What Can Free Drug Counseling Do for Me?
The harmful effects of drug addiction reach much farther than the eye can see, way past the harrowing effects experienced in detox. As many can attest to, addiction gradually takes over the addict’s life, altering not only his or her body but also the mind.
Not surprisingly, having to finance a drug habit leaves many people unable to afford drug treatment help. Fortunately, a number of drug treatment programs throughout the country receive state and federal funding so people unable to afford treatment can get the help they need.
While detox treatment is essential to getting a grip on addiction, addiction recovery doesn’t actually begin until a person starts to work through the psychological aftereffects of addiction. In this respect, free drug counseling treatment becomes just as important as detox, if not more so.
Free drug counseling offers most all of the benefits and services available through paid treatment programs. Through free drug counseling, addicts can come to terms with the underlying issues that drive addiction behaviors.
As each person enters the recovery process with his or her own specific treatment needs, the issues dealt with in counseling treatment can vary from person to person. For these reasons, the counseling portion of addiction recovery should run considerably longer than the detox stage, simply because of the high potential for relapse that addiction brings.
Addiction’s Psychological Effects
What most characterizes an addictive substance lies in its ability to produce psychoactive effects. Psychoactive effects have to do with the chemical changes these types of drugs cause inside the brain.
Brain neurotransmitter chemicals play a central role in regulating a person’s thoughts, emotions and behaviors. This means, any changes brought about by addictive drugs can potentially alter and/or warp a person’s overall psychological make-up.
More specifically, the effects of drugs impair a vital center within the brain known as the mesolimbic pathway or brain reward system. According to Columbia Health, this system connects the brain’s cognitive centers with the limbic system, which regulates emotions. In effect, the reward system regulates –
- How a person thinks
- Emotional responses
- Learning processes
Dopamine chemicals act as the sole communication messenger throughout this pathway. With frequent and repeated drug use, brain chemical imbalances soon take shape.
These imbalances inevitably throw off dopamine levels along the reward pathway. In the process, this area of the brain becomes dependent on drugs much like the rest of the body does.
Ultimately, addiction’s effects take root within this area of the brain. Drug counseling treatment helps a person undo the psychological damage that results from ongoing drug abuse.
Why the Need for Counseling?
Once a person becomes addicted to drugs, the potential for relapse poses the greatest threat to any recovery efforts he or she makes. While certain types of drugs do carry a higher potential for relapse than others, the damage done to the brain’s reward system can still stay with a person long after drug use ends regardless of the type of drug involved. In essence, addiction creates its own lifestyle in terms of the addict’s persistent “need” to get and use drugs.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this lifestyle will gradually resurface in the absence of needed drug counseling treatment. For many people free drug counseling becomes a means for staying engaged in the recovery process, which can mean the difference between a successful recovery and an untimely relapse episode.
The overall purpose of free drug counseling lies in helping those in recovery develop a new set of behaviors that will support and encourage long-term abstinence from drug use. By implementing new behavioral routines on an ongoing basis, recovering addicts can “retrain” brain chemical functions and in the process support the brain’s reparative mechanisms.
Behavior-based treatments can vary depending on a person’s specific treatment needs, though most free drug counseling programs offer a range of interventions from which to choose. Interventions most often used include –
- Drug education training
- Relationships counseling
- Family counseling
- Relapse prevention training
Counseling settings come in two forms: individual counseling and group counseling. Individual counseling, also known as individual psychotherapy, focuses on help a person work through whatever underlying issues drive ongoing addiction behaviors. Underlying issues may take the form of –
- Past traumas
- Sexual, physical and/or emotional abuse, both past and present
- Co-occurring mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety disorders
- Dysfunctional home environment
Group therapy settings may also touch on these issues, but group settings mainly work towards helping participants express their thoughts and emotions and in the process develop healthy communication skills.
Psychotherapy Treatment Approaches
When first starting a free drug counseling program, treatment providers conduct a comprehensive assessment of a person’s condition and from there draft a treatment plan. Information gathered during the assessment process determines which types of psychotherapy approaches will best meet a person’s treatment needs.
According to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, free drug counseling may employ one or more of the following psychotherapy methods –
- Contingency management
- Motivational enhancement therapy
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
Contingency management involves providing a person with incentives for ongoing abstinence, such as coupons or discounts from local stores. Incentives are used as a form of positive reinforcement.
Motivational enhancement therapy entails helping recovering addicts build motivation and commit themselves to ongoing success in recovery. Cognitive-behavioral therapy models deal more so with helping a person replace addiction-based thinking and belief systems with a healthy mindset and sense of purpose.
Free drug counseling programs place a heavy emphasis on support group work as a means for helping addicts develop new relationships with like-minded individuals. Twelve Step support groups in particular provide a setting where participants can work a step-by-step program that’s designed to address challenges faced in recovery. The support group environment encourages addicts to talk about the difficulties they face on a daily basis and share what helps them cope and what doesn’t.
Throughout the recovery process, social supports remain essential to maintaining continued abstinence from drug use. It’s not uncommon for people who’ve been in recovery for 10 years or more to still attend support group meetings on a consistent basis.
Overall, free drug counseling treatment services helps recovering addicts lay the groundwork for continued success in recovery.