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Substance Abuse Counseling

Counseling, in the form of both individual and group sessions, will make up the foundation for treatment of a substance use disorder such as alcoholism or drug addiction. The complexity of addiction, characterized by intense, uncontrollable cravings, persistent consequences and a nagging desire to quit, affects every aspect of a user’s life. As such, substance abuse counseling is often the focus when it comes to providing supportive care for optimal recovery.

What is Substance Abuse Counseling?

As with any disease or condition, addiction affects various elements of the user’s thought processes and behaviors. It’s these very thought processes and behaviors which may also be responsible for the onset of the drug or alcohol use. Substance abuse counseling is a method of community outreach in which those who are suffering from addiction speak with certified addiction professionals about their past and present substance use problems, about the problems that may have led up to substance use and about the underlying elements that are responsible for their current state.

substance abuse help

Counseling helps people understand and overcome their addiction.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “substance abuse and behavioral disorders counselors advise people who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, or other behavioral problems.” These counselors provide treatment and supportive care to those who suffer from addiction to help them stabilize and restore balance into their lives.

Types of Substance Abuse Counseling

Various methods of treatment and counseling are provided when an individual enters a rehabilitation program that is focused on helping him or her heal from the trauma and pain caused by substance abuse. Not only is there substance abuse counseling for the addict, there are also a number of treatment methods available to assist the loved ones and family members with the challenges that they face when someone they care about is suffering from a substance abuse disorder.

The most common types of counseling for substance abuse include:

Individual Counseling

According to NIDA, individual substance abuse counseling addresses, “the symptoms of the drug addiction and areas of impaired functioning that are related to it, and the content and structure of the patient’s ongoing recovery program.” Privacy is the main focus in individual counseling sessions. Here, patients will discuss:

  • Drug monitoring results
  • Past session events or topics
  • Topics that are appropriate for the current phase of treatment that the user is in

The private nature of these sessions allows the patient to address topics that are private in nature and which they may not want to openly discuss in a group setting. It is during individual counseling that patients will receive the one-on-one support that they need to work through their problems and learn how to prevent relapse.

Group Counseling

Group counseling or therapy is highly effective due to, “the natural propensity of human beings to congregate,” according to Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy. Naturally, even those who are addicted tend to migrate toward others, and in treatment, those who are in recovery migrate towards others who share the same goals or common bond. Studies have found that group counseling has many benefits including:

  • Positive peer support
  • Peer pressure to abstain from drug or alcohol use
  • Reduced isolation from others
  • Reintegration back into a social setting
  • Eye witness accounts of real recovery
  • Development of self-learned coping skills gained from watching how others have learned to cope
  • Constructive criticism from peers who are “in the same boat”
  • A family-like experience that feels comfortable and safe
  • Improved social skills learned in the group which can be used outside of the group
  • Confrontation in a safe environment
  • Structured therapy in an otherwise chaotic situation
  • Restored hope and eagerness to do as well as others
  • Peer encouragement outside of the group

Optimal group therapy varies from one individual or group to the next. According to NIDA, it’s important to recognize that group therapy is not the same as 12-step programs like AA or NA. While these programs do take part in a group setting, they are support groups not therapeutic groups. Most effective treatment programs provide access to a combination of individual substance abuse counseling, group therapy and support groups such as 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

Types of Therapy in Substance Abuse Counseling

Substance abuse counselors have a wealth of therapeutic options at their disposal when it comes to helping people to achieve sobriety. Counselors, therapists and treatment professionals often combine a mixture of the following types of therapy to provide adequate and effective treatment to those suffering from drug or alcohol addiction:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – a method of therapy which utilizes counseling to leverage changes to thought processes that are considered habitual or otherwise negative and which interfere with normal behavioral response.
  • Family Therapy – a method of therapy which the entire family is educated, counseled and essentially treated for the effects that substance use has had on them as a whole.
  • Exposure Response Prevention – a method of therapy which helps people to overcome classic anxiety associated with obsessions and compulsive drug seeking or drug use behavior, this treatment focuses on helping the user to develop a tolerance to the elements which elicit negative behaviors and in helping him or her to avoid negative responses.
  • Marital Therapy – Husbands and wives are deeply affected by the use of drugs or alcohol by their spouse. Marital therapy provides education, support and counseling to assist in the overall healing of the marriage following substance abuse and addiction.
  • Talk Therapy – this method of therapy is a very broad term used to describe the open discussion that takes place between a counselor or therapist and the recovering addict. However, it’s important to note that talk therapy is about more than just talking to one another, the substance abuse counselor will provide guidance and direction to ensure that the discussion is focused on real elements of addiction and recovery—otherwise the user will not gain adequate effectiveness from the treatment.
  • Play Therapy – Often used for children who have parents who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, this method of substance abuse counseling focuses on helping children to find a way to verbalize their thoughts and the negative emotions that occur as a result of their parent’s substance use. Play therapy helps children to relax, eliminate stress or anger, and feel at ease with the situation.
  • Motivational Interviewing – this method of therapy is used in substance abuse counseling to help elicit motivation in the recovering addict. Rewards or incentives are provided for positive change such as clean drug testing, emotional breakthroughs or the achievement of individual recovery goals.
  • Psychotherapy – Defined by the Mayo Clinic as, “a general term for treating mental health problems by talking with a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health provider,” psychotherapy is often used in substance abuse counseling as a foundation upon which other methods of treatment and therapy are devised. Talk therapy, individual counseling, and family therapy are all types of psychotherapy.

What Type of Substance Abuse Counseling is Right for Me?

If you’re wondering how substance abuse counseling will fit into your daily regime of treatment for addiction, or if you’re still wondering what type of counseling will be most effective for your individual needs, consider the following factors:

  • Substance abuse counseling methods vary and your counselor will likely be the one to choose the most effective means of psychosocial treatment or therapy for your needs.
  • If you’re uncomfortable with a particular method of therapy or counseling, be open and honest with your counselor and don’t be afraid to speak up.
  • If you think that a particular type of treatment may be more effective, or if you are interested in trying a particular type of treatment for your condition, talk with your counselor about the possibility of incorporating the therapy in.
  • If you feel like the substance abuse counseling that you are receiving is not helping, but you are giving it your best effort, be honest with your counselor about your feelings. Many methods of therapy must be adjusted in order to meet the unique needs of each patient. Don’t be afraid to be honest about how you feel—this is the only way the counselor will truly know how to adjust the treatment appropriately in order to fully meet your needs.

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