By Nathan Bailey, MA, LPC
I’ve had the privilege of working to provide addictions counseling for over 15 years. Sometimes when people find out what I do, they want to know why. As a part of Lime Tree Counseling, I provide drug and alcohol counseling in Ambler, PA as well as online counseling in Pennsylvania. To be honest, it was never my intention or goal to do this type of work…it sort of found me. What I can say is that the opportunity to do this work has been a great honor. Here’s 5 reasons why I’ve enjoyed it:
I like working to break the stigma
There’s various stereotypes (none of them good) about people who struggle with their alcohol use and/or other substances. This idea that people with problematic alcohol use or using other substances are “bad” or inherently “weak” is grounded in the moral model. The moral model was once the predominant way of understanding or explaining why addiction or problematic substance use occurred. While it may have receded (somewhat), it nevertheless continues to create a stigma that causes harm. It prevents people and families from getting the help they need (or even asking loved ones for support). The truth is that addiction and problematic use can occur to anyone from any family background or social strata. I’ve gotten to meet some really smart, engaging and personable individuals in my work and the idea that “those people” are bad, weak or even just “different” from you or me is flat out wrong. I love meeting new clients, affirming their desire to regain healthy/fulfilling lives and reinforcing their value as an individual.
Change affects others
When someone is struggling with alcohol or substances, they are not an island unto themselves. They have families, friends, employers, co-workers etc. Their lives have influence over future generations. The work we do in helping someone confront their substance use, helps all of those who love, care for and depend on the client. Knowing my work can contribute to helping a community is humbling.
It’s not just about “the using”
Within the treatment field, you can run across providers whose goal is to “get them in and get them out as quickly as possible” (this is actually an exact quote I overheard once). As I got started in providing addictions counseling, I quickly realized sobriety is an important goal but it’s not the only goal. Digging deeper into substance use will reveal depression, anxiety, trauma and many other challenges. Working as a drug and alcohol counselor allows me to help in many ways that go beyond sobriety. Healing in those areas directly contributes to a healthy, long-lasting recovery but also builds a higher quality of life.
I get to provide evidence based treatment
Not that long ago, substance abuse counseling was a bit of the “black sheep” of the counseling world. The general belief (this is of course not universal…) was that it didn’t require as much education to be a provider, that it somehow existed outside the rest of the behavioral health community (like the wild west). There were actual “techniques” that involved yelling at clients, making them wear diapers and having them dig a hole in the ground (i.e. reinforcing the idea that they were digging their own grave by using substances). Can you imagine? The field has come a long way and I’m pleased to be able to provide evidence based treatments (like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, motivational enhancement, relapse prevention etc.) that have research validating their effectiveness.
People do recover
Another belief that lingers on is that there’s no coming back from problematic substance use disorders. This just isn’t true. Yes people relapse and some people leave treatment, but this doesn’t mean they won’t return or turn things around. People start successful recovery every day. Healthy, comprehensive, long-term recovery isn’t a pipe dream and getting to play a small role in helping people find it, is immensely rewarding. Getting to see people get excited about making changes in their life, realizing they don’t have to live a self-destructive way, keeps me motivated to do my best as an addictions therapist.
Get help from Lime Tree Counseling
If you or someone you know needs help dealing with problematic substance use, take action and reach out to Lime Tree Counseling for help. We are a group of dedicated, skilled therapists with an office in Ambler, PA who also provide online counseling in Pennsylvania and online counseling in Colorado. If you need anxiety counseling, trauma therapy, Christian counseling or marriage therapy in Ambler, PA, reach out and schedule a session. If you’re not sure if we’re the best fit for you, set up a free phone consultation with one of our therapists and learn more about who they are and how they could help you.