Counselling is not the only option- 3 ways to get help with drug and alcohol use

Counselling is not the only option- 3 ways to get help with drug and alcohol use

Ever feel confused about the support available for you and your loved one?

Look no further

In this blog, I’ll be sharing three major shortcuts to help you choose the best community-based service for you and your family. 

1. Drug and alcohol practitioners

There are excellent, trained drug and alcohol practitioners, who specifically help either you or your loved one. They support people who use drugs and alcohol into their recovery. 

Some services work specifically with families. For example, in your local authority, there are drug and alcohol services, which are free to access. They work in a holistic way, to help deal with all aspects of life. They will get the appropriate services involved to help your loved one achieve their recovery goals. This may be supporting them to stop, or reduce their substance use, or supporting you to cope. 


They offer a range of help including recovery groups.

You can contact these services yourself- just have a look on Google.

For you, there are some amazing family services. It depends on your locality.  Some are delivered through drug services. Some are separate. If in doubt, give your drug service a call and ask. 

I am a trained drug and alcohol practitioner. If you want to find quality, private practitioners (like me!) have a look here at FDAP.  We have to register and follow a specific code of conduct to deliver this work. This keeps you safe and ensures you are working with a skilled practitioner.

Always ask about ways of working, as there are LOTS of different models of support.
Testimonials are another good thing to ask for.


 2. Alternative Therapies & other support

Other support includes alternative therapies such as hypnotherapy and acupuncture. I would usually recommend these in addition to drug and alcohol treatment.

But… some people recover from substance use, solely with alternative methods of support like this. 

Those offering support are often in recovery themselves, some are not. Both people in recovery and trained professionals can be of equal value, depending on what type of support you want. People in recovery should also be trained in their particular area of work. 

There are well-known recovery methods such as NA & AA. This support is classed as mutual aid, so check them out and see if they are right for you. These groups are not necessarily run by trained and qualified practitioners. HOWEVER, they can be a fantastic support and have helped many into their recovery. AL-ANON is for family members affected by a loved ones drinking.   

SMART Recovery is another option for your loved ones recovery. The facilitators are trained. Some are professionals, some are not. I have known a lot of clients recover by using SMART Recovery methods. 

There are also coaches as an option. Again, check their credentials and experience.

Just because somebody has been through an experience themselves, does not mean they are skilled to help others. Trust me. This work is hard. There is a LOT of skill involved and professionals need to keep themselves and their clients safe. 

 There are many other support services available for families. Check out the ADFAM search to find something in your area.

I have a free, online group for women living with drug and alcohol use. Come and join me at Vesta Confidential.

3. Counselling

A good counsellor is worth their weight in gold, if you find somebody experienced in working with addictions.

One way you can find this out is ask or check them out on FDAP, because they have specific qualifications that counsellors can complete. This means they are trained and qualified to work with people who are affected by or who have experienced addiction or drug and alcohol related issues. You can also check BACP. 

Counsellors usually have no agenda or structure to their sessions. It is about you bringing what you need to sessions and working through that. This is different to the way I work. I often refer to counsellors or psychotherapists and other therapists after we have worked together to explore underlying thoughts and feelings. 

If someone has already been treated for their substance use and want to explore an underlying issue around why they have used, then find someone that works with that specific issue. This may not necessarily be addiction. Lots of people use drugs because of the trauma they have experienced. The substances mask that trauma. 

There are counsellors trained to support families too. Again, you can find them on FDAP.  

Professionals in every single type of support, can try and be all things to all people. So, always check credentials. Always check qualifications. Always check experience. 

BUT… you could also give those just qualified a chance! If everything is transparent and they act with integrity, you might find a diamond who is freshly trained and absolutely fantastic!

I haven’t mentioned medical practitioners here, but remember you can speak to your GP at any point. I would always recommend this for people who use drugs or alcohol. 

In summary…

The way I work is in a solution focused, but person-centred way. So, I help my clients get results within a certain time frame (you have to do the work!) but focus sessions around your needs, your feelings and your goals.
I will take you from being stressed, alone and not really knowing what to do…
To… knowledgeable, confident and with a whole load of effective strategies to cope with a loved one’s drug or alcohol use.

So that…
You can live a life you deserve, regardless of whether your loved one continues to use substances.

So, if you want to work with me, contact me for a free, 20 minute friendly consultation.

But hurry… because my one to one places are limited.

Hope to see you soon because I can help.


P.S- You can join my mailing list here and get tips to cope straight into your inbox!

Counselling is not the only option

Counselling is not the only option

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!


In summary


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.


Other support


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

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

Sign up to my mailing list here to keep up to date with Vesta news and get my free Ten Steps to Family Recovery download.


Take care,




Why waiting for someone to hit ‘rock bottom’ is wrong

Why waiting for someone to hit ‘rock bottom’ is wrong

One thing I often get asked or I often hear people say is that a loved one has to hit ‘rock bottom’ before they will start to think about changing their substance use.


I personally believe THIS IS NOT TRUE!

Here are ten reasons why…

  1. The message that a lot of services give is that nothing can be done unless the person using substances wants to change- this is not entirely true. No, we cannot force somebody to go into treatment for substance use. The individual has to be willing themselves. A very good practitioner and/or a family member to influence change in somebody. Waiting for someone to hit ‘rock bottom’ implies that NOTHING can be done when, in fact, it can. We can work with families to teach them the skills to support their love one and reduce pressure on the family. Or, get somebody through the door with a good practitioner and they might just stay.
  2. As it’s implied that ‘rock-bottom’ has to be reached, this leaves families with a painful wait until their loved one loses everything, and creating more stress and worry waiting for this journey to end, leaving them completely powerless.
  3. This often leaves a question around whether they should cut ties with their loved one or practise ‘tough love’. I do not agree with this either. Yes, people can unknowingly enable a loved one’s substance use and make it a little easier, but the suggestion that throwing them out on the street will help them to change is not going to be effective. People who have problems surrounding substance use need to know you love them and that you care.
  4. Harm reduction is always an option! If a loved one is not even entertaining the fact they have a problem, that’s fine. Another approach can be tried. It’s called harm-reduction. It’s easy to assume that abstinence is the only way forward, which means that people have to stop using and there is no other way to live. The reality is that if someone wants to continue to drink or use drugs, then we can support them to do it in the safest way possible. You never know, this type of support may even convince your loved one to change like in this article
  5. These opinions ignore the fact that you are the people living with your loved one’s substance use. You are the people that can be instrumental in supporting someone to change. You can help your loved one see that it is more attractive being sober than it is to be intoxicated.
  6. This does not help your mental and physical health. The Drug Strategy, 2017, states that “Evidence-based psychological interventions which involve family members should be available locally and local areas should ensure that the support needs of families and carers affected by drug misuse are appropriately met.” What we should be doing when families ring up for help is to be offering you a service for you, regardless of whether your loved one wants to change.
  7. Problematic substance use can be influenced by environmental changes. Families and friends are in a position to initiate this influence. They can change the environment and their responses when their loved one’s drinks or uses drugs. Families can be supported to help tip the balance so that the negative consequences of substance use outweigh the positives. Family members can show them that being sober is more attractive than being intoxicated.
  8. Family members have also been labelled as ‘co-dependent’, ‘controlling’, ‘victims’ and enablers (Landau et al) this adds further weight to families not wanting to get support for themselves. I believe families are POWERFUL, not powerless.
  9. A study took place in 2001 by Marlowe et al and concluded that ‘virtually all participants reported a combination of both negative and positive pressures’ 35% of these pressures was family pressure. So, this suggests that along with other pressures, this is a pretty high percentage that responded to their family. Therefore, ‘rock bottom’ was not necessary for them to change.
  10. ‘Intervention’ is often advertised as an alternative way of getting a loved one into treatment. It assumes addiction is a disease and therefore they have no control over their choices. Each member of the family takes it in turns to read out a prepared speech to the person having problems with substance use and then they are whisked off to rehab or alternative for forced treatment. How long do you think this success lasts for long term? I’m sure this method works for some people but I work using a person centred approach so it’s not for me (and rehab is not the only option- but that’s another blog for another day).


As you can see, there are lots of myths, beliefs and varying methods to support substance users. I challenge some of these. What is important is that you research them and find out what is best for you and your loved one at the time you are seeking help.


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

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I have a closed Facebook Group called Vesta Confidential. If you are affected by a loved one’s substance use, come and join me.


Sign up to my mailing list here to keep up to date with Vesta news and get my free Ten Steps to Family Recovery download.


Take care,


How to stop ‘enabling’ someone’s substance use

How to stop ‘enabling’ someone’s substance use

When I first heard the term “enabling”, I felt really sorry for the people who were classed as the “enablers”. It felt to me like a negative label attributed to someone that’s trying their best, day in, day out, to help someone they love with a substance misuse problem. “How mean”, I thought!

Now, I’ve realised that my attitude to this was all wrong. Enabling actually means unknowingly “making something possible or easier”. The family and friends of people who use drugs and alcohol go through a wide range of emotions themselves and are not trained therapists, so end up trying anything and everything to help their loved one change. This is a perfectly natural thing to do!

When a loved one shows signs of recovery or a glimmer of their old self and behaviours, a relaxed and sympathetic approach ensues. As they move back into their ‘selfish’ drinking or drug using behaviours, angry reactions are to be expected. If they put themselves in danger, panic, or worry, desperate measures are called upon. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions every single day and if you’re in this situation, you’re just doing your best. See my blog on the cycle of change for more detail of the road to recovery.


What is enabling?


Disabling enabling is one of the four Vesta Programme principles. In my programme, we will tune you in to any ways in which you and others have perhaps been (unknowingly) making it a bit too easy for your loved one to drink or use drugs. Don’t worry! Everyone does this out of the love and care for their family.

In order for your loved one to change, we make a plan for this to stop these behaviours and replace them with better ones. Why? Because until you and others around your loved one stop “helping”, the chances of them stopping misusing drugs or alcohol are slim to none.

There is no judgement here. Enabling, helping or whatever you want to label it is a lovely, kind thing to do. It’s just not going to change anything.


Why does enabling matter?


If we want to influence substance misusing behaviour, there are a few things to consider. What does your loved one get out of their substance use? What do they like about it and what does it allow them to avoid? It’s important to think about these points as the benefits of their use. Secondly, what problems do drug and alcohol use cause them? What good things do they miss out on when they use or drink? These are the costs of their substance use.

If we focus on the problems that drugs and alcohol cause them, these are “punishing consequences” and include anything that makes them feel bad as a result of their substance use. Hangovers, missing work, shame, depression, aggression or health concerns. Each person will have different reactions to different consequences.

The important thing to remember is that in order to create change, the balance of the costs and the benefits of substance use needs to be shifted so that your loved one experiences ALL the natural consequences of their substance use. Your loved one needs to experience the full costs of their substance use.

If enabling takes place by anyone close to your loved one, they will continue to experience the more positive effects of their substance use. We need them to experience the negatives. It’s tough, but I can help you do this on the Vesta Programme.


Enabling behaviours


We’ve established what enabling is and why we need to stop doing it, but it’s important to understand what types of behaviour are enabling. It can be anything that reduces the painful consequences of their use, protecting them from other people’s judgements or reactions. Some examples of enabling behaviours are as follows:

  • Concealing a loved one’s substance use from family or friends
  • Paying off debts
  • Reparing damage to home or other posesisons
  • Defending them from criticism
  • Being around your loved one when they drink or use (regardless of your mood!)
  • Making excuses for them with work absence
  • Avoiding having your own life on order to help them

Can you recognise any? What might be the consequences of these behaviours for you and your loved one?

Remember that nobody is judging you here!


The benefits of disabling enabling


When we enable, we reduce the negative consequences of someone’s undesirable behaviour at a cost to ourselves. This means that instead of your loved one experiencing the cost of their own behaviour, you are! These costs manifest themselves physically, emotionally, financially and socially.

If you think about what has worked before while you have been helping your loved one in this way, what has changed? Not much?

Perhaps it’s time to try a new approach.

Instead of living like this, imagine what it would be like to free up some of your headspace and concentrate on you?

In the Vesta Programme, I will help you to assess each enabling behaviour and we will work on stopping these. We will assess how comfortable and safe you feel stopping these behaviours and alongside the other programme principles I will help you to recover from your loved one’s substance use, live a better life and get your loved one into treatment.


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.

I also have an online therapeutic programme. Take a look at my services here

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

Sign up to my mailing list here to keep up to date with Vesta news and get my free Ten Steps to Family Recovery download.


Take care,



Why you need help when you live with a person using alcohol or drugs

Why you need help when you live with a person using alcohol or drugs

Living with someone who has problems with drugs or alcohol is usually an all-consuming, emotional and relentless journey. You love them so you keep going and before you know it, every waking moment is spent thinking about them, their problems and how you can make it better. You haven’t even time to think about help for yourself. Sound familiar?


Your feelings are determined by what your loved one’s behaviour is like that particular day. Have they had a drink? Have they used? How much have they used? How will I find out? I’ll ring so and so. They’ve let me down again. The children are upset. Oh no, will there be another row? Might they get violent? How can I stop it?


I get it.


Are they really addicted?


You may be in a bit of denial or not so sure yourself that your loved one has a problem. Some people spend most of their time together with their loved one and friends using substances themselves so maybe you’re thinking have I really got room to talk? Everybody else does it. Maybe because they are not using every day then they can’t be an “addict?”.


Forget that word, “addict”, for now. I prefer the term, “someone who has problems with alcohol or other drugs”. It’s a bit easier to understand that if somebody is having problems in other areas of their life because of drugs or alcohol then they are having problems. These problems aren’t a one-off, and a number of aspects of life such as relationships, work, finances, health and so on may be affected. Something needs to change. Sometimes, this might be a friend or family member having a chat and helping them realise. Sometimes, they may be in denial or need some specialist help. This all depends on the individual, the amount of their substance being used, frequency and how long it has been going on. Unfortunately, nobody can make your loved one access support. You can only influence it. It is their decision to get help.


If your instinct is telling you that you loved has a problem and you also have evidence for this, then they probably have. It might also be completely obvious.


What is so hard about asking for help?


If you know your loved one has a problem, you can influence them to access treatment, but when it comes down to it, it is their choice. There are lots of treatment options for substance misuse which I can talk about another time. It is useful for you to know this, in case an opportunity arises for you to discuss this with them at a time when they are sober.


What we are never good at is asking for help or admitting we need this ourselves! Why?


There are loads of reasons. You might be so intently focussed on your loved one getting help that you don’t even consider yourself at all! Unsure about what support is out there for you? Perhaps you are worried about people finding out for all different reasons, like wanting others to just think you are living a “normal” life. Lots of powerful emotions like fear, anger, worry, shame, embarrassment, frustration and guilt, as well as not wanting to let our loved one down are barriers to accessing help.


These are all common feelings and thoughts of family members affected by a loved one’s substance use. You’re not on your own, have a look at the stats from ADFAM’s evidence pack which was published in 2012! ADFAM are amazing. Have a look here. 


Remember that your loved one choosing to drink is not your fault. NACOA have lovely words for children with parents who have problems with alcohol which I think are important for you to remember too:


  • didn’t cause it
  • can’t cure it
  • can’t control it
  • can take care of myself
  • can communicate my feelings
  • can make healthy choices


I hope you can take some comfort in the fact that you are definitely not alone in your situation.


What next?

If you’re still here, you know that your loved one has a problem, we’ve considered some of the feelings and daily thoughts you might be experiencing and you know you’re not on your own.  So, what have you got to lose? I’m wondering if there is anything else stopping you from getting your own help.


I know from working with families affected by substance misuse for many years that there can also be a number of practical reasons why it is difficult to get help (as well as the above):


  1. Work may mean you can’t go for sessions during the day.
  2. Childcare- you might not want to leave your children with your loved one.
  3. Evenings may be taken up with other responsibilities, if not work.
  4. You might just be knackered all the time and not have the energy.
  5. What’s out there might not be your thing.
  6. Fear of leaving your loved one alone.


There is some help out there to suit everyone. You might think that once your loved one gets into treatment, you will get help too. Unfortunately, this is not always the case as your loved one needs to give consent for you to be involved in their treatment journey. If they don’t, you may not get support yourself. Some services do offer family services as part of their recovery process which is fantastic. Have a look yourself online and see what’s available for you in your area.


How the Vesta Approach is different


I set up The Vesta Approach because I know how difficult it is for some of you to even get out of the house. I offer my service face to face in Manchester, UK. Don’t worry though, as you don’t even need to go out to access my programme as I offer Skype sessions and soon, an online therapeutic programme. Read more here.


This service is for you. I will teach you how to respond differently to your loved one’s substance use in an evidence based programme that supports you to recover from your loved one’s drug or alcohol use, get them into treatment and improve your quality of life.


If you want to know more, sign up to my mailing list and receive my “Ten Steps to Family Recovery Guide” to give you a taster of the programme and my top tips to starting your recovery journey.


Remember that you are not alone so take that first step and have a look at what help is out there for you.


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. You can also get help via Skype  and my online group therapeutic programme which is launching in the next few weeks!

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

Sign up to my mailing list here to keep up to date with Vesta news and get my free Ten Steps to Family Recovery download.


See you next week,