Activity 1: Overview of psychological theories

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The three primary psychological theories are cognitive-behavioural, learning, and psychodynamic. A fourth is personality theory, which will be covered in Activity 2. A general description of these theories is provided on the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) website. In Chapter 6 of your textbook Rethinking Substance Abuse: What the Science Shows, and What We Should Do About It, DiClemente, considers the development of substance use disorders from a life-stage perspective. While his stages of change treatment model is well known, this chapter provides some good insights into how this model can be utilized as a preventive or early intervention tool. DiClemente describes psychological factors that promote risk, and protective factors for self-modulation so that experimental use does not develop into a substance use disorder. He also raises the role of gender as a factor in the natural initiation and continuation of substance use.


  1. Read the following:
    • Chapter 6 of your textbook: “Natural Change and the Troublesome Use of Substances: A Life-Course Perspective” by D. DiClemente.
    • Ogborne, A. C. (2004). Psychological Factors, in Chapter One “Theories of Addiction and Implications for Counselling.” In S. Harrison and V. Carver (Eds.), Alcohol & Drug Problems: A Practical Guide for Counsellors. CAMH.
  2. Consider someone you know or have worked with. How well do these theories explain the etiology of their addiction? Alternatively, consider someone in the news for their substance use problems. Do you think their substance use problems could be explained by psychological theories alone? What role could you imagine that psychological theories have played in the etiology of their substance use problem?
  3. Review the media for their portrayal of people with substance use problems. How often is the problem depicted as a psychological problem? Is there any consideration of neurobiological or genetic factors or possibilities? How about social factors?
  4. How do you think the portrayal of substance use disorders as a psychological problem affects the stigma associated with substance use problems?