Substance Use Issues

Whether it be alcohol, tobacco, medications or illicit drugs, substance use issues are often challenging problems to face. Since these substances affect brain chemistry in powerful ways, willpower alone is often not enough to solve the problem. People with this type of issue may avoid seeking help because of shame and stigma. While substance use issues usually have emotional and environmental causes, once they become ingrained in a person's lifestyle, they take on a life of their own and require persistent dedication to address. Often times, people who use substances to excess are trying to self-medicate unpleasant emotional states or an underlying mental health condition. This is one reason why the interaction between mental health symptoms and substance use is such a complex problem. While some people find it helpful to replace their substance use with healthier behaviors such as exercise, others find programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous essential to their recovery. It usually takes a combination of therapy, treatment, and social or family support to maintain lasting change in behavior. 

Stephen has extensive experience working with people with substance use histories as well as those who have co-occurring mental health and substance use issues. His approach to these problems is always free of judgment. While working at a non-profit agency in the recent past, he developed and managed a recovery support program that included mind-body elements such as yoga and mindfulness. Stephen works with his clients to clarify their goals and to support them in making progress towards those goals one step at a time. Depending on each client's needs, Stephen uses a “harm reduction” or “moderation management” approach, which can include total abstinence from all substances, abstinence just from one's substance-of-choice, reduction in amount used or change in use pattern, or simply safer use. Stephen’s clients tend to increase their own motivation to change behaviors that are harmful to them and those around them by developing insight, coping skills, and positive health behaviors.

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