Even though 1 in 3 people have an issue with drugs or alcohol, over 90% of people who come to see us for counselling don’t fit the media stereotype of an addict. Our clients often have successful careers, loving relationships, a family and active social life. Yet drug and alcohol problems are rampant in our community: it’s an invisible epidemic, due to the stigma and secrecy many people feel about their drinking and drug use. James Ising is strongly committed to overcoming these barriers that prevent people from accessing the help they need. We all want to lead happy, productive and prosocial lives: effectively managing alcohol and drug use is key to achieving that goal.

We may use substances to unwind and de-stress, to celebrate life’s successes and joys, mourn passings, and sometimes to escape reality. With 1 in 5 people drinking or taking drugs at levels that put them at risk of significant harm, expert support is crucial to helping people moderate and manage their use in safe ways. Drug and alcohol issues can be a symptom of more complex problems. People frequently resort to drinking or taking drugs (or ‘self-medicate’ with alcohol or drugs) as a coping mechanism: intoxication can mask or distract us from underlying feelings, help people cope with illness, reduce stress, and be a temporary avoidance of pain.

Counselling helps people to look at why they are using drugs or drinking alcohol, and address any associated issues. Most importantly, specialist drug and alcohol counselling will equip you with useful strategies for dealing with life’s challenges in ways that enhance your health and wellbeing, rather than just masking any underlying feelings, moods or stress you’re experiencing.

The science of addiction counselling

Our brains are hard-wired to seek pleasure: it’s a biological fact. The reward centre in the brain releases the neurotransmitter dopamine when we’re engaged in a pleasurable activity – and the latest research shows that our brains respond in the same way to a range of activities, from drug and alcohol use to food, sex, gambling and even shopping.

Addiction forms because dopamine isn’t just associated with pleasurable sensations, it’s also linked to our learning and memory. Over time we start to crave the object of pleasure, and our brain structure and function moulds itself around the habitual relief that drugs and alcohol provide. As such, drinking and drug taking can become a learned, behavioural addiction – and counselling is the most effective treatment available to address problem drug and alcohol behaviours.

Addiction isn’t a simply lack of willpower – it’s a serious condition that responds to treatment. In the same way that asthma impairs the lungs, or diabetes affects the pancreas, addiction hijacks the brain. The drive to compulsively use drugs or alcohol can be strong, but specialist counselling helps to rewire the neural circuits of the brain by gradual modification of habitual behaviours. By focusing on and participating in a diverse range of other pleasurable activities that bring meaning to your life, and learning skills and strategies to effectively reduce your dependency on drugs or alcohol, recovery is possible.

With innovative, evidence-based drug and alcohol counselling support, you can reclaim your brain from the neural pathways that lead to dependency and addiction.

Drug and alcohol issues can affect anyone

Difficulties with drugs and alcohol affect all kinds of people, of all ages, from all walks of life. Our clients include doctors, teachers, law enforcement personnel, tradespeople, hospitality workers, business people and students. James Ising counsellors and psychologists work with adolescents, adults, and seniors – as well as couples where one or both partners are experiencing drug and alcohol issues.

Many drug and alcohol users don’t drink or use drugs daily, instead restricting their use to evenings and weekends – often as a form of relief from the stresses of daily life. This pattern of consumption can help create a sense that you have control of your drug or alcohol habits. Yet if you’re finding that your recreational drinking or drug taking is starting to have a negative impact on your work, home or social life, it’s time to seek help.

If you work or socialise in an environment where drug or alcohol use is the norm, or even encouraged, it can be even harder to admit that you need help managing your consumption. You may be seeking counselling as a pathway to sobriety, or as a practical tool to help you reduce your consumption of alcohol or drugs and effectively manage your intake. Knowing that you want to get your alcohol or drug use under control is a unique window of opportunity for change to occur. Choosing to act on that opportunity, and seeking professional support can be life-changing.

Concerned about a family member or friend?

We often hear from partners, parents, family members and friends who are concerned about someone else’s drinking or drug use. It’s an incredibly difficult position to be in, seeing someone you care about struggle with dependency. When a family member or friend has a drinking or drug-related problem, it affects everyone around them.

You may experience a whole range of conflicting emotions:

  • Anxiety about the person’s health
  • Anger that they won’t seek help
  • Exhaustion and frustration
  • Fear about the future

Family and friends have an important role to play in the recovery process. The first questions people ask us are “How can I get them to stop? What can I do to help them?” The truth is, there are a whole host of actions you can take to help the person you’re concerned about. Start by being honest, nonjudgmental and empathic when you share your concerns with them. Even if they’re not quite ready to talk to someone, you can also kickstart the process of change by seeking specialist support counselling yourself.

We can help you to:

  • Deepen your understanding of the ways addiction and recovery work
  • Create strong support systems that help maintain sobriety or reduced use
  • Establish boundaries around acceptable behaviours (all family members)
  • Explore, express and resolve any distressing feelings
  • Learn self-care and stress-reduction techniques
  • Identify and resolve relationship issues
  • Develop effective coping strategies

Often family members and friends become accustomed to living life around someone else’s alcohol or drug use. When that person becomes sober – or successfully moderates their behaviour – it can be difficult for their loved ones to adjust to the new reality. Some people experience a sense of relief, but for others there may be a period of grief and confusion. It is very common for strong emotions to surface during alcohol or drug recovery, for everyone affected: long-held feelings of anger and frustration may rise up and demand attention.

Drug and alcohol support counselling is a safe, nonjudgmental environment that’s guided by a trained specialist for concerned partners, family members and friends. You’ll be given the information, support and workable recovery strategies you need, ensuring that you can create lasting positive lifestyle changes, together.

Specialist drug and alcohol services

Receiving expert support and treatment is crucial for those experiencing drug and alcohol problems. James Ising specialist drug and alcohol counsellors and psychologists have extensive training and substantial experience treating drug and alcohol-related concerns. We will support you with effective management strategies, achievable short and long-term goals, and techniques to maintain lasting improvements in your habits, relationships and lifestyle.

When drug and alcohol use becomes a problem

People often turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with, avoid or escape some of the difficulties we experience in life.  You may not have realised the extent of your drug or alcohol problem, or that your actions are affecting others in distressing ways. Often it’s an upsetting event, problems at work or school, or the concern of family and friends that brings it to your attention.

Common signs of drug and alcohol dependency include:

  • Inability to function well without consuming drugs or alcohol 
  • Unable to reduce or stop your consumption of drugs or alcohol 
  • Tolerance: increasing your usage in order to achieve the same effect
  • Becoming defensive and lying about how much you consume
  • Feeling shame about using drugs and alcohol
  • Relationship breakdown as a consequence of addictive behaviour
  • Detrimental impact on career and finances

Even though using drugs and alcohol to cope with personal difficulties is common, there are other ways of coping with life’s challenges. Substance use can lead to ongoing dependency, poor health and relationship conflict. Counselling will show you the many ways you can still enjoy life and improve the way that you feel, without the negative consequences that drug and alcohol misuse tend to bring.

Effective drug and alcohol counselling

Through specialist counselling, you will directly manage your drug and alcohol intake, and develop practical strategies that take care of your stress levels, feelings and relationships. Counselling will support you to enhance and maintain your motivation to change, and develop your problem-solving and coping skills to a level that you won’t be tempted to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. With our help, you can move forward confidently and start enjoying life free from the constraints and repercussions of drug and alcohol problems.

Drug and alcohol issues don’t discriminate – they can affect anyone. We provide support to clients a broad range of clients: from people seeking to manage their recreational drug and alcohol use, to people concerned they have developed a dependency on alcohol or drugs. The majority of clients we see are seeking counselling for use of the following substances:

  • Alcohol
  • Nicotine
  • Prescription medications (e.g. Xanax, Oxycodone)
  • Depressants (e.g. cannabis, codeine)
  • Stimulants (e.g. cocaine, ecstasy)

Your James Ising drug and alcohol specialist will identify and treat the key issues that will help you to take back control of your drinking and drug use behaviours.

Some of these key issues include:

  • Increasing your motivation to change
  • Looking at any underlying associated issues
  • Breaking addictive patterns and habits
  • Learning new coping strategies
  • Maintaining your sobriety, or reduced drinking and drug use

There is a very strong evidence base for the effectiveness of drug and alcohol counselling. James Ising counsellors and psychologists use best practice drug and alcohol interventions such as Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy and Motivational Interviewing to support our clients. These counselling approaches are also highly effective in treating secondary issues associated with alcohol or drug use, such as depression and anxiety.