To become a licensed counselor, someone must complete a master's degree in counseling and then complete hands-on work as a counselor (under supervision). The number of required hours of hands-on training varies by state. Many counselors specialize in addiction treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, and the majority receive training in psychotherapy techniques. In terms of substance abuse issues, where therapists deal specifically with healing the root causes of a person's addiction (childhood, trauma background, etc.), counselors deal with the current day-to-day needs of the person. This involves what's called case management, which can include things like housing (which halfway house are you eligible for, or where are you going to live after you get out of a treatment center?); child care (how can you you get your child back if custody is jeopardized by addiction issues?); employment services (informing you about job placement programs), etc. Many times, counselors can also help with interventions, whereas most therapists do not.
In order to become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in social work, a person must have a master's degree in counseling. Depending on the state, an LPC may also be called a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC). An LPC specializing in social work will look not just at a person's drug or alcohol addiction issues, but their economic and social status, their home environment, and other factors when determining a treatment plan for that patient. They are sensitive to issues like whether a person struggling with addiction has a safe home environment in which to recover (or whether they may need to go to a halfway house); whether a person has a job that will help support them in recovery or whether they need to change jobs, etc. Counselors help with the practicalities of everyday life and what will help support sobriety.
License Number provided by State: PC006716 Pennsylvania
Options for Adolescents
Family Counseling can be for both the addict and his/her family, or may be solely for family members (without the addict present). Many support groups for family members of addicts see addiction as a family illness, not just the problem of one member of the family (the addict). Numerous research studies also demonstrate that recovery is far more successful and sustainable when loved ones -- especially family members -- participate in rehab and/or substance abuse treatment. Family support groups are also helpful since family members relating with an addict often need support themselves; it's a very stressful thing to deal with. Family support groups allow all members of the family to receive the benefits of treatment, and can include training on how to communicate effectively, establish healthy boundaries, and get support around the stress and trauma of addiction.
In individual Counseling, a client meets one-on-one with a trained therapist or counselor. This kind of psychotherapy and focused attention is a crucial part of treating substance abuse and helping individuals overcome alcohol and drug addiction. Therapy can be instrumental in uncovering the root causes of addiction, such as challenges and struggles a patient has faced in their family, social, and work/school lives. Once these root causes (which often involve past trauma) are identified and worked through, substance abuse is much easier to overcome and sobriety to be reached. Different therapists use different therapeutic modalities, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which has been shown to be effective in stopping addiction while also providing tools for maintaining sobriety.
Couples Counseling, or couples-focused treatment programs, involve both partners in a relationship. Substance abuse (alcohol or drug addiction) has major effects on both partners within a relationship, and the purpose of couples treatment is to address both sides. For example, if a husband is an alcoholic, his wife is impacted by his addiction and his behaviors. He, in turn, is impacted by her reaction and response to them. Many couples dealing with addiction also struggle with codependency, which can enable or even make the addictive behavior worse. In couples therapy, patterns like codependency are explained and explored, with the goal of both partners learning how to communicate and connect in healthy ways, and establish healthy boundaries with one another. In addition to addiction, rehabilitation and recovery also affects and changes a relationship. Couples-focused treatment allows partners to explore the triggers of addiction, as well as learning how to build a healthy support system while maintaining sobriety.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse:
A combined mental health and substance abuse treatment center is designed to treat individuals with both mental health and substance abuse issues. Therapists and staff at these kinds of centers help patients who struggle with both a drug and alcohol addiction, along with a mental health problem like clinical depression, anxiety disorders, Bipolar Disorder, and more. They're trained to help patients identify the root causes of their addiction and mental health issues, and to help manage both. Many addiction counselors specialize in treating individuals with mental health problems, and are well-equipped to deliver high-quality treatment to those struggling from addiction alongside a mental health issue.
There are many warning signs for alcoholism. For someone who is abusing alcohol, excessive drinking affects their work, school and home life. Other symptoms of alcohol abuse include: memory loss or blacking out, engaging in risky behavior (like driving a car), and hurting yourself or someone else while drunk. Alcohol abuse can progress to alcoholism. An alcoholic can’t control when or how much they drink. For an alcoholic, the goal of treatment is abstinence. Treatment and recovery from alcoholism usually involves therapy or counseling, as well as 12 step programs and AA meetings.
Dual diagnosis refers to the diagnosis given to a person or patient who struggles with addiction and has also been diagnosed with a mental or emotional illness. To treat someone with a dual diagnosis, rehab centers and other mental health facilities aim to provide comprehensive treatment for both the substance abuse and mental illness. At these facilities, counselors and therapists work with dual-diagnosis patients to help them manage their mental health problems and overcome addiction at the same time. Common co-occurring substance abuse and mental illnesses can include drug addiction or alcoholism alongside clinical depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, and more. In some cases, a mental health illness can lead to an addiction issue, or vice versa: an addiction issue can create a mental health issue. It's important to treat both at the same time whenever possible.
Co-Dependency refers to a relationship in which one person sacrifices their own wants and needs to "fix" or support the other partner. In a codependent relationship, love and intimacy are often experienced as one partner in distress, while the other partner "rescues" or enables them. Codependency can lead to substance abuse and addiction, and codependents may be less likely to seek help for their issues, as they tend to be the "helpers" in relationships. The term love addiction is used to describe a compulsive or constant pursuit of romantic love as a way to feel secure and worthy.
Depression is a serious mood disorder. Signs and symptoms of depression include: fatigue, trouble sleeping, changes in appetite, lack of interest in activities a person used to enjoy, irritability, and suicidal thoughts. A depressed person might feel sad, anxious, or hopeless. Typically, symptoms must persist for at least two weeks before someone is diagnosed with clinical depression. Depression can affect people of all ages, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. An estimated 30% of people with substance abuse problems suffer from depression.
Eating disorders are often considered food addictions, in that food is used in an addictive way (similar to drug or alcohol addiction). Common types of eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and dysfunctional eating patterns. Signs and symptoms can include dramatic weight loss; concern about eating in public; an intense fear of being "fat", even though underweight; having an excessive, rigid exercise regime; and rigid thinking. Multiple rehab facilities and substance abuse treatment programs offer treatment for eating disorders, and there are also individual counselors who specifically treat eating disorders (outside just rehab clinics). For some individuals, an eating disorder may occur alongside a drug or alcohol problem. In order to help someone get the care they need, it’s important to see a therapist who is trained in treating both eating disorders and addiction.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder:
A person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) has repetitive, unwanted thoughts (obsessions), along with irrational, excessive urges (compulsions). Signs of OCD include: the urge to organize and clean things, feeling anxious, thoughts about hurting yourself or others, and washing your hands until skin becomes raw. Someone with OCD who is also struggling with alcohol or drug addiction may have more severe symptoms or behaviors. A counselor or therapist who specializes in both mental health and substance abuse treatment can help someone overcome addiction and deal with their OCD.
PTSD and Trauma:
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that someone can develop after experiencing a traumatic incident, such as a shooting, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault (i.e. rape or child sexual abuse). Symptoms of PTSD include reliving the event in one's mind; nightmares; avoiding situations that might trigger memories of the event; negative beliefs and feelings; and feeling jittery, angry or irritable. The main types of treatment for PTSD are psychotherapy and medication. Someone suffering from PTSD may experience depression, anxiety and substance abuse problems.
Gambling addiction, also known as "compulsive gambling" or "problem gambling," is when a person cannot resist the urge to gamble. It's what's known as an "impulse control disorder," meaning the addict can't stop him- or herself from gambling (it's compulsive). Compulsive gambling often has very negative consequences for both the gambling addict and their loved ones, both emotional and financial. For example, compulsive gambling addicts can get into extreme financial trouble (i.e. bankruptcy or owing people or institutions like casinos thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars), which impacts both that individual as well as those depending on them for financial support (family). Gambling addiction is often accompanied by behavioral or mood disorders, such as anxiety disorder, depression, ADHD or Bipolar Disorder. Individuals with a gambling problem may also struggle with substance abuse, alcoholism, or drug addiction.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a common therapy technique. This type of therapy focuses on the relationship between a person's thoughts, feelings and behaviors. For example, if you know that when you have the thought, "I'm worthless," you want to drink or do drugs, you can then make a new choice in the future when you have that thought (like calling a friend or going for a walk instead). Awareness is critical in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the ultimate goal of which is to help patients develop healthy responses to their thoughts and feelings. CBT has been proven very helpful for people struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, as well other mental health issues, like eating disorders. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps a person become more self-aware and build up their ability to cope with problems in healthier ways. Many therapists, counselors, psychologists, and social workers use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques when working with their patients.
Creative Arts Therapy:
We tend to think of therapy as 'talk' therapy, but this is not the only type of therapy. Creative arts therapy can help someone dealing with substance abuse or mental health issues in a different way. Creative arts therapy includes music, poetry/writing, painting, sculpting, dance, theater, sandplay, and other creative activities. This type of therapy helps someone express emotions, thoughts and experiences that might be hard to talk about. Creative arts therapy can be beneficial for children, teenagers and adults struggling with mental health problems, alcoholism and drug addiction. This form of therapy is not meant to replace 'talk' therapy or other types of treatment. However, creative arts therapy provides an important outlet for patients while in recovery.
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