The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration define recovery as “as a process of change through which an individual achieves abstinence, health, wellness and quality-of-life.”
Many people successfully recover from addiction through diligence and with proper support. Being diligent about recovery requires each person to include proven physical, spiritual, and therapeutic interventions in their ongoing recovery plan. Changing habits, remaining abstinent, learning new life skills and resolving the hurts of the past are all components of achieving long term recovery and avoiding relapse.
My personal recovery journey and my work as a professional addiction counselor have shown me that recovery support groups, recovery buddies, sponsors and recovery-oriented reading are important parts of a well-executed recovery program. However, for many these alone are not enough – they reach a point where seeking counseling from a professional is needed to deal with the root cause(s) of why they began abusing substances in the first place.
Here are some of the benefits of addiction counseling that I think are noteworthy:
A qualified professional can perform a complete assessment of a person’s physical, mental and spiritual needs. The assessment provides valuable information needed for developing a proper treatment plan based on best practice methods. Without a proper treatment plan that includes a physician and other professionals, the underlying needs of recovering persons will likely not be fully addressed.
Professional assessments take into account various factors such as race, age and social economic status in developing a successful plan to stay clean. For example, there is a growing body of research that suggests that upper-middle and upper-class children have similar problems that resemble what we find in low income families. Problems such as meeting developmental milestones, adjusting to the challenges of young adolescence/young adulthood and development of proper motivation to achieve. Fortunately, research has provided addiction counselors with methods of overcoming these issues within the context specific to these young people.
Trauma and Addiction
Professional addiction counselors can help resolve trauma that has occurred in the lives of addicted individuals. One study I reviewed indicated that as many as 70% of adolescents who have substance-abuse issues have experienced significant childhood trauma. There is a clear relationship between traumatic experiences and developing addiction. For more information, see my previous blog “Are Addiction and Trauma Connected?”
Some specific types of mental health problems are caused by chemical imbalance, as is the case with bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia to name a few. These conditions require a medical doctor, most often a psychiatrist, who is also experienced in addiction treatment to evaluate the possible need for psychotropic medication and/or homeopathic treatment. This is done in tandem with an addiction counseling professional to ensure proper case management.
Comprehensive Relapse Prevention Plan
Addiction counselors know that one of the most powerful tools they have in their treatment toolbox is developing a quality Relapse Prevention Plan that is designed specifically for that individual’s unique needs. This scientifically based teachable skill set is, in my opinion, a most essential element required to achieve long term recovery.
Life Skills Training
Years ago, I ran across the term “life skills training” as part of comprehensive recovery package. Addiction counselors use this term to include any kinds of skills that a person in recovery needs for a successful life in recovery. Some of these skills include financial management, assertiveness, intimacy training, managing of anxiety/depression or chemical imbalances beyond just taking medication. A highly skilled and experienced addiction counselor offers the opportunity for this skill development.
Accountability and Support
In my opinion, the people I work with need to have a central person in their life that helps them manage the recovery process, in essence someone that supports guarding their recovery and makes sure that they’re taking the proper steps to prevent relapse. This can be the addiction counselor, a sponsor and/ or a sober coach.
This is a very important service offered in my addiction counseling practice. Often the individuals I work with, particularly those in early recovery, do not have a connection with another person that can help them be accountable to stay sober. The first 90 days of recovery is difficult, and individuals are at high risk of relapse. Having a counselor to fill in the gap and hold them accountable until their recovery network becomes solid is wise. A professional is also skilled in recognizing any signs of trouble before a relapse happens.
Benefits of Working with the Family
Why and how counseling can benefit the entire family will be a subject of a future blog. For now, suffice it to say that since addiction is a family disease, part of any intervention and/or treatment plan should at some point address the entire family. Family members frequently find they are in need of some personal counseling themselves to better understand their feelings and role in enabling the addict. A highly skilled and experienced addiction counselor most often advocates for the healing of entire family.
Recovery is a humbling process that begins with seeking help. The process of staying sober requires great diligence and a village of others to ensure success. Being willing to go to any length to get help from a variety of sources, including professionals, is essential for successful long-term recovery.
Here's some more information that may be of interest to you:
Isolation Is Our Enemy: How to Stay Sober in the Coronavirus Pandemic
What Causes Addiction?
Are Trauma & Addiction Connected?
How Do You Know If You Have a Drinking Problem?
Could Your Brain be Wired for Alcoholism?
Spiritual Life of Children & Addiction: Are They Connected?
Why Are Teens & Young Adults So Susceptible to Drug Use?
Talk to Your Children About Drugs Before It’s Too Late
If you or a loved one may be struggling with addiction, it is very important for you to seek out professional help as soon as possible. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if I may be of assistance to you or your loved ones. My website provides more information on my practice and how to contact me with questions or take advantage of a free 20-minute phone appointment.
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