Shifting the Addiction Paradigm

Shifting the Addiction Paradigm:
Compassionate Pragmatism

Featuring author & neuroscientist Marc Lewis, PhD

The 2nd annual conference presented by

The Center for Optimal Living, Ellenhorn, and The New School

June 7, 2019 9:30 am - 5 pm


A Paradigm Shift: Compassionate Pragmatism

We know there is a paradigm shift – long in coming -- occurring in today’s addiction field.  And we know what that new wave of thought brings with it: psychotherapeutic values that place each person at the center of change, an agent in their own lives, making their own decisions; a resulting focus on helping a person contemplate their situation rather than cajoling or even coercing them to change;  and a belief that their attachments to others, in large part, determine their habits, which in turn leads to looking at the quality of the communities surrounding people dealing with addiction, at where and whether these communities offer opportunities to connect, feel valued, and contribute.

We also know that this new wave of thinking is now too powerful to stop.  A purely disease model, the powerful force of reductionism, the decades-long quest to make addiction a profit source: These counterforces are losing strength.  

To reject one paradigm without simultaneously substituting another is to reject science itself.
— Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

But while much is known (and celebrated) about this new paradigm in the addiction field, less clear is what to call all the different perspectives and models it brings with it.   How do we incorporate Motivational Interviewing, CRAFT, Harm Reduction Psychotherapy, and the works of Hart, Maté, Lewis, and Alexander? And, how might we join this wave with other waves, as we see the entire world of “behavioral health” rip back to its humanist roots, then crash forward with far greater power?  

We’ve chosen the term Compassionate Pragmatism  to express this new paradigm, a term that implies a containing of compassion for others, often through learned methods, that leads to helping them change.  Compassionate Pragmatism represents a praxis: It converts a point of view into action.

From new and innovative models for helping families compassionately support their loved ones, to views that pull addiction outside the tired models of disease and place it on the continuum of human experience, to new ways of helping people struggling with both substance misuse and psychiatric difficulties, our presenters all discuss changes and ideas that aim toward taking a position of compassion and actualizing it through method and action.  

Photos from the 2018 conference featuring Gabor Maté, Jenifer Talley, Ross Ellenhorn, Andrew Tatarsky and Zoi Andalcio at the new school.