“Individuals with addiction issues are constantly struggling with their need for immediate gratification. If they don’t like the way they feel, they take a drink or a drug that seems to deliver a change in mood,” explains Harris Stratyner, Ph.D., in his post to his Psychology Today blog, Recovery for Life. He uses Freudian psychology to describe the struggles of addiction and use it as a model to motivate addicts toward recovery.

Freud said the psyche is made up of three distinct parts: the id (the childlike part that seeks immediate gratification); the ego (the “executive” of our personality, which develops and helps us to see things from a realistic perspective); and the superego (the part with ideals and the conscience). This personality paradigm finds the ego of a healthy person balancing between our need for immediate gratification, and at the same time not “offending our superego” such that we lie awake at night plagued by guilt.

For addicts, the problem is that when we go beyond our id and get into the realm of the superego, there are consequences. While their ego attempts to counterbalance between the id and the superego, it utilizes three primary defense mechanisms: denial (I don’t have any problem with alcohol or drugs); projection (I am not the problem you are the one with the problem); and rationalization (the reason I have a problem is A, B, and C – so I don’t bear any responsibility).

These defense mechanisms that are used in the service of the ego to preserve one’s self-esteem, often serve as a roadblock in helping the addicted individual see reality. A “carefrontational” approach – one that treats the individual with respect and dignity, never shaming or blaming, but holding them responsible for their personal recovery, is one way to describe a holistic approach to recovery.

Freud may not have considered the superego as spiritual, but he might agree with the concept of it as our higher self. A holistic approach to recovery treatment treats the mind, body and spirit, and can help in the balancing of the three parts of our psyches as we become our best selves.