Each of us is an individual, and more than this, we exist within communities, and we can affect the world around us. What this means is that I do not exist by myself in isolation. Rather, I am at the center of various relationships with others: friends, family, coworkers, and so on. Through my words and actions, I can effect change, for better or worse. My impact on the rest of the world around me is much more than just my personal experiences.
Beyond this broader concern of the world around us and how we affect it, each of us, in our individuality, is also much deeper than we often realize. Each person has dreams, desires, pursuits, personality, ways of interacting in the world, mental or physical gifts, deficits, etc. Each person is complicated and varied.
When addiction enters the story, these above realities are changed, but they do not disappear. Addiction impacts almost every aspect of an individual and their relationship to the world around them. It is for these reasons that counseling is an integral part of any treatment program. Helping someone detox and overcome withdrawal may get the drug out of the system, but it does not help heal all the other parts of the person that have been touched by addiction. It is not enough to get the drug out of your system; you must heal and help overcome the brokenness within yourself and the world around you that the drug has caused.
The Purpose of Individual Counseling
If, as I have said above, addiction is affecting every facet of one’s life, then it is only reasonable that treatment must do the same in response. In many cases, individual counseling, group counseling, or both may help address some of these issues. Many factors can lead to addiction, but we are not aware of them in many cases. Though we may not always think about it, the reality is that we are not always transparent to ourselves.
I mean that sometimes we do and say things and do not fully understand why we have done and said them. We must take a moment and reflect on the situation and think through things. In some cases, we may go years or even decades without considering the motivations and factors that led to different patterns and behaviors in our lives. Many of these things can be connected to addiction and substance abuse.
Counseling can help with this as it allows you to think back and reflect on your past and different choices. A good counselor is also skilled at helping individuals work through these issues and habits and helping them to locate the motivating factors of different actions and behaviors.
Perhaps this does not seem so important, but it is often the case that we continue in self-destructive and dangerous habits because we have scars and wounds from the past that have not healed or that we have not yet worked through. Sometimes, aspects of our personality need to be addressed, such as an inclination for living recklessly. Counselors are trained to work with patients through issues of this sort.
Once someone has worked through detox and withdrawal, it is in these counseling sessions that they will work to address the mental and psychological aspects of recovery. These things work together and are often combined with other things, such as meditation, yoga, or music therapy, which function as practices that can help with addressing physical side effects and instilling positive habits.
In practice, individual therapy sessions will often include some of the following features:
- Discussing the current state of recovery progress
- Addressing possible or actual barriers to sobriety
- Exploring interpersonal relationships and how they affect the recovery process or the individual
- Seeking ways to manage and address cravings and withdrawal symptoms
- Integrating new coping mechanisms or maintaining current ones
- Setting goals for the future, particularly close and attainable goals
These are obvious and definable goals that can help in working through things practically. Group counseling can also be helpful for these and other ways of making progress in recovery. Individual counseling can often have the added benefit that you can get direct one-on-one attention and can often share comfortably. The individual format helps remove the peer pressure or sense of comparison that may arise in having others around. This may lead to being more vulnerable or comfortable sharing. On the other hand, group counseling can be useful for finding camaraderie and support. Group sessions provide a context for connecting with others with similar struggles, and each of you can support each other.
The Importance of Individual Counseling
The importance of individual counseling builds off the two preceding sections. As we noted first, each person is more complicated and affects more around them than they realize. Likewise, addiction affects most or all these areas of our personhood and experience in the world. Second, we have seen what some of the reasons and purposes of individual counseling are. The importance, then, is that it becomes increasingly difficult to adequately address how addiction has affected your life without individual counseling.
You are complicated and affect so much of the world; addiction impacts this negatively. It causes strain on relationships, jobs, passions, pursuits in life, and so many other things. Counseling is a way of addressing some of these issues. Detox and withdrawal are important steps; yoga, meditation, and exercise also are essential; but counseling is often the way all these things are brought together. The counseling sessions provide the primary point of reflection for the individual who is addicted. It is the opportunity and chance to synthesize everything that is being worked on in the recovery process.
Suppose detox and things like yoga and exercise address the physical, counseling can address the psychological components of recovery. Many of those struggling with addiction will also find things such as religion and meditation useful in addressing the spiritual components of themselves and their recovery. These are important steps in recovering. There are countless stories of individuals who go through a detox or treatment program that is very brief, get out, and immediately go right back to the addiction. While these situations are complicated, a big component of such behavior is that there are deeper underlying issues that have not been addressed. Seeking out individual counseling is a way of combatting the potential for relapse and giving recovery your best efforts.