Professor of developmental psychopathology, University of Amsterdam
Talk 1 How definitions of addiction shape interventions
In the biomedical field, addictions have been characterized as a chronic brain disease, which was presented as the state of the science and to reduce stigmatization. During the past decade, both claims have been criticized: although the brain changes when someone gets addicted, the brain is dynamic and continuously changing as we learn. Hence, the question is to what extent the brain changes in a way that cannot revert and whether that makes it (close to) impossible to quit the addictive behavior. I will critically examine this claim and conclude that this applies to only a small minority of people meeting diagnostic criteria. In addition, the claim that the brain model will reduce stigma has not been substantiated by research, in fact, the opposite often is the case. I will present an alternative model to the chronic brain disease model, which focuses on biased choice and an integrative model in which choice takes place in interaction with environmental variables.
Talk 2 Cognitive bias modification in addiction: helping people to make better choices.
Two broad families of cognitive training interventions can be distinguished: those addressing general abilities (e.g., working memory), and those targeting disorder-specific cognitive biases (CBM). I will give a broad update on both. General ability training has yielded promising effects on cognitive processes, but not on clinical outcomes and CBM has yielded promising outcomes on clinical outcomes, but only when added to clinical treatment, not as stand-alone intervention. I will present the state-of-affairs of CBM as add-on to treatment and new developments (ABC-training) based on progress in insights into underlying mechanisms (from dual process models to automatic inferences), which have shown promising initial results.
Prof. Reinout Wiers obtained his Ph.D. in 1998 from the University of Amsterdam (UvA) on cognitive and neuropsychological risk-factors for addiction (cum laude). He was assistant and associate prof. at Maastricht University (1998-2008) and endowed professor at Radboud University Nijmegen (2006-2008), before he returned at UvA to become full professor of developmental psychopathology, where he leads the Addiction, Development and Psychopathology (ADAPT)-lab.
Since 2019, he is co-director of the UvA centre for Urban Mental Health (https://www.centreforurbanmentalhealth.com, with Claudi Bockting as other co-director). The centre for Urban Mental Health aims to unravel new pathways to improve urban mental health that take into account the complexities and dynamics of mental health problems and mental health disorders in an urban environment (https://www.centreforurbanmentalhealth.com). Wiers is primarily known for his work on assessing and changing implicit or relatively automatic processes in addictions and related disorders, for which he received the VIDI and VICI grants from the Netherlands national science foundation. His work is widely cited (h-index 95, google scholar April 2023) and he has given many international keynotes on this topic. In addition to his primary scientific work, he is licensed cognitive behaviour therapist.