The Hero’s Journey and Its Role in Your Client’s Recovery

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Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey has influenced stories from Star Wars to Harry Potter, but its familiar arc can be used as a metaphor for your client’s inner transformation as they battle their addiction and come out of treatment a stronger person. What is the Hero’s Journey, and how can it be applied to your client’s trajectory in recovery?

Why We Use the Hero’s Journey

Over a year ago, we wrote about the Hero’s Journey and how it could apply to the journey the residents at Jaywalker Lodge undertake. The Hero’s Journey, coined by mythologist Joseph Campbell, tells the common story of any protagonist and their ultimate quest. The Hero’s Journey is special to us because it has twelve parts, just like the 12 Steps of recovery and our 12 We Believe statements. Since the Hero’s Journey is thought of as a universal journey in fiction, as well as in real life, it can be easily applied to a person’s experience in treatment.

Separation From the Ordinary World

In our article about the Hero’s Journey, we touched a little on how each step of Joseph Campbell’s structure corresponds to an addiction recovery scenario. When explaining the philosophy of your client, first remember that this structure is split into three acts: separation, initiation, and return. This is similar to the acts in a play or plot points in a story. The use of the Hero’s Journey can feel inspiring to your client as they begin to view themselves as the protagonist in their own story.

The separation part of the structure consists of the steps that lead to your client leaving their “ordinary world”  and “crossing the threshold.” This is the period of time before treatment when your client battled with even the idea that they needed help. They might have had a period where they resisted asking a friend or family member to assist in finding treatment. They might have been in denial about their need to get better. However, they ultimately realized their dire circumstances and made the call.

Initiation Into the World of Treatment

This part of the structure is the longest part of the journey. This is the meat of their story. Initiation includes the steps between “crossing the threshold” and “the road back” from their journey. This section is the entire journey itself. When you talk with your client, they will most likely be at the beginning or in the middle of this journey. There are many important steps your client is taking during this time. They start by adjusting to life in treatment, making new connections, and learning what is needed to complete tests and trials. They may have yet to overcome their biggest challenge, whether that be climbing a literal mountain or facing their true self. Once they’ve entered the innermost cave, the scariest part of their journey to conquer, this is where they will have a major breakthrough. Whether that be the source of their addiction or confronting their past trauma, this part of their story allows them to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

After they’ve conquered their fear, their mountain, and their innermost cave, they’ll be able to move onto the next step in their journey, which comes in the form of some reward. In treatment, that reward is conquering their addiction and realizing they can live a happy and fulfilling life free of substances. The reward might be the ability to be present for their family and friends or improved mental and physical health.

The Return and Your Clients Recovery

The final act in Joseph Campbell’s structure includes the steps of “the road back” and “the return” to the ordinary world. Once your client has completed treatment at Jaywalker, they will be taking the tools they’ve gained and applying them to the outside world. The return might include a return to their normal world or maybe the start of a new journey. The cycle of the Hero’s Journey can still continue with each new chapter in life. Your client’s return might include sharing the “treasures” they acquired in treatment that allow them to live a fulfilling life despite their struggle with addiction. This is the resolution to their journey. This doesn’t necessarily mean the end. Recovery isn’t always the resolution, but another story in itself.

During this stage, your client will begin to use the tools and skills they’ve learned in treatment. The challenge for them will be existing on the other side of the threshold and making it in the “ordinary world.” But since they’ve conquered every challenge before in their own Hero’s Journey while battling addiction, trust that they have the strength to make it.

Your client is choosing their own destiny. They are the authors of their own narratives and the protagonists of their own stories. They have the power to take on their quest and conquer the tests and trials that come with battling addiction. Their journey won’t be easy, but knowing the role they are meant to play in their own Hero’s Journey can be empowering. Many like to see themselves in their heroes, but at Jaywalker Lodge, we help each individual uncover the hero within who is willing to answer the call of treatment and receive the reward of a fulfilling future. Whether your client is climbing mountains or discovering the deepest parts of themselves, Jaywalker Lodge is with them every step of the way. If you’re interested in learning more about the Hero’s Journey and how it can apply to your own client’s journey in treatment and recovery, call us today at (866) 529-9255.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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