Psychological Perspectives of Time and Addiction Treatment

Researchers believe that determining the time perspectives of patients during therapy can help in addiction recovery.

Recent research has shed new light on psychological perspectives of time among patients undergoing addiction treatment. This promises to provide psychiatrists and psychologists with a better understanding of subjective experiences among patients attending addiction clinics.

Researchers Dr Sarah Davies and Dr Pavlos Filippopoulos published their findings in the Journal of Groups in Addiction & Recovery, and Dr Davies believes that the findings regarding temporal changes can be used in therapy to better help those who are striving to overcome addiction.

A Positive Shift in Perspective After Treatment

A total of 63 participants at a treatment center were recruited and asked to complete a self-report questionnaire, both at the beginning of treatment and once treatment had been completed. The questionnaire allowed participants to add qualitative comments to further clarify their responses and was designed to measure depression, anxiety, and subjective perspectives of time.

On entering the treatment program, participants demonstrated a strong tendency toward past-negativity, present-hedonism, depression, anxiety, regret, and guilt. They also reported feeling time-pressured, which is a sense of not having enough time and little ability for time management. There was very little positivity in their perspectives regarding the past and the future. After treatment, participants typically exhibited “a more positive view of the past, a more hopeful, goal-oriented sense of future, structure, planning, and daily routine, and a more present-time connection to the moment.” There was also a significantly reduced level of anxiety and depression.

Time Perspective to Inform Treatment

Dr Davies believes that therapists should be aware that time perspectives can be taken into account during addiction treatment and that this will call for a more individualized approach: “When working with one person at a time, you can focus much more specifically on their individual experience, insight and personal needs. This includes working with each patient regarding their unique psychological perspective of time. They may have certain life experiences that have shaped their time perspectives — for example, exposure to illness, mortality, trauma, etc.”

It would seem that by determining the time perspectives of patients during therapy, a clearer picture of their progress can be achieved. Presumably, interventions aimed at assisting patients to achieve a more positive time perspective could also be used to facilitate recovery.

Most of the previous clinical research in this area has focused on the associative relationship between time perspective and mental health. We know that focusing on the past in a negative way tends to be associated with depression. Likewise, having fears and worries about the future is characteristic of anxiety. Both of these kinds of temporal bias can also be features of trauma or PTSD. Little research has previously considered what happens during treatment interventions and how a positive change in perspective can be supported with psychotherapy. Dr Davies’ research has identified temporal changes that support addiction recovery and positive mental health.