The AMA (American Medical Association) has an excellent definition of alcoholism; the APA (American Psychiatric Association) has a set of criteria that divide substance problems of many drugs and alcohol into “Abuse” or “Dependence.” There are many good online self screening tools to help determine if someone has a problem with substances. It is very important to have these ways of determining whether someone has a problem or not.
For individuals and families struggling with addiction, though, it becomes less about getting to the definition or fitting criteria and more about the answer to one simple question: Is your use causing problems, and do you need to stop using to stop the problems? If the answer is “No,” breathe a big sigh of relief and continue to read for pleasure. If the answer is “Yes,” then you are likely reading this page because you have become pretty desperate to change a habit, or you have a spouse or parent looking over your shoulder. You can probably stop, and good counseling can help you stop using.
There are very few decisions in a person’s life that are more important than whether or not to drink or do drugs. Who you marry, how many kids you have, what you do for a living, where you live, which school you go to – all these choices pale in comparison to the choice regarding your use. If you are a casual or non problematic user, you may be scoff at this assertion. But for the rest, the assertion rings hollow and true. I do not make it lightly, and base it on a lifetime of learning and observation, as well as 7 years of experience in the substance abuse field. Here’s why: no other decision impacts your health, relationships, career, or the course of your life more than drugs and alcohol if you have a problem from using them.
The good news is that few changes can improve our lives as much as eliminating a substance abuse problem. Good counseling can help you or someone you love get on the right track regarding your choices about how not to use. Individual addictions counseling can help tailor your recovery experience to you, filling in some of the gaps that support groups, group counseling or medication management might leave. Once per week individual counseling alone is not likely to yield long term sobriety for most people, but it can help solidify gains, shore up weak spots, and open new paths to success for someone becoming clean and sober.
Since it is tailored to your needs, it is difficult to capture just how individual addictions counseling might benefit you, but here are a couple of common situations.
You are new to being sober and you are overwhelmed with all of the changes you are making. You can’t talk to your family about your urges because they’ll freak out, you can’t talk to your group about your depression because you don’t trust them enough yet, and that other thing, where do you go to talk about THAT? Counseling creates the private, nonjudgmental space where you can bring out all of you and work toward what you desire out of your clean and sober life. That might be asking questions and getting educated on concepts related to sobriety, it might be solving pressing problems that aren’t directly related to substance abuse, and it might be an emotional getaway for an hour if that’s what you need from your session.
Another somewhat regular scenario is this: You’ve been sober for some years, and it’s been great, but……… there can be a lot of “buts” after this. You feel sad all the time, or you still can’t stay in relationships and you thought that was because of your drug use, or you have images that flash at you that you used to make go away with substances, but now they just don’t go away. Counseling can help you get through these next layers of difficulty and onto a more fulfilling recovery.