Alcohol & Substance Abuse Counseling

SERVICES I OFFERAlcohol & Substance Abuse Counseling

Alcohol and substance use disorders, often referred to as “addictions” are actually bad “habits” that some people have developed as a way of trying to cope with underlying psychological conflicts. There’s much that we do know and that we do not know about “why” some people are more susceptible to craving alcohol or a particular drug once they’ve tried it.

Whereas others can have a glass of wine with dinner every night or even be heavy drinkers when they are out with friends and then just decide not to drink anymore because they enter into a relationship or have a spiritual conversion. The same is true for other addictions like food or gambling.

a cup filled with brown alcohol and a man in the background showing regret towards the alcoholic beverage

Traditionally, alcohol and drugs have been and are still perceived differently amongst many cultures within our society, which can help explain why some people choose to use a particular substance for the first time. If a substance is legal or misinformation from the government has been spread about the particular substance being “safe” or having medicinal uses, a person may be more likely to use it for themselves or others, such as a child or vulnerable adult.  Other reasons why someone may start using alcohol or drugs for the first time include:

  • to feel good
  • to feel better
  • to do better
  • curiosity or peer pressure

Alcohol/substance use disorders affect you and your relationships. Many people who experience addiction and do not get help lose everyone who is important to them, even if they are able to eventually defeat the addiction and there are several reasons why this may occur. Other consequences of alcohol and substance use disorders, especially if they are left untreated include having impaired thinking and behaviors. You may also have physical and other psychological problems and more.

Drugs are the Number One Cause of Injury & Death in the United States [1]

If you have struggled with an alcohol or substance use disorder, it is critical to your well-being and the well-being of others that you get help.

It is certainly understandable that you may feel embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help and to expose yourself in alcohol and substance abuse counseling or psychotherapy. Most clients (if not all) feel that way at some point in their treatment. There’s probably also an element of shame that you feel when you ask someone for money for your alcohol or drugs or don’t fulfill your promises and hurt people that love you, right?

Addiction is very common. While there is more that we don’t know about why a person becomes addicted versus why others do not become addicted or can stop immediately without professional help when it comes to some substances like alcohol, we do have proven methods of alcohol and substance abuse counseling and psychotherapy can work.

Alcohol & Substance Abuse Counseling

Alcohol and other substance use disorders are complex disorders and there is no one-size fits all treatment. The first step for anyone who has this kind of problem is to admit it and seek out help. Depending upon the complexity of your condition, you may need inpatient treatment, for purposes of detox or outpatient medical intervention to ensure that you do not end up in a state of withdrawal that is worse for your body if you try to quit on your own. Other supportive services may be necessary as well, once you are stabilized. But, if your body is not yet dependent upon the alcohol or other substance or you are further along in your recovery, individual counseling may be what you need. Psychotherapy is another treatment approach that may be added on or as part of the individual counseling for alcohol and/or substance abuse. The good news is that there is hope and healing is possible because alcohol and other substance use disorders are very treatable if a person is motivated to change.

A Biopsychosocial Model for Alcohol & Substance Abuse Counseling

I believe that the biopsychosocial model is the best one for understanding and treating alcohol/substance use disorders and other addictions. The biopsychosocial model integrates information from the medical field about brain chemistry, the field of psychology about the conscious and unconscious, and fields such as sociology, anthropology, and social work about the history, cultural and spiritual beliefs that may influence the person. Thus, this comprehensive model helps guide treatment.

This means, there’s good news! Alcohol and substance use disorders, just like any other bad habit, can be broken or changed. Alcohol and drugs no longer have to control you. All that it takes is for you to decide that you love something else more than you love the alcohol or drugs and to do whatever it takes to do the hard work to maintain that loving relationship. In session, we will work together to help you identify the original reasons why you first started using, any unresolved psychological conflicts that you may have that contribute to your continued use, and help you plan for how you will cope with the temptations that can make you susceptible to relapse.

  • What if I don’t think I have a problem, but other people do?
  • What if I’ve been an addict my whole life, beginning as a child, and I’ve tried to stop before?
  • What about co-dependency?
  • Are you in recovery too?
  • What about 12-Step Programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous?
  • Isn’t counseling or therapy expensive?

It is not uncommon for other people to notice that we are having a problem before we do. If someone has brought it to your attention that they have concerns about the amount of alcohol or drugs that you are using or the effect that it is having on you, it’s time to seek out help from a professional. It’s very possible that you may be using what is known as an unconscious defense mechanism called denial. So, allow yourself to be open and honest about the problem with the professional so that he or she can accurately assess the situation and help you better understand. Remember too that while it may be tempting to be angry at the people who are sharing their concerns with you; it’s actually an act of love to let someone know that they have a problem, if it’s done out of genuine concern.

While every person’s situation is different, many children lacked supervision and often had access to alcohol and drugs because at least one parent was an addict too. Forgiveness therapy would need to be integrated into your treatment so that you may forgive your parent(s) and potentially others who you harbor anger towards, including those who may have assisted your parent(s) in their addiction, which is also known as co-dependency. Your addiction is essentially your way of “getting back” at your parents, even though it does nothing except hurt you. Once you forgive your parents, you can then learn healthy self-love and learn to share love with others, including those who you may be missing out on now, such as your own spouse and children. There is hope if you want to be free from alcohol and drugs, as well as the underlying anger and pain that caused you to desire it in the first place.

Co-dependency is as significant of an issue as the person who has a problem with alcohol or drugs, including other addictions. On the surface, co-dependency appears to be a matter of one person enabling the person with an addiction, which is often based in fear of what he or she will lose if he or she were to speak the truth and follow through with the necessary boundaries as a way of showing true love. However, co-dependency is much deeper than that and it’s actually what perpetuates addictions, the cycle of abuse, and the lack of healing. The good news for “co-dependents” is that I recognize that addiction has touched nearly every person’s life at one time or another, whether because they have personally struggled with it, or a family member or friend is currently struggling with it or did in the past, I have a way to help you if you are open to treatment. Alcohol and substance abuse counseling, psychotherapy, and forgiveness therapy are possible treatment approaches that may be tailored to fit you and your situation based upon your relationship with the person who is struggling with addiction, as well as your current use of alcohol or other substances.

No. However, addiction is something that is very near and dear to my heart. From a young age I have been around it. As a professional, I have dedicated a portion of my practice to treating addictions and the effects of addiction, including the role of co-dependency. I disagree with the assumption that I must have the same problem as my clients do in order to understand my clients and treat their conditions, particularly addiction because that flies in the face of the argument that addiction is a disease. This belief is most common amongst people who have experienced problems with alcohol and substance use disorders to expect that or seek it out, which suggests that there’s a part of you, and even those who are in recovery and treating the disorders, that knows that there’s more to alcohol and substance abuse than what we’ve been told about it being a disease.

While there some benefits to some of the support groups out there, they also vary in quality. The model that Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) provides through providing social support and living a life that is focused on “stopping” the behavior that is so disordered can help some people, but only to a certain degree. The problem is that you cannot stop being unhealthy, just by “stopping” the disordered behavior. These self-help programs fail to heal the underlying causes. Instead, these self-help programs focus on “stopping” the disordered desires and try to cover it up through ongoing maintenance or participation in their programs, in order to have a “new life”, “purpose”, or to continue to receive ongoing “support”.  Counseling or psychotherapy for addictions will focus on healing the underlying cause so that you will be able to heal from the addiction and the underlying cause, which will also have a greater impact on other areas of your life.

The first step towards recovery from addiction is about taking responsibility for your life and investing in your future, so that you can have a better life after you change the habit of addiction and learn how not to fall back into the same bad habit again. You have been able to find ways to pay for alcohol or drugs and may have even gone so far as to lose your job, family, and housing. Consider how much money you waste on fast-food and dining out or other areas where you may be able to sacrifice for your own well-being. There are social service programs that are out there that are supplemented by taxes and the generosity of others, but they also vary in quality. Many people who I have helped believe that using these social service programs was a waste of time and ultimately cost them more time, money, and relationships.

If your addiction or your family member or friend’s addiction wasn’t serious enough, you wouldn’t be reading this article and searching for help. You already know some of the possible consequences of choosing not to change your behavior and how hard it can be to do it without professional help. You probably have a good idea of how much money you have lost over the years and will likely continue to lose if you do not decide to make the change. You are worth the investment. Continuing the habit of addiction will only cost you more. The choice is yours. 

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