Rehabilitation or Habilitation

Advances in Addiction and Recovery, The Official Publication of NAADAC
Summer 2017 vol 5 no. 2

Rehabilitation means to return one to a former level of successful psychosocial functioning. For example, John graduated from high school and joined the Navy. Alter deployment, he returned home and married his high school sweetheart. They had two children. John was hired by a local business and was promoted several times. All went well until John’s drinking started causing problems at home and on the job. John’s treatment (rehabilitation) endeavored to return him to a level of functioning where he was a good husband, father and worker. Hopefully, his recovery helped him gain a better spiritual awareness.

The hand that Mary was dealt was different from the experience of John. She was sexually abused by her father and started drinking and using drugs at the age of twelve years old. During her adolescence, she spent time in a juvenile criminal justice facility and never graduated from high school. Now at the age of 23 years old, she is entering her third treatment program. What can Mary be rehabbed to? She has never matured into a formalized thinker capable of dealing with the complexity of the world around her. Although she is intelligent and talented, there is no history of prosocial functioning and one can imagine what her resume might look like. Mary needs habilitation with “wrap around” services. Without a safe, drug free environment, and without the help of a surrogate family (therapist, sponsor and home group, big brother or sister, church group, mentor, etc.), her chances of maturing into a well-functioning adult are guarded.

Due to Mary’s non-enriched environmental upbringing, the newest area of her brain — the prefrontal cortex — may not have developed properly. Because of neuroplasticity, exposing her to enriched environments with positive role models can help her develop an adult-like functional prefrontal cortex.