Alcohol and drug problems are found among people in all segments of society, including those who have good jobs, earn decent incomes, and live in desirable neighborhoods. Neither money, nor education, nor social status provides immunity to alcoholism or cocaine addiction in New York. In fact, among employed middle class adults, rates of alcohol and drug abuse have increased dramatically over the past 25 years, especially since the cocaine and crack epidemic of the 1980’s.
People with alcohol and drug problems almost always have trouble admitting that they have a problem. This can be especially difficult for individuals who appear to be functional despite serious substance abuse. They simply do not fit the stereotyped image of addicts and alcoholics. They go to work and maintain households, somehow managing to portray at least the appearance of normal functioning. Meanwhile their personal lives are usually in chaos and disarray.
Even when people admit that their alcohol and drug use is a problem and express willingness to seek help, certain obstacles may prevent them from taking action. The option of going directly into an addiction treatment program or clinic is often not acceptable as a first step. Fears about public exposure and being labeled as an “addict” or “alcoholic” are common concerns. Going to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings raises similar fears. Dismissing these concerns as evidence that a person is “in denial” and resistant to getting help offers no solution. The real hope lies not in harsh confrontation and arm-twisting, but in removing obstacles that discourage people from getting the help they need.
Practicing psychologists with special expertise in treating addictions can make it easier and less threatening for at least some people with alcohol and drug problems to get this much-needed help. Among them are people in the early stages of developing a more serious problem with alcohol and drug abuse, such as people in the early stages of accepting that they have a problem and those who want private treatment in a practitioner’s office instead of a program. This type of support is also ideal for people already in therapy for mental health problems who also have an alcohol and drug problems.
An experienced addiction psychologist will conduct a comprehensive clinical assessment to determine not only the level of the client’s involvement with alcohol and drug abuse and the nature of any co-existing mental health problems, but also the clients’ motivation and stage of readiness to change. Based on the results of this assessment, the psychologist will offer appropriate recommendations in a friendly, cooperative fashion and negotiate with the client to find an acceptable starting place where treatment can begin.