The Journey Toward Complete Recovery by Michael Picucci, Ph.D., 1998, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA, $16.95, pp. 241

Reviewed by John A. Speyrer

The Journey Toward Complete Recovery is an interesting combination of the twelve-step addiction recovery program, feeling-oriented psychotherapy and spirituality. While calling regressions and emotional release work the backbone of his treatment process, Dr. Picucci does not spend much time on this most interesting aspect of his treatment modality. Perhaps he believes that this aspect is adequately covered elsewhere.

There is not a word in his book about Arthur Janov's primal therapy and his references to Stan Grof are mostly about his ideas on spiritual emergencies . There is much emphasis on the writings of authors in the "inner child" movement, e.g. John Bradshaw, M. Scott Peck, Emmet Fox. and others.

Picuicci's definition of addiction includes both chemicals and acting out behaviors. He sees

". . . addiction as a coping mechanism to control the effects of early traumatic stresses, childhood deprivations, cultural predudices , abuse and ignorance. Addictions and compulsions serve as self-medications to help us deal with, and further suppress, complex issues that lie repressed deep in our psyche."

The author calls addiction a resourceful alternative to overcome a painful dilemma. The choice for the sufferer, he writes, is between the addiction and "mental and physical diseases, psychosis or suicide." While in therapy, as his defenses relaxed, the author began feeling his "traumatic recalls." He subsequently based the theories of his Authentic Process Therapy on his own background and hopes that the recounting of his individual experiences will help to save time and effort by others.

Most of the chapters in The Journey. . . conclude with case studies which illustrate the concepts discussed.

Twelve-step programs are an essential element in his APT program. The spelling out of each step and sub-step in recovery obviously reflects the author's twelve-stop addiction recovery background, but, at times, can become confusing to readers. Gauging from the amount of space in his book, the author seems to imply that the re-livings of early traumas (including birth) are merely one of his twelve "stations" (steps in recovery) of recovery though he recognizes those re-livings as essential.

In stage two, he writes that we discover joy as well as connectedness through dissolving the roadblocks to becoming integrated. The goal of being holistically integrated is much more than healing our addictions. It is rather being at one with the universe. So the goal of the therapy is transpersonal or spiritual in nature -- with bliss and awe which eventually becoming a part of our everyday lives; lives characterized by a core of "shame-free presentation of the self" to others.

Station two is characterized by the client joining self-help groups. The author feels that such a community is essential for healing. Without it, he writes, the primary addiction cannot be conquered. The remaining steps or stations including finding one's "higher power," then making a firm decision to recovery, removing roadblocks which prevent one from asking for help, realizing the importance of, then using the emotional support from others, feeling new repressed emotions and the risking of sharing untold stories of personal secrets.

In stage two of recovery the aim is for complete recovery. This stage has twelve steps, while stage one has eleven steps. All of these stages and steps or stations become a bit confusing. For example, stage two has six fundamental stations but there are also six others called the emergent stations. In station one, he writes that "the safety, empathy and intention present in the host environment causes a rebalancing of the homeostatis." On occasion, such unclear verbiage makes for difficult reading. Yet, if you are persistent and refer back to which station of which stage you were reading about you will find interesting and original concepts.

In stage two the author writes about how one can use the inner child to awaken the unconscious, how "grounding" helps, how one's unconscious can be "re-tuned" as well as integrating one's shadow self, and grieving unresolved losses. In writing about the inner child, the author explains:

"When we were infants and children, it made sense to hide certain parts of ourselves. When these parts became overly dependent/independent, rageful/playful, willful/free, curious/spiritually knowing, or even imaginative, they were rejected by those upon whom we relied to feed, clothe, and protect us. What else could we do but push them downstairs? At the time, they were threatening to bring more pain and fear than we could have possibly borne. In some cases they could even have cost us our lives, so we kept them downstairs, as we still do. But somewhere along the line we forgot they were living down there." p. 79

Six emergent "stations," the author believes help us to remove our masks which we present to the world. Exposing and revealing early wounds to others help us to heal. These stations also include, engaging in new activities which help us learn better and more effective behavior, intentionally attempting to recognize how we fulfill childhood needs in the present and changing our behavior accordingly; becoming aware of the "darker" (shadow self) aspects of ourselves; using affirmations or positive feelings and goals as a way of "re-tuning the unconscious," and finally expressing self-love. Picucci believes that self-assertion and love will automatically arrive when you apply yourself to the community aspects of the stations listed above.

There are tools that can help us to navigate into and through the various steps and stations. Being involved in the arts can help, as can journaling and creative writing (poetry and prose). Meditation, body work, doing emotional release work, as well as studying martial arts in workshops can also be helpful. As defenses relax opportunities for spiritual awakening occur, which, in turn, aid the recovery process.

In an interesting chapter entitled, "The Uses of Medication in Recovery" the author writes that many psychotropic medicines can be helpful during recovery. Dr. Picucci believes that sometimes it is essential to use psychiatric drugs to manage overwhelming feelings of anxiety and depression which can arise when defenses are being lowered in therapy.

He bases his conclusion on two studies he made with others as well as the effects such medication had on himself after receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis during his recovery. [I could very well identify with the depressive effects that Dr. Picucci's diagnosis had on him, since last year I had received a possible diagnosis of brain tumor which fortunately turned out to be something else. (See my article On Death and Dying In the Birth Canal)]

The author found such psychiatric medication very helpful during this time to manage the depressive effects of his diagnosis while in recovery. He found the use of Ludiomil to be very helpful. He writes that he then ". . . began to address and take steps toward resolving some of the painful family memories that the breakdown of my defense had revealed." The author has found that almost half of his clients had been dramatically helped by psychoactive medication. All of the participants believed that their medications enabled them to make healthy needed changes in their lives. Medications studied included, Zoloft, BuSpar, Desipramine, Lithium, Paxil, Prozac and Wellbutin.

While writing about his personal history the author writes in a clear and fluid style but while discussing his Authentic Process Therapy, sometimes his style is academic and labored. So I went from liking the book to not liking it, then back to liking it again. At times, I did not find it easy to read but it became more interesting as I re-read various sections. I sometimes found the distinction between the two stages confusing as their elements seemed repetitious.

This book is not one to read and then put away or give away. It is a book to save and be re-read. Some or perhaps much of the material will not be readily understood until the reader arrives at that stage of healing being discussed. Maybe that is why I found some parts tedious. Insight and understanding experiences cannot be readily learned. One must be in the required stage of the process in order to enjoy what the author calls "the fruits of the tree."

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