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Substance Abuse and new Methods of Treatment

Elaine S Brown, LPC

There have been many new developments in the area of substance abuse treatment.  Many programs tout their program as being very successful without much in the way of statistical analysis to uphold that claim.  It is often hard to determine if a program is successful once the client leaves the program.  Clients may be reluctant to tell the surveyor the truth about their situations due to embarrassment or a desire to appear cured.  

It is important to look and evaluate the program based on the individuals unique situation and needs.  A posh environment may look inviting, but are the counselors licensed in the area of mental health?  What are the credentials of the therapists?  Can the facility offer dual diagnosis treatment and what does that mean?  Typically facilities that offer dual diagnosis treatment must have therapists who are Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs), Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs), Psychologists or Psychiatrists (including Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners) to evaluate, diagnose and treat other disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and many others.  A Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC) who does not have the additional training and licensing as stated above, is not qualified to treat mental health issues.

Many Substance Abuse facilities are 12 step programs.  The 12 step program has been in existence since the 1930s and has worked well for some individuals.  The 12 step program does not require any special training to implement the program and thus is attractive to many facilities.  While some individuals do well with a 12 step program, others feel that it is not in line with their values or needs.  Some treatment facilities offer alternatives to the 12 step program which may work well for individuals who did not succeed with a 12 step program or did not feel it resonated with them.  One such alternative is Smart Recovery.  Smart Recovery requires that all facilitators attend substantial training and uses widely accepted therapeutic methods to assist individuals in the path to recovery from substance abuse.  It has been used successfully, since the 1990s,  in the United States and other countries.   Smart Recovery works for many individuals who have either found that the 12 step program did not work for them or did not agree with the 12 step principles.

If you or a loved one is battling substance abuse/addiction, it is important to find the right facility to treat the problem.  Talking with the facility is a first step in determining what feels right for you or your loved one.  Sometimes, the fanciest facility may not offer the best treatment.  So it is important to ask questions and get a feel for how the facility operates.



Back to School Blues

Elaine S. Brown, LPC

School is back in session and many children, teens and parents have begun the adjustment from the summer months to the scheduled school days.  The pressures of homework, extracurricular activities and a regimented day schedule may lead many children and teens to feel overwhelmed and anxious.  Parents may also feel overwhlemed as they take their child from school to activities or help them complete homework.  The incidence of childhood depression and anxiety has increased in our society as the expectations for children have increased both at school and in extracurricular activities.

If you see that your child appears to be struggling with anxiety or depression, it may be time to assess the level of stress they are experiencing at school and to determine ways to reduce the stressors.  Teens especially are sensitive to outside pressures and feel a strong need to belong to their peer group.  It is important to talk to your teen to assess what he or she is concerned about.  However, sometimes it is difficult for children and teens to talk with parents about their feelings.  Individual and/or family counseling may be appropriate to help the child, teen and parents learn to work together to reduce the stress of the family as a whole.


Negotiating the Holidays as a Couple

Rebecca Daniels, LPC Intern, LMFT-A

Though it may not always feel like it with the warm weather we have in central Texas, holidays are coming up fast.  That can mean different things for all of us, but for many families it means spending more time together, seeing extended family, travel, and (my favorite) negotiating boundaries with our family members.

This is all made more complex with new partners, whether married, engaged, or cohabitating.  Learning how to balance the needs and desires of each person’s family, along with what you as a NEW family want, can be tricky.  Whether or not this is the first year that you and your partner are spending time with each other’s families during the holiday, here are a few things to think about and discuss when making plans:

1. Will travel be involved?  If so, how will you make that work?  Does one person’s family live closer than the other’s?  Will you travel to see both partner’s families?  Split up holidays between families? Is travel even feasible for you at this time?  Sometimes time and budget restrictions mean that extensive travel is not an option.  This may mean forgoing all family visits, or just travel to see one partner’s family.  If that has to happen, it’s important to talk about how they and their family feel about missing a visit around the holidays.  These conversations can be difficult, as people will often have hurt feelings around this, even if they understand the practical reasons for not seeing someone around the holidays.

2. Do certain traditions and rituals hold special meaning for family members?  For some, opening gifts together on Christmas morning, or celebrating the first night of Hanukkah together are how their families have always celebrated.  For others, just seeing loved ones at some point during a particular holiday would be enough.  Talk with your partner about what important events you can each make a priority, and realize that you might need to compromise with each family.

3. Does your family have certain expectations of you for holiday visits?  What about your partner’s family?  Have you and your partner talked to your families about what they can realistically expect of you this year, or how things might be different now that you a a part of a new family?  Maybe your family does something slightly different each year depending on who can be there and what is going on in the lives of family members.  Others may expect all adult children to travel to their family home because that is what has happened every year before now.  Get some clarity on what is expected of you and your partner and don’t rely on assumptions.

No matter what, it’s important to make these decisions together with your partner, and present your plans and concerns to your families as a united front.  If you find that these conversations are too hard to manage between just you and your partner, or that you are having the same arguments around this issue over and over again, couples’ counseling may be a good way to engage in a productive discussion about family expectations around the holidays.