CITY ADDICTIONS

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Dr Dominic O'Ryan

Chartered Psychologist

Experience

Before my clinical training I was a researcher in trauma, health psychology and primary care. I went on to complete my doctorate in clinical psychology at University College London. Since qualifying I’ve worked in a number of fields over the last 17 years, including chronic pain, tinnitus and primary care psychology, however most of my time has been spent working in substance misuse.

As well as my private work I also work within Camden & Islington NHS Trust as Borough Lead Clinical Psychologist for Camden Specialist Drug Services. In this role I work with people with complex drug and alcohol problems alongside long-standing mood difficulties and anxiety.

In addition to my clinical role, I’m the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Training Lead for the Trust, I run a number of supervision groups for staff working with people with mental health and substance misuse problems (Dual Diagnosis), and with colleagues I’ve developed e-learning tools to help mental health staff work more effectively in Dual Diagnosis. I also chair the Quality Forum for the Substance Misuse Service, which has responsibility for managing research, audit and service development.

In the academic world, I’ve been an honorary lecturer at UCL, I have a number of research publications on trauma and substance misuse and have supervised a number of doctoral theses in the field of addictions.

Philosophy

Most people use drugs or alcohol to some extent. You might be enjoying your drug of choice now – caffeine, a cigarette or something else – or maybe you did last night. And you probably did it either to feel good or make the good times better, to stop feeling bad, or to feel connected to the people around you. And that’s all fine, but sometimes we lose track of any other ways to feel these things, or we use drugs or alcohol in a way that disregards the risks. And that’s when drug and alcohol use becomes a problem.

Drugs and alcohol ‘hijack’ our brain’s reward system because the rewards from them are so quick and efficient – and our brains like things to happen instantly. Walking in nature also makes us feel good, but from the brain’s perspective it’s harder work. Drugs and alcohol switch on the right bits of our brains really efficiently, lighting up the reward system and fuelling our thoughts and beliefs.

I’m a clinical psychologist and I use CBT and related techniques such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) to treat addictions, and to help with my own dilemmas in life. ACT is a mindfulness-based ‘third wave’ behaviour therapy, representing the most up-to-date thinking about addictions treatment. It works best because at its heart it’s about accepting who you are and the situation you’re in. When experiencing difficulties, people often feel pressure to change.

I believe that you are who you are, and my role is to help you change your behaviour so life works better for you. If you can accept yourself you’ve got a better chance of moving on.

I feel passionately about treating addictions, and I really like the people I meet doing this job. As a group and as individuals they wear their vulnerabilities on their sleeve, and they’ve found a solution but realised that the solution has now become the problem. And it could happen to anyone. Most of us have at some point had to ask ourselves whether we’re going too far with something.

Whether it’s checking our smartphones, playing games, smoking or drinking, addiction affects us all, and society encourages us to engage in addictive behaviours. The solutions are relatively straightforward, but they’re really hard work. It’s about persistence. And I like helping people with persistence.

QUALIFICATIONS

Doctorate in Clinical Psychology

Certificate in CBT Supervision

Diploma in Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapies

MSc Health Psychology

BSc Hons Psychology