Addiction Counseling

Successful Addiction Counseling Treats Underlying Causes

Successful addiction counseling does not focus on addiction alone because addiction rarely comes alone. Addiction is the outward manifestation that something has gone wrong and is most often a coping technique used to deal with an underlying condition. The underlying condition could be anything from persistent sadness to bipolar disorder.

According to Jemal Knowles, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with Next Level Recovery, close to 70% of the drug addicts that he works with in addiction counseling are found to have a dual diagnosis. A person with a dual diagnosis has both a psychological disorder and a drug or alcohol addiction that require addiction counseling.

According to Jemal, dual diagnoses are tricky because there are two conditions involved in the addiction counseling diagnosis. Determining the specific conditions of the underlying condition within a complex network of symptoms requires some detective work. The disorders Jemal sees most regularly during addiction counseling are depression, post traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and issues surrounding abuse and neglect.

Jemal uses a veteran from Iraq to illustrate a potential dual diagnosis.

“Take someone fighting over in Iraq. He goes over there, encounters war and has a traumatic experience. Maybe he was not treated at the V.A. or by a counselor. That type of person might self-medicate with alcohol, marijuana, and harder stuff to deal with the traumatic effects of post traumatic stress disorder.”

To determine how his addiction counseling client is suffering, Jemal first gathers background information about the person he is working with. He contacts any medical institutions or rehabilitation facilities they have worked with, to attain the assessments or intake summaries of previous addiction counseling professionals. He does not base his addiction counseling diagnosis on the work of other professionals, because the patient’s condition may have changed over time, but he uses the information to gain insight into the person’s background.

Building rapport with the person in addiction counseling is an important step toward a solid dual diagnosis, according to Jemal. Jemal begins by helping his addiction counseling clients feel as relaxed as possible, so that they feel more comfortable talking about tough subjects in addiction counseling.

“Why are you here?” he asks. “How was your experience with your last psychiatrist or counselor?” He asks questions that will help him determine if the person is feeling suicidal, sad, if he or she is suffering from fears or phobias, or from the highs and lows of bipolar disorder. With this information, Jemal can develop a general blueprint of the patient’s history for addiction counseling.

According to Jemal, once a dual diagnosis has been made, it is time for detoxification. At this point, the client can choose to enter a medical setting or free-standing hospital, where the client undergoes detoxification. Physical detox takes about 5 to 10 days. At this point, the person deals with the physical symptoms of drug withdrawal, which include diarrhea, aches, pains, and other flu-like symptoms.

Once detox has come to an end, the addiction counseling patient will need to rehabilitate, which will require that they learn healthier life skills and coping techniques. To deal with the underlying mental disorders, addicts may enter addiction counseling therapy, either on their own or in a group. They can learn, through addiction counseling, to identify the triggers that are particular to their underlying condition and determine healthy ways to avoid or deal with those triggers. Those who might benefit from a sober living environment can live with others who have chosen the same path toward sobriety.

According to Jemal, attaining and maintaining sobriety requires a lifetime commitment. “Addiction is a patient disease,” he says, so his clients succeed by creating structure in their lives and by working with an addiction counseling therapist and a sponsor.

Jemal refers to alcohol as the peanut payoff. “You go into a casino and put in silver dollar and you get a bunch of peanuts,” says Jemal. “Yes, you’ve got something. But it’s a bunch of peanuts. In other words,” says Jemal,” it’s a poor solution to a very real problem.

The better solution is found along the road to sobriety.