People suffering from addiction often have mental health conditions or developmental issues that triggered the substance use as a way to cope with the symptoms. Addiction experts have come to understand that helping patients who are dealing with these issues can often benefit their ability to manage the addiction more effectively after treatment. Lifespan developmental psychology is often used to examine specific questions of dealing with life’s many changes and challenges that will affect these individuals’ ability to rebuild their lives in recovery.

What Is Lifespan Developmental Psychology?

Lifespan developmental psychology is an area of psychology that deals with many changes and opportunities for growth that individuals experience as they pass through the various stages of life. (1) It also examines the ways that cultural influences affect these changes. In the past, developmental psychology focused on the psychological changes that occur during childhood and adolescence. Lifespan developmental psychology looks at the changes that normally occur in adult life, whether physical, social, cognitive, perceptual, intellectual or emotional.

Lifespan Developmental Psychology and Addiction

Addiction to drugs or alcohol was once considered a moral failing, but research has found a number of factors that increase the risk of addiction. Some evidence indicates that problems with psychological development may contribute to the abuse of substances. In addition, development can be negatively impacted by addiction.

These adults may have been using substances to deal with a variety of problems for years. Their normal adjustment to adult issues and the ability to devise coping strategies may be affected. (2) These individuals must take the time to review areas of their lives to determine where work needs to be done in order to fit into normal life within the context of their age and cultural background. Individual therapy and cognitive behavioral skills can help these individuals develop the tools they need to function effectively in the world to which they will return after treatment.

Changing Habits, Making Progress

Understanding the forces that impact the psychology of patients at various points in their lives can help provide more effective therapies for rebuilding life after addiction. Individuals begin to understand issues that cause stress and ambivalence, which can lead to a return to substance use. Once identified, these problems can be worked into a strategy to prevent relapse.

Addiction itself often causes developmental issues for individuals. Their peers may have moved on in their careers and in their personal lives, while the individual struggling with addiction remains in a state of suspended immaturity in many areas of life. Psychological therapy can be a way to accelerate understanding and emotional maturity for these individuals. Learning to acknowledge these developmental issues can help them begin to better understand themselves, their current challenges and how to achieve life goals. Lifespan developmental psychology can help to find the most effective methods to facilitate change for these patients.

An effective addiction treatment program must use a variety of tools to help individuals understand their own motivations and actions, as well as help them to fit into the larger context of the world. Lifespan developmental psychology can help people reclaim their lives in their broader cultures and among their peer groups.