Dry January is Alcohol Concern's flagship behaviour change campaign to encourage people to ditch alcohol for January. This month, I've joined millions of other Britons (5 million in 2017) in giving up alcohol for a variety of reasons. Those of us doing Dry January have been told to expect to "Lose Weight, Save Money, Sleep Better & So Much More!". The more is of great interest to me. This aspect is about establishing control and re-evaluating one's relationship with alcohol. These are common issues for clients who discuss their alcohol use in therapy so I have enjoyed reflecting on these matters myself.
Over the years, I have worked on several drug and alcohol treatment programmes that use the disease model to treat 'addicts'/'alcoholics' for their 'addiction'/'alcoholism'. The prescribed 12 Step treatment, i.e. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, has helped millions worldwide to stay 'clean and sober', through an abstinence-based programme. Although I don't personally subscribe to the disease model, I am happy to work with clients who are on 12 Step programmes, by using a non-directive approach alongside their 12 Step work.
Whether in a 12 Step programme or not, I usually find that clients might talk about their drug and alcohol use at the start of therapy but, then, they're more likely to spend their time exploring either the roots of their problem or more existential issues.
My approach is to view substance misuse/abuse as a response to being in the world and dealing with life events and experiences. Occurring at the interface between a person and their world, drug and alcohol issues will have a specific and unique meaning for each individual. Most often, mind-altering substances become a way of numbing emotional pain and avoiding feeling one's feelings. This is also true of a range of food-related behaviours such as binge-eating, and seeking out casual or inappropriate sexual encounters. Therapy can be facilitative of re-connecting with one's feelings, thereby reducing the need to blot them out with harmful behaviours. In my experience, a humanistic counselling approach helps people to take responsibility for their choices and recognise how such self-harming behaviours can become barriers to being who they really are, to fulfilling their potential and to being the best version of themselves they can be.
I offer one-to-one counselling and psychotherapy in London and Nottingham and also work by Skype and through walk-and-talk therapy. I am currently establishing a therapy group in Leicester with another therapist who I worked with in an exclusive addiction treatment centre. Additionally, I run intensive therapy weekends, which are based on the structure of a treatment centre, where after a morning check-in and meditative session, you'll have therapy morning and afternoon, around lunch and walking together.
Do get in contact if you would like to discuss therapy for any of the issues discussed in this article.