Alternative to Medications Center (ATMC) believes that each person is unique and that what might affect one person, will not necessarily affect another. This is particularly true in our therapeutic approach to addiction treatment. There is no one-size-fits-all form of therapy.
Three main issues seem to catapult individuals into a direction leading away from well-being and a balanced state of physical and mental health. These three issues are: trauma; invalidation, and stress. Experiencing these things without adequate coping skills may lead one to not only seek counseling, but to find external means to ease emotional, physical, and psychological pain. More often than not external measures include turning to illicit drugs, alcohol, and/or prescription drugs, self-harm, and even suicide.
A sense of well-being and balanced physical and mental health are witnessed when clients have: overcome trauma; learn to validate them in a way that enhances self-esteem and confidence; and, learn coping skills to deal with the stressors of everyday life. Assisting clients presenting with a sense of worthlessness offers them roadmaps toward the validation of self and a return to their authentic selves.
Addiction Counseling at Alternative to Meds Center
At ATMC we help clients heal and become a better version of themselves through the discovery of self-validation and self-love. This process is often one that consists of helping the clients find forgiveness of self and others; reframe their experiences; and, learn to show their authentic selves through validation of feelings long buried and ignored.
15 Year Experience by Professionals Who Understand Your Journey.
Offering clients coping skills to help with emotional, physical, and psychological issues is the hallmark of our therapeutic approaches. At ATMC we assist clients by providing skills to change their lenses of perception. Helping clients realize they are the drivers of their own lives without using coercion or fear as a motivator, are often ways that clients begin to validate themselves. Our role as therapists is to provide an impetus for change and to tailor a plan for each client to gain personal and appropriate coping skills. Ultimately, our success is measured when we help clients find the road they are seeking, map the course of their choice, and offer navigation instruments to help them find their way “home.”
Unconditional Positive Regard
The therapists at ATMC employ many different therapeutic modalities. However, foundationally Unconditional Positive Regard purported by Carl Rogers (1959) is the approach taken by all therapists at ATMC. The basic edict is that therapists are to help create and sustain an atmosphere of harmony or congruence because acceptance of a client within the therapeutic relationship is paramount to building trust (Rogers, 1959). Validating clients is the Hallmark of our approach.
Behavioral therapies are based on research and are believed to help clients cease their use of substances. Behavioral therapy helps clients become empowered and creates a space for them to change addictive patterns of behavior (NAADAC, 2009). Behavioral Therapy helps clients discover their thinking patterns to evaluate rational and irrational cognition. Once evaluated, the therapist’s goal is to change the client’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors (Murdock, 2012). By developing new ways of being and thinking the client is taught how to associate behaviors with uncomfortable feelings and is then taught new learning patterns of ways to react differently when faced with fear, anxiety, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors (MacLeod, 2010). Clients presenting with myriad issues are offered Behavioral Therapy as it has been known to help those with phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorders by uncovering the client’s irrational thoughts and avoidance of a situation (MacLeod, 2010).
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be effective in the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction, particularly when combined with a comprehensive recovery program. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is considered to be a brief intervention treatment in that it is short-term in its design. It helps those with addictive behaviors learn coping skills and unlearn behaviors which substance users may have initially learned while on the pathway toward dependence (Lazarus, 2009). Within this therapeutic modality our thinking, memory, and reasoning are taken into consideration as “the way you think affects the way you feel (Clark & Beck, 2010, p. 31).”
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
Therapists at ATMC also employ Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). This therapeutic modality is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which identifies and changes negative thinking patterns and promotes positive behavioral changes. DBT may be used to treat suicidal and other self-destructive behaviors and helps clients cope with, and change, unhealthy behaviors.
Social Cognitive Theory
Bandura’s (1998) Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) is yet another arrow in our therapeutic quiver addressing substance use and dependency. For example, when a user first gets the first shot of their drug of choice, we ask the question, ‘What is it that makes them return again and again?’ To answer this question, we note that SCT considers the users’ thoughts, feelings, and beliefs and takes into consideration the social and environmental factors leading them toward initial and continued drug use.
Reality Therapy (RT) which catapulted Glasser’s Choice Theory (Murdock, 2012) is the grand finale after many other theoretical strategies have been applied and utilized in regard to client care. Choice Therapy is concerned with the client’s intrinsic belief system in the here and now and is more fundamental in its approach to explaining how and why we function. “Choice Therapy posits that we are not born blank slates waiting to be externally motivated by forces in the world around us. Rather, we are born with five genetically encoded needs that drive us all of our lives: survival, or self-preservation; love and belonging; power, or inner control; freedom, or independence; and fun, or enjoyment (Corey, 1990, p. 336).”
Choice Therapy is a more mindful type of therapy as clients recognize their behaviors and actions and question how well these behaviors are working for them in their lives. When considering Choice Therapy we may apply Dr. Phil’s questioning his guests with, “How is that working for you so far?”
When working with clients at ATMC it is of utmost importance to the therapists to include families. Bowenian Therapy purports the importance of including the client’s family and focusing on multigenerational issues (Murdock, 2007). One of the main goals of Bowenian Therapy is to reduce anxiety by bringing awareness to the emotional system of the family and by increasing differentiation. Through this process, the change agent is isolated to one person rather than the belief that other family members will change (Bowen, 1978).
Structural Family System Theory
Structural Family System Theory (SFST) is also utilized by therapists at ATMC. It primarily focuses on structural change. Structural Family System Theory looks at psychosomatic problems as well as, all emotional challenges. When applying this theory, therapists concentrate more heavily on the family development, rather than on each family member (Minuchin, 1974). Dysfunction within the family system is discovered when the methods of relating among family members is explored (Minuchin, 1974). For example, determining which family members support each other opposed to who does not, is important when observing family arguments and behaviors within the family system. The role of the therapist is to be an agent of change (Minuchin, 1974).
Structural Family System Theory observes relationship interactions and takes several factors into consideration. These factors are: the quality of relationship; whether disengaged or enmeshed; psychosomatic problems; and, the effects of power structures. An additional family therapy offered to clients and their families, is Strategic Therapy. With this modality therapists focus more on patterns repeated in communication styles and observe behavior between dyads and all family members (Murdock, 2012). Strategic Therapy investigates the power portrayed within the hierarchy of the family (Nichols, 2008).
Strategic Therapy utilizes an effective approach called “Open Dialog.” Open Dialogue is a form of family communication which utilizes an openness and flexibility to change, opposed to promoting change directly. Agendas are not encouraged and the beginning of the conversation flows with an objective language about the challenges facing the client. Everyone is heard with unconditional acceptance. During the Open Dialogue process, therapists may not engage in normal therapeutic nomenclature, but rather be present through gestures, facial expressions, and posture (Burton, 2015).
Mindfulness is associated with brain chemistry and the various ways the neural pathways in the brain are altered. In a mere eight weeks, the mid-prefrontal cortex and other parts of the brain are transformed in ways that bring about changes in creativity and a greater sense of well-being (Lazar et al. 2005). Based on Cognitive Behavioral Theory, Mindfulness is used to help substance use disorder clients prevent relapse. The program examines and discovers the genesis of addiction while focusing on negative emotions and cravings which are two predictors of relapse (Lazar, et al, 2005).
Equine-Assisted Therapy is gaining in efficacy, validity, and reliability as more and more therapists are integrating this approach in their work with clients. Recently, research has shown that clients participating in Equine-Assisted Therapy (EAT) while recovering from substance use dependency are experiencing transformation and behavioral changes (Beetz, Julius, Kotrschal, & Uvnas-Moberg, 2010).
“Disease Model” Takes Away Choice
Rarely if ever will the therapists at ATMC utilize the “Disease Model.” It is our philosophy that this model takes away choice, freedom, autonomy, and control with an underpinning that we are behaviorally driven by some genetic predisposition or flaw. Under the auspices of having a “disease” clients presenting with mental health issues are simply given a diagnosis and then prescribed medications to change their behavior. This particular form of treatment may leave clients feeling victim to a disease, which does little to help them take responsibility for their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. The antidote is found in a pill and thus “the rest of the story” becomes silenced and unheard.
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13. NAADAC, (2009) The basics of addiction counseling: desk reference and study guide. The Association for Addiction Professionals (10th ed.). Retrieved from: http://naadac.org/assets/1959/basics_skills_and_theories_peek.pdf [accessed 2020 Jul 5]
14. Nichols, M.P., (2008). Family therapy: concepts and methods (8th ed.) New York, NY: Pearson Education, Inc. [accessed 2020 Jul 5]
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Jul 5, 2020
This content was written by a Ph.D level psychologist.
Libby Smith Ph.D
Libby Smith or “Dr. Libby” as many of her friends and clients affectionately call her, is an educator, counselor, author, Chair of the Certification Board for Equine Interaction Professionals, and an Equine-Assisted Therapeutic Practitioner. Libby as two bachelor’s degrees, two master’s degrees, and is currently working on a third Master’s in Addiction Counseling at Grand Canyon University. She holds two doctoral degrees: One in Holistic Theology and the other in Educational Leadership, with an emphasis on health and sociology, from Northern Arizona University.
Over the past eight years, she has worked as a counselor in both Behavioral Health and Substance Use arenas and currently works as a Therapist at Alternatives to Medications Center. She is the owner and CEO of Wind Horse Wellness LLC located in Flagstaff, Arizona. She has a heart for service and is honored to be working with the administration, staff, and patients at Alternatives to Meds Center.