Counselling is not the only option
Drug and alcohol use affects not only the person using the substance themselves, but the people around them too. It is estimated that for every problematic substance user, between five and twenty family members are affected by their use (ADFAM).
I wanted to write about why counselling isn’t the only option. Don’t get me wrong, I will never, ever discredit counselling because I’ve had it myself and had a positive experience. I also work with counsellors and fully respect what they do, so they would not be too impressed with me if I said otherwise!
That said, counselling isn’t the only option. Recently, I’ve had a few conversations about this very point.
About my service
For the type of help someone using substances can access, have a look at my blog, Drug and alcohol help- choices for a friend or family member.
Speaking for myself, I am a qualified and experienced drug and alcohol practitioner, also qualified in teaching, NLP, a safeguarding practitioner and soon-to-be professional coach and I have led and developed services and teams. I have a track record of supporting individuals and families to recover from their own substance use or the effects of it as a family member.
I offer solution focused therapeutic interventions.
What does that mean? It means when a person using substances, or a family member, comes to me and asks me to help them with drugs, alcohol and associated problems, they set the goals and I guide them towards achieving these goals within a specific time-frame, following a specific programme.
The therapy isn’t just the session we have together. The individual I’m working with has to put into practice what we’ve covered in the session. Therapy requires a commitment to change.
I used evidence-based programmes for my family work. Evidence-based means that I use programmes that have been developed by other people that have been tested out to be effective for the people I’m working with. If my client goes off track, that’s fine, I’ll help them get back on their path to reach their goal, or we’ll set new ones together. Things change, so do people.
My clients are in control, I advise and guide them to get to where they want to be, but in planned, semi-structured sessions. We cover different topics in each session, have a check in and review at the start of each session and plan an action for the week at the end of it. I want to move people on.
For me, the session doesn’t end there, there is additional work that takes place behind the scenes such as recording notes, admin tasks, contacting services I have consent to speak with or refer to and so on. If there is more than one family member getting support, then this will increase the time spent on each case. I have an option to travel to my clients, so this time is factored in.
What my clients get as standard is:
- Weekly one-hour therapeutic session (Skype/face to face with options in family home or at my Manchester base)
- Solution-focused work so they will see a change in the time they work with me which is evidence by a relaxed assessment at the start and end of our work.
- Actions to follow up between sessions with support
- Programmes are evidence based
- Referrals and communication with existing or new services (with consent)
- Email/text contact between sessions
I also offer options to support people in their own homes or at an appropriate venue or their choice.
My expertise in supporting recovery from drugs and alcohol ensures that the people I support get a specialist service for a special issue.
Other types of support
I asked some colleagues and friends of mine what they offer in their services, so I could attempt to explain counselling and alternative support…
Louise Wilkinson is not only a qualified drug and alcohol practitioner but is also a counsellor. I asked her what the difference is in drug and alcohol work and counselling. She said,
“A counsellor process is led by the client. The counsellor doesn’t have an agenda. The session is directed and led primarily by the person coming for help. The sessions help them to achieve whatever brought them to counselling in the first place. It doesn’t mean the presenting need ends up being the problem they end up dealing with, but they are autonomous in their decision making and how the session goes.”
Following the session, some counsellors will write up brief therapeutic notes, so unless there are any safeguarding issues, when the session finishes, the therapists work is complete. The client will have a lot to think about. Louise says that in her role as a substance misuse worker, she does use counselling skills, but also offers information and advice, which wouldn’t be the case in her counselling sessions where she would encourage her clients to work through feelings, emotions and behaviours.
Some counsellors specialise in addiction (and many other areas) too, so be sure to ask this because it is really useful to work through the feelings that led to the substance use in the first place. There is usually no time limit to counselling so some people might access it for years and others a much shorter period of time.
Thomas McGowan is a hypnotherapist and he describes hypnotherapy as,
“Relaxation, like daydreaming, that’s what the feeling is almost. Clients are fully aware of what’s going on, but are focusing on the subconscious mind, where everything is controlled, including feelings and functions. By working directly with the subconscious mind, we are able to get to the root cause of presenting problems. We cannot change memories, but we can sever the emotional ties, are so clients getting the best possible outcomes with the least discomfort.”
Thomas delivers addiction hypnotherapy in which he deals with changing perspective, letting go of the past and building the future. The initial offer is five x 1.5 hour sessions with the option of ongoing support if needed.
In Thomas’s opinion, hypnotherapy clients revisit their pain-points but they are moved on from these in a comfortable way, rather than staying in the moment. He believes counselling works through these painful times by revisiting them and the feelings associated with it.
Community Drug and Alcohol Services
Each local authority provides funded drug and alcohol services, guided by our drug strategy. They are free for people who want to use the service. Every locality offers a service for adults and also for young people. These services provide support for people experiencing problems with substances. Some also provide support for affected family members too. For example, One Recovery in Bury delivers CRAFT which is an evidence- based model supporting families living with a loved one’s substance use. It is a similar model to the one I use in my practice.
I have previously worked at Early Break and I’m currently delivering a project there for their Holding Families Service. Early Break has a range of services that supports young people and families. I might be biased but they are brilliant!
The difference between these service and the others I mentioned is that these are free and the others are private, which means the client pays for them. Some counselling can be offered through GP’s along with other therapies like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which are equally as effective, depending on the needs of the client. They usually require a bit of a wait to access them because of the high need.
It is always advisable to check a practitioner’s experience of supporting drugs, alcohol and/or families before deciding to work with them. In addition, check their credentials and who they are registered or accredited with because this gives an extra layer of protection for the services you opt for. I am registered with the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Practitioners, which means I have to follow their code of practice and I’m listed on there in their practitioner directory.
Some people want a private service, others don’t, but everyone listed above works confidentially. Every one of the services above may be qualified in one or more type of support. The important thing is to ask.
Hopefully this has made a bit of sense about the options available to support families and that counselling is not the only option.
I obviously don’t have time to mention every type of support here. There are so many options for therapy. Here are some services relevant to my clients:
- For children affected by parental alcohol use, take a look at NACOA.
- For families, take a look at ADFAM’s website.
I can help
My service, The Vesta Approach, supports families affected by a loved one’s substance use. You can access confidential support from me wherever you are in the world. I will help you to get your loved one into treatment and lead a better life. I offer face to face sessions in the Manchester (UK) area or via Skype worldwide.
I also have an online therapeutic programme. Take a look at my services here
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