Top addiction experts unlock recovery secrets

Addictions are a part of life, according to Paul Wong, PhD, professor and research director of counselling psychology at Trinity Western University. Wong is Chair of the International Meaning Conference on addictions, meaning and spirituality, a biennial conference held in Vancouver from July 20 to 23.

“Everyone has a craving for positive emotions and attachment,” says Dr. Wong, who is President of the International Network on Personal Meaning. “They release neurotransmitters and keep us functioning well—both mentally and physically. The problems start when we try to unlock those emotions through destructive patterns such and drug and alcohol abuse, instead of through meaningful relationship.”

Joining Wong to further this discussion are some of the world's leading authorities on addiction. They will address questions such as is addiction a disease or part of human nature? Is there a cure? Are there positive addictions?

Thanks to a Templeton grant, award-winning Harvard researcher on alcoholism, Dr. George Vaillant, will deliver the Templeton Foundation Distinguished Public Lecture on Sunday, July 23 at 1pm. He will integrate the neuroscience of drug use, the human yearning for positive emotions, and the drug-induced altered-state-of-consciousness. His lecture and the following Templeton Symposium are free to the general public.

“The growing problem of addiction and the poor success rates in mainstream addiction treatments call for new approaches,” says Dr. Wong. “That is why this conference explores both the big questions of meaning and spirituality and the neurobiological questions of craving and positive emotions. We seek to unlock the secrets of addition.”

Other speakers during the free symposium include:

• Dr. Jaak Panksepp: Renowned for his discovery of how separation responses and drug craving are organized in the brain. He will speak on the brain systems involved in the basic emotions, such as addictive craving.
• Dr. Scott Tonigan: A principle investigator of the larger research project on addiction, the “MATCH”. He will provide the latest evidence on what makes the 12-step programs work, and discuss the linkage between spirituality and addiction recovery.
• Dr. Francis Seeburger: A philosopher and TV personality, he challenges the traditional thinking on recovery and proposes the need for “recovery of thinking” and treating addiction treatment as part of the broader “general human recovery.”
• Dr. Stanton Peele: A best-selling author and popular addiction psychologist. He emphasizes meaning as essential to recovery. “It is critical to focus on what people want to achieve. Abstinence is a byproduct of living a meaningful life, not the prerequisite,” says Peele.

“It's a rare opportunity to meet and interact with the Who's Who in addiction research and treatment,” says Dr. Wong. He points out that the conference is not just for professionals, it is also open to anyone whose life has been affected by addiction, and who is interested in finding a better way of recovery.

The conference is organized by the International Network on Personal Meaning and the Graduate Counselling Psychology Program of Trinity Western University in partnership with the Maple Ridge Treatment Centre, Fraser Health Authority, Centre for Addiction Research of BC, University of Victoria, The Milton Erickson Foundation and The John Templeton Foundation.

For more information and registration please call (604) 513-2034, email conference@meaning.ca or visit www.meaning.ca. CEU Credits are available for psychologists, physicians, counsellors and social workers, and addiction counsellors.

Last Updated: 2007-10-11
Author: Erin Mussolum