Jeff’s passion and expertise is treating teen and young adult substance abuse and the underlying issues (depression, anxiety, learning difficulties, low self esteem, social issues) simultaneously.
This is sometimes called co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis treatment.
When does drug or alcohol use become abuse or addiction?
Many substance abuse and process addictions begin by self-medicating these underlying issues.
When a young person begins using substances (alcohol, weed, nicotine, etc), they may not really be aware this is happening.
In fact, if you ask most young people “Are you self-medicating?” they will tell you "No!" They will often say they use because they want to “have fun,” “relax,” “feel good,” etc.
In a way they are telling the partial truth. However, we also know substance abuse creates a feedback loop in the brain where we are more and more likely to seek out those “feeling good" experiences, often at the cost of other things that matter to us.
If you are seeking help for yourself or your teen, chances are that the costs are starting to stack up — loss of motivation, problems at school, more family conflict, feeling overwhelmed, more depressed or just like your life is not going very well.
We seek out help when we feel our substance use is harmful to our wellbeing, our relationships, or our values, but we don’t know how to get out of the cycle.
So What works?
Research overwhelmingly shows substance abuse counseling is most effective when
supported by an integrated (whole person) approach
with a therapist experienced in treating both substance use and mental health concerns
utilizing evidence-based therapy practices
in a caring, non-judgmental setting
Substance abuse and addiction is best seen as a learned behavior, where the pleasure/reward pathways in the brain become highly attuned to the drug of choice as the primary way to get to a certain feeling—either seeking a good feeling or escaping difficult feelings or thoughts.
As we continue to learn more about how drug and alcohol use impacts brain function, the old approach of “quitting cold turkey” by itself rarely is effective.
We can’t expect to tell our teen to “just stop,” as substance abuse is often interconnected with other life issues, concerns, emotions, experiences and beliefs.
By taking away the drug without addressing the underlying issues, we are likely to relapse, as we haven’t built the scaffolding to manage life’s challenges and our emotions in healthy ways.
Coming to counseling for substance abuse issues doesn’t make you an addict!
None of us plan to need counseling.
For many teens and young adults, there can be a lot of confusion between wanting to have fun, being in charge of their lives, and managing all the stresses in their day to day life.
It takes a lot of courage to question if our substance use is getting away from us and causing problems in our life.
However, these are useful signs a change may be needed, and having support to find the path forward can help!