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 require persistent dedication to address. Oftentimes 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 additional help with their recovery by attending inpatient or outpatient programs and/or 12-step fellowship groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. It usually takes a combination of therapy, treatment, and social or family support to maintain lasting change in behavior.
Heather has extensive experience working with people with substance use histories as well as those who have co-occurring mental health and substance use issues. Her approach to these problems is always free of judgment. During recent work with a non-profit agency, she helped develop a recovery support program that included Mind-Body elements such as Yoga and Mindfulness. Heather works with her 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, Heather uses a “harm reduction” or “moderation management” approach, which includes a range of individualized approaches to recovery, such as total abstinence from all substances, abstinence just from one's substance-of-choice, reduction in the amount used or change in use pattern, or simply safer use. Heather'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.