NOTE: Quotes are presented word for word apart from minor editing for readability and clarity. Identifying details have been removed. Square brackets show text that has been added, e.g. ‘I want to maintain [my current level of drug use]’. Ellipses within square brackets […] show where text has been removed, e.g. ‘Counselling was good but […] I would have liked more information about other treatment options’.
Undertaking counselling or psychological therapy (sometimes referred to as ‘psychotherapy’) is one way some of the people interviewed for this website talk about changing their patterns of consumption. Often referred to as ‘talking therapies’ or ‘talking treatments’, these treatments involve talking to a psychotherapist, psychologist, psychiatrist or counsellor in group or individual sessions. Talking therapies can help people cope with emotional issues, health problems, distressing experiences and everyday challenges. Many approaches deal with trauma and early childhood effects, and aim to create transformational change. In relation to alcohol and other drug consumption, they can help people address issues they see as related to consumption, or help them cut down, stop or otherwise change their patterns of consumption. Counselling and other talking therapies are usually done face to face, but can also take place over the phone or online. The number of sessions varies from a few to lengthy periods, and depends on individual needs, aspirations and resourcing.
Many of our participants with experience of talking therapies undertook alcohol and other drug counselling, which is a range of counselling techniques for those specifically concerned about their alcohol or other drug use. Some have experience of general psychotherapy with a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist. A few took part in cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), which is a short-term talking treatment aimed at changing unwanted patterns of thinking or behaving. While talking therapies differ, our participants describe a number of general benefits, including the opportunity to talk about problems in confidence with a qualified professional and gain insight into how to address them. Some described developing a better understanding of their feelings, decisions and consumption patterns. Others say it helped them to learn life skills and coping strategies.
Some of our participants also describe negative experiences with talking therapies, and comment on what they find unhelpful or in need of improvement. Limited access to information before starting treatment, difficult therapy sessions, and treatment approaches not tailored to individual needs are all mentioned. Others say that while they find counselling helpful, it’s costly and they can’t afford it. For some, when their government-subsidised sessions ran out they couldn’t afford to continue having counselling (see also Work, study & making ends meet).
Read on to find out more about experiences of alcohol and other drug counselling, group therapy, psychotherapy and CBT.