Changing Substance Use
If you are reading this, you may be feeling concerned and ashamed regarding your use of alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs. You may have tried to make changes to your use on your own or with other counselors. Your loved ones may be concerned about you and you may be feeling less than fulfilled in your life. I work with professionals and students who, despite success in other realms of their lives, continue to experience, either directly or indirectly, some level of harm from their use.
My perspective around substance use is one of harm reduction. I do not look at alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs as either good or bad. People around the globe have been experimenting with changes to consciousness for millennia. My job is to focus on what harms you may be experiencing from your substance use and to partner with you to reduce or eliminate that harm.
My approach to helping people with substance use problems is different from traditional treatment programs in several ways. First, I will make no assumptions about who you are or the extent of the problem. Each person brings to counseling their own unique history, family culture, and set of experiences. It will be useful for me to understand your own life story if we are to work well together. Second, we will partner on learning about your substance use as if it were a research project. We will gather data about your use which may allow you to gain some objectivity when talking about your substance use—it may feel less shameful to you and more like a curiosity to understand.
Armed with this knowledge, we will collaborate to help you decide what route to change you would like to try. Research suggests that the best approach to changing substance use—whether it is abstinence or moderation—is the one you decide for yourself rather than one imposed upon you. Many of my clients feel free to try out different approaches until they settle on the one that is right for their lives. In some cases, people may try the social support that comes from Alcoholics Anonymous. A client may also consider medications that have helped others with changing substance use. On occasion, I may support a person going to an inpatient treatment center and I help with the referral process should this be the case.
The most important thing you should take away from reading this is that you will have an experienced, non-dogmatic and non-judgmental clinician partnering with you in the process. I won’t shy away from being direct with you and honest about my concerns but you stay in charge of all treatment decisions.