If You Have Begun to Drink and Use More Than You Wish

People use substances for reasons that are meaningful to them.

Researchers have found that people primarily use caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs for very human reasons: to feel good, to feel better, to do better, and to connect with others. Humans have done this for over 12,000 years.

If overuse has become a concern, these findings suggest logical questions to ask.

  1. For which of these reasons do I use substances?
  2. In what ways do I not feel good, have not been able to feel better, believe I’m not doing well enough, or lack sufficient connection with others?
  3. In addition to substances, what else might I discover to help myself feel good, feel better, do better, and feel connected?

To help people humanely, effectively, and efficiently answer these questions, I offer a 6-session, online counseling protocol. I am licensed to provide counseling services to residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia only.

Due to financial hardships caused by the pandemic and predictions that substance use problems will increase, I am currently accepting pay-what-you-can services. I will ask you the optimum fee for you up to the standard rate of $125 per individual session and $45 per group session.

I specialize in using research-informed methods to help people reduce or eliminate use of substances that have become problematic for them. They may have received a substance use disorder diagnosis, also termed “addiction.” I am a licensed professional counselor in the Commonwealth of Virginia, have training and expertise in addiction treatment research, track outcomes, and have personal experience in achieving remission from alcohol use disorder.

I deliberately offer self-pay counseling services to protect the immediate and long-term privacy of clients. Self-pay services are discrete, eliminate the need for notifying third parties, and prevent the presence of a permanent, stigmatizing substance use diagnosis in one’s health record. Here is more about why I do not accept health insurance.

Clients receive private, expert, in-place help. Although acute situations may require residential treatment, this protocol attempts to prevent the financial hardships of “rehab” and its sometimes-devastating 70% or higher return-to-use rates.

If you are a Virginia resident and are interested in this protocol, please feel free to contact me. If you would like to get started, please fill in our contact form. I will use your email address to send you registration information through our HIPAA-compliant electronic health record, SimplePractice.

I would welcome the opportunity to work with you. Please do email, phone, or text me with any questions you may have.

. . . . .

Here are answers to questions you may have.

How can 6 sessions possibly be sufficient to help a person with alcohol and other drug problems?

The research is clear on what helps people reduce or eliminate substance use. Medical care comes first. After receiving the stabilizing care that medical expertise can offer, individuals can efficiently learn and apply a sequenced set of specific skills to help themselves with substance use. These skills assist with symptoms of mental and physical illnesses that may also be present.

Research is clear on what can be helpful

I’ve tried everything and nothing works. What is the difference between this protocol and other substance use disorder treatment?

This protocol acknowledges that people use substances for reasons that are meaningful and important to them. People have traits, circumstances, or patterns of feeling, thinking, and behaving that cause problems. Substances can solve these problems. Why stop something that works?

With self-kindness and without self-judgment, people can meticulously identify the purposes substances and substance use serve and then find adequate – if not necessarily ideal – replacements for them. Logically, then, finding something else that works well enough helps people reduce or eliminate use.

One of the purposes served by substances is adjusting an inner state experienced as intolerable, whether it’s experienced as too intense or too empty. When substances are absent, distress rises. For some people, this distress can be experienced as depression, anxiety, or both. Other people experience distress as a loss of a sense of reality. It feels unbearable. Use of substances feels like mercy.

A specific set of skills – what I term “awareness skills” – assists people in using their own minds and hearts to adjust their inner experiences to an individually stable range.

Optimally, sessions are held once per week. Given that each week holds 168 hours, one hour of counseling per week is likely to be insufficient to sustain progress. Daily skills practice is expected.

Come on. This is just another “one-size-fits-all,” simplistic solution for a complex problem. How can this possibly work for all substances and all people?

The protocol is informed by research. The purpose of research is to determine what is helpful to most people, most of the time, better than other things, and better than nothing. The protocol has not been tested in a clinical trial. However, our outcome data indicates that the protocol – combined with medical care and/or medications, partner/family support, and a stable living situation – is helpful to many people who try it. Some individuals may not benefit.

Substance use and mental health challenges are conceptualized generally as 1) difficulty with emotion regulation, 2) belief-based thinking, and 3) insufficient empathy for self and others. This protocol consciously and specifically targets all these areas, thus increasing the likelihood that it will be helpful to many people with a variety of challenges.

Who might most readily benefit from this protocol?

I hope aspiring and current professionals, executives, and business leaders will be among the beneficiaries. As a highly-educated, highly-functional, working professional, I got the shock of my life when I attempted to stop drinking alcohol and could not. Research-backed treatment was nearly non-existent in 2012. Although I have been in remission from alcohol use disorder since 2012, I have a permanent diagnosis of alcohol “abuse” in my health record. Today, I hope people in similar circumstances will be able to help themselves directly and efficiently with this protocol.

In many business and professional networks, substance use is a social norm. Paradoxically, to meet societal norms, people may be mandated to produce urine drug screens negative for substances. Some people may wish to abstain and some people may wish to engage in skillful use. This protocol helps people individually decide on, and reach for, their personal treatment goals.

I offer the protocol freely on my site for anyone, anywhere, to self-administer. I am open to working with any Virginia resident who wants to become a client.

What happens after 6 sessions?

My hypothesis is that, in about 6 sessions – supplemented with independent daily practice and optional and recommended daily text support – a person can learn the basic awareness skills, get an idea of how to apply them, then have a sufficient ability with the skills to self-administer on-going care using the work they did in the first 6 sessions. As needed, they can refresh and deepen their understanding with the materials on the site.

Engaging concurrently in group sessions with other clients using the protocol can be helpful. If individuals already have counselors, continuing to engage concurrently in sessions with them can be helpful.

If individuals wish to continue in counseling, further sessions would support the applied use of skills acquired during the individualized one-on-one sessions. Beginning or continuing in group sessions can be helpful for consolidating and maintaining gains. (In my experience, attempting to begin to learn fundamental skills in group sessions is difficult and inefficient.)

In optional individual or group sessions with me or other providers, people can expand their understandings and start to apply skills in other areas, perhaps with family of origin issues, trauma, or problematic patterns of interacting in partner relationships or at work.

Why doesn’t your private practice take health insurance?

Substance use disorder counseling may be minimally reimbursed by health insurance companies, if at all. More importantly, given that substance use is stigmatized and criminalized, I urge anyone with a substance use concern or an addiction issue to self-pay if they can so no third parties – including health insurance companies – are notified. I explain further here.

Do you have a money-back guarantee?

I am open to sharing the responsibility and risk with you.

The cost for 6 individual, online sessions is $125 x 6 = $750. I am currently negotiating pay-what-you-can services. You are billed one session at a time. Cancellations in fewer than 24 hours and no-shows are billed at the full rate.

You, of course, can discontinue sessions at any time. At the end of the 4th session, I will ask if you would like to continue. If you decide not to continue, I will not bill you for that 4th session.

How can I increase the likelihood this protocol will be effective for me?

  1. Make a list of symptoms that cause you problems. Overuse of substances can be accompanied by trauma symptoms, neurodevelopmental disorders, and mental illnesses. Please share this list with me and disclose any diagnoses given to you, or any symptoms you have researched on your own and believe might meet criteria for a DSM-5 diagnosis. We can customize delivery of the protocol to meet your specific needs.
  2. Consult with a medical professional. Although the appointment may be via telehealth, ask a medical care professional to review your list of symptoms and this screening tool with you.
  3. Know what you want. Be clear on what you want to be able to say is true for yourself as a result of 6 weeks of counseling sessions and skills practice.
  4. Practice skills outside of sessions.

If this approach seems like a fit for you, I would welcome the opportunity to work with you. Unfortunately, I can only work directly with Virginia residents. Anyone outside of Virginia is welcome to peruse the materials listed in the dropdown menu under the Resources tab.

If I can be of any service at all, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Last updated 5/9/20

The views expressed are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the positions of my colleagues, clients, family members, or friends. This content is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or professional advice. Consult a qualified health care professional for personalized medical and professional advice.