier in life, or in a past life?
Below are some points about which cultural aspects addicts and counsellors may have to work to understand about one another.
When a counsellor’s and addict’s answers to the question of why the human body falls ill are different, how are you to compromise on treatment? It is important in cross-cultural addiction rehab to consider the addict’s background and beliefs regarding the causes of addiction. Then, you can work from where he or she is to establish an understanding of effective addiction recovery treatment.
In many cultures, the collective is prized above the individual. This often manifests itself in giving weight to a decision discussed and made by one’s entire family. Consider the pressures an addict may be feeling from his or her family before demanding a he or she receives a certain level of addiction treatment.
Living in a culture different from your own and constantly trying to understand cultural nuances can cause a lot of anxiety. Remember that treating an addict across cultures can be a fearful experience for a recovering addict; not only has he or she never been to addiction rehab, but he or she has never undergone addiction recovery treatment within such a new environment.
One of the greatest assets of being part of an addiction rehab with international clients is hearing from others all around the world who are also battling addiction. It reminds us that, despite the miles between us, we’re not alone. Yet, it is still important to acknowledge that cultural nuances make each person’s experience with addiction rehab distinctive from another’s.