Among health services, psychotherapy for emotional issues is generally grouped in the same category as counseling for substance abuse. This is because the myriad reasons that people find a therapist—from depression and anxiety to divorce and loneliness—are often the same factors that drive people to rely on drugs or alcohol to get through the day. In many cases, entering therapy or counseling may be the deterrent that keeps a person from descending into addiction. A counselor works with clients to help them understand connections between their past and present, and to help provide healthy coping mechanisms and personal tools to create their desired future.
People who need therapy but do not get it may turn to drugs or alcohol as makeshift coping mechanisms. Before long, a chemical addiction takes over and becomes a co-driving factor in the person’s self-harming behavior. Soon, the counseling they need is twofold: to work through the addiction itself, and then to address underlying psychological and emotional issues that may have led to the substance abuse in the first place.
The Substances Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has recently released a comparison study of addiction treatment trends between 1998 and 2008. In that decade, the overall rate of people admitted to substance abuse programs stayed about the same. However, the types of treatment they were seeking changed significantly. Alcohol treatment is on the decline: down a solid 15% nationally. But at the same time, the need methamphetamine treatment rose by 53%. Cocaine treatment admissions dropped by 23%, but marijuana treatment admissions rose by 30%. The study also tracked regional trends, and in some cases a region showcased differing problems than the national average. The shifts in the types of drugs being used may give prevention organizations helpful insight into where there efforts can be most effectively targeted. But for therapists and counselors, the fact that overall substance abuse rates haven’t gone down sends a clear message: there are a lot of people out there that need help.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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