;Working together with help Working together with help


(In this article, to avoid confusion, I am using the word “counselor” for counselor and/or therapist.  I am using the word “she” making no implication that the  subject should be female, but to   avoid redundancy and confusion.)

Is your relationship or marriage not in as good a shape as it once was, or as you’d like it to be?   Have you been thinking about pursuing relationship/marriage counseling?  If you are, there are a few pieces of information you’ll do well to consider before making your selection of a relationship counselor.

Counselors are just people.  They have their own people-problems and issues just like everyone else in the world.  When you decide which counselor you want to use, the smart client interviews the counselor before making a major life decision to seek counseling from that particular professional.   Granted, doing this may cost you and your partner an extra visit fee, but believe me, it’s worth it.   If this seems expensive to you, you will each need to ask yourselves two questions,

  1. “Just how much is my relationship worth to me”, and
  2. “Just how long do I want my relationship to last?”  

If you were investing in a new car, my guess is that you would do some serious research and looking around for the perfect car for you.   By the same token, whenever a couple seeks counseling together, they are making one of the most major investments in their future that they will perhaps, ever make. 

Upon entering any form of counseling, there are some extremely important points of which you should be aware.  You both have some serious work ahead of you before you make that phone call to schedule that first appointment.

  • Ask yourself whether or not you know any “couple” who has sought relationship counseling.  Next, ask yourself (and them) whether or not their experience with their counselor culminated in them reaching their personal goals for their relationship.   counseling clipart1<a Also ask them whether or not they personally feel as though their counseling experience benefitted their relationship in a positive and constructive way.
  • If the couple to which I refer answers “yes” to all of the above questions, you are on the right track.  You should consider asking them for their therapist’s name and phone number.
  • Once you know the counselor’s name, look up the counselor’s licensing board to find out whether or not he/she has had any complaints filed against her.  (i.e. If she is a social worker, “Google” the Board of Social Workers; if she is a counselor or other type of therapist, “Google” The Board of Behavior Health and Therapy; if a psychologist, “Google” the Board of Psychology, and so on.)  Licensing boards make this information public so that the public can become aware of the competence (or lack thereof) of the therapist they are considering.

Once you schedule an appointment with the counselor of your choice, attend that first session.  But!  Go to that session prepared!  Take along with you a list of questions you will ask her in this session.  That list should include the following questions, and any other concerns you may have:

  1. Do you determine our counseling goals or do you let us determine them?  (It is YOUR relationship, therefore, it is imperative that you and your partner’s goals for the relationship are respected.)
  2. May we see and share in our counseling plan?  (The methods the counselor uses to help you and your partner achieve your goals, should be conducive to bringing the two of you closer to each other.)
  3. Have other clients who have come to you for relationship help been satisfied with your guidance?  (Look for honesty in her response to this question.  Reality is that whether or not a couple is satisfied with counseling depends largely upon the two peole who are IN the relationship and whether or not they did the work she assigned to them.) 
  4. Will you be seeing us individually or together as a couple?  (The counselor will need to meet with you and your partner both ways – together and separately.  Exactly how many sessions, will depend on the issues you’ve brought to her.  She will usually begin seeing each of you individually so that she can assess and analyze the seriousness of your relationship problems and the best method for assisting you both in resolving your relationsip problems.)

I always find it very interesting that people get-together in a relationship or marriage believing that because they are in-love, everything will just be coming-up-roses!  In fairy tales, this makes sense.  In reality, you have each come from very different and unique family backgrounds.  In each of your families, there were different communication patterns utilized, different problem-solving skills utilized, different issues and manner of resolving them; or like many people, perhaps one of you were brought-up in a dysfunctional family where none of these  skills were developed at all.  Whichever the case for the two of you, chances are that your partner’s family’s way of dealing with everyday kinds of issues was very different from yours!  Like it or not, everyone is a product of their environment (family environment) upon having grown-up and left home!  If you are to deal in reality, you will realize that combining two different backgrounds is seldom an easy task.  Thus, the therapist’s work is cut-out-for-her and so is YOURS!

Understand that when any couple undergoes counseling/therapy together,

  1. They are each making a major commitment to themselves and to each other to do all of the work recommended by the therapist;
  2. Both are making an enormously positive investment in their respective futures;
  3. If doing the work assigned them by the counselor, both people are laying themselves out, wide-open on the table (their emotions, dreams, thoughts, wishes, fears, problems) in front of each other and the counselor.  Therefore, each person is allowing themselves to be totally vulnerable.  THIS IS THE REASON THAT YOU MUST EXERCISE EXTREME CAUTION IN WHOM YOU SELECT TO GUIDE YOU THROUGH THE COUNSELING PROCESS!

Too many times, couples have simply chosen a name out of their telephone directory, and then entrusted their most precious possession, their relationship, to a professional who did not serve them well.  Going into something so serious in any kind of lacqidasicle manner has cost some individuals their relationship! 

Never lose sight of the fact that it is the two of YOU who must live with the outcome of your counseling, and no one else!  Then,  and only then, proceed with caution.


JC is a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor who has assisted countless couples over the years, with resolving issues stemming from and surrounding their mood altering substance use related issues.

(Copyright 2014 by JC Fredlund) Copyright 2014 by JC Fredlund (JC Eberhart, Past Pen Name): ©JC Fredlund and JC Fredlund’s Artistry Blog, 1974 – 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to JC Fredlund and the link to http://www.JCFredlund.wordpress.com blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Three Crucial Steps to Prevent Relapse into Addiction

When I began working in the field of chemical dependency thirty years ago, there were some common beliefs of treatment professionals with which I strongly disagreed.  One of those beliefs was that if an individual underwent treatment for addiction and then drank or used illicit drugs again , he’d never really wanted to be sober at all.  (In my opinion, it was the old proverbial “throw the baby out with  the bathwater” philosophy.) 

I took issue with this belief because I happen to know both from professional and personal experience that it takes a good deal of determination and hard work to maintain early sobriety.  (Whether the individual maintains sobriety for a long or for a short period of time is not the point.)  I believed that for as long as professionals continued to focus on that which was beside the point, no progress could be made in solving the problem at hand.  (In it’s infancy, the chemical dependency treatment world was a punitive one.  The problem with that was that someone who is already beating himself up, certainly doesn’t need others to add to his already deep, emotional sense of shame.)

 I firmly believed that when an individual went to all of the work it takes to develop new sobriety and then ended up using, there had to be other issues involved that were interfering with his goal of continuous sobriety.

I began to ask some very probing questions of these clients.  Questions about how they’d been feeling emotionally, how they’d been sleeping, eating, etc.  What I learned was that people who relapsed after working hard to get sober, were definitely struggling with other issues besides their addiction.  I began referring clients who were having problems with cravings and with relapse for a thorough psychological assessment.  Making sure that they were referred to an office that housed both a psychologist and psychiatrist was critical.  It was critical because if the psychological testing revealed the need for a mood-stabilizing medication, the psychologist who customarily performs testing, can consult without delay with the psychiatrist in the office for appropriate prescription medication.

In countless numbers of cases, what was discovered through psychological testing was that the individual was suffering from depression and/or anxiety issues.  But there were other problems that I encountered.  The addiction community at that time frowned upon the use of medication for mood changing purposes.  My relief was monumental when the term mood-stabilizing became better known among professionals in the field.  That was because there is a tremendous amount of difference between mood-altering and mood-stabilizing medication.

 ood-altering medication either raises or lowers the mood away from that which is considered a general sense of well-being (either high or low.)  Mood-stabilizing medication on the other hand, moves the individual’s mood back into the general vicinity of a general sense of well being (i.e. a stable mood.)

To help understand the differences in psychotropic medications is crucial.  Unless one possesses this knowledge, it is impossible to know which medications are hazardous to chemically dependent clients and which ones are safe.  For example, if a medication contains a minor tranquilizer, it is a highly addictive medication.  That makes it off-limits to anyone who is chemically dependent person who does not want to place his sobriety in jeopardy.  Narcotics, opiates, sedatives and many others are also highly addictive.  Consequently it is imperative when choosing a psychologist/psychiatrist office, that one finds out whether or not these professionals are well-trained in chemical dependency.  One issue with which I’ve watched numerous chemically dependent individuals struggle, is failing to be their own advocate when it comes to their medical and/or psychological health.  Many relapses occur because a client failed to inform their doctor or psychiatrist of their addictive personality.  The tendency seems to be to then blame the professional for prescribing a drug to which they became addicted.  The burden of responsibility here clearly does not fall on the shoulders of the professional involved.

 Part of addictive behavior is the habit of ingesting whatever drug/alcohol and then letting life happen without being a responsible participant.  Learning to take full responsibility for themselves, for their lives, for their debts and for their health can be extremely challenging to most.  It is simply behavior with which they are basically unfamiliar.

 When clients are new to recovery in treatment, I repeatedly remind them that changing our thinking is crucial to recovery!  After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day!  Neither is stable, positive, healthy recovery!

So, you see, while it is absolutely true that the most important things to do repeatedly in early sobriety is:

1)     Don’t use,

2)     Go to meetings,

3)     Stay away from using places and using acquaintances!  (I tend not to refer to using buddies as “friends” because  although it is always shocking to the         newly recovering individual just how quickly these people vanish from their social calendars once they realize that the individual is serious about  no longer choosing to use alcohol or other  drugs, it is true, nonetheless.)     

Never underestimate the negative power of exposing oneself to using people and situations!  Countless recovering individuals manage to expose themselves to these dangers for quite some time before they unwittingly begin to slowly, but surely, wear down.  Addiction is all powerful and extremely insidious.  Make no mistake about it.  Unless you are vigilant and willing to do anything you have to do to maintain recovery, it can and will sneak-up on you like the thief in the night that it IS! 

Come check-out my website: http://www.yoursobersolutions.com!

(Copyright 2014 by JC Fredlund) Copyright 2009 – 2014 by JC Fredlund (JC Eberhart, Past Pen Name): ©JC Fredlund and JC Fredlund’s Artistry Blog, 1974 – 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to JC Fredlund and the link to http://www.JCFredlund.wordpress.com blog is included with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Overdose: Help Your Therapist Help You

Accidental overdose can be prevented by helping your helping professionals help you. I clearly recall my first two experiences with a therapist. My first experience was with an older, kindly gentleman. I’d been afraid of my anger one day when I’d shaken my six year old son who had just lit a candle and placed it underneath our infant daughter’s bed. I met with Al for a few sessions when he concluded that I was a fine parent and really had just needed someone to talk to. Immediately following our final therapy session, I went home, took three five milligram valium (about which he’d known nothing) and wrote Al an overly enthusiastic letter about my success with implementing the information I’d just finished reading in a self-help book I’d recently purchased at the local drug store. Little did Al know, I could barely remember what I’d read.

My second experience was just a few years later. I’d been living a nightmare in a bad marriage and had experienced thoughts of ending my life. Out of genuine fear that I might be tempted to act upon these thoughts, I decided to seek professional help. I intuitively realized that the levels of hopelessness and despair to which my mood had been plummeting rendered me in some very real danger. I searched the yellow pages and found a wonderful therapist. He was attentive, supportive and validating. Lord knows, I’d desperately needed to find all three qualities in a hurry. When he suggested an antidepressant medication, I knew that he’d recognized the severity of my emotional state. When he recommended ongoing therapy adding, “I don’t want you brought in here on a slab” for the first time in years, I felt my heart fill with hope. (My hope stemmed from the fact that I knew he’d not only heard, but fully realized my cry for help.) This validation was to carry me through the coming year at a time when I believe I very well might have otherwise reached the end of my rope.

Sadly, there existed a dangerously intrusive element about which I hadn’t told my therapist. That cunning and baffling saboteur was my (as yet undiagnosed) alcoholism and addiction to prescription drugs. Little did he know (and little did I know it mattered) that each evening as I’d ingest my antidepressant, I’d chase it with anywhere from one to four vodka gimlets. Then, of course, were the ongoing prescriptions for Fiorinal I was ingesting every four hours without fail for chronic headaches along with the occasional valium pill for anxiety.

In many ways, I’ve credited that therapist over the years with having been one of the guardian angels who contributed to saving my life. Indeed, he played a critical role in saving this addict from herself in that his compassion came at a time when no one else was able to show me any care and concern. Could I have helped my therapist help me more effectively though? Absolutely. Without informing him of a few of the most imperative pieces of information of all, could he have unknowingly contributed to the catch-22 in which I’d unwittingly become trapped by my addiction? Absolutely. In retrospect, this had been a classic case of the blind leading the blind. He could have known nothing about my addiction. His very sincere compassion provided me the glimpse of the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel I’d needed to go on fighting my exhausting battle with depression. However, needless to say, with my daily ingestion of my liquid central nervous system depressant, alcohol, the antidepressant medication he’d recommended was rendered useless. In a worst case scenario, could this have inadvertently resulted in an accidental overdose? Most definitely!

As for working through the issues he and I talked about, I was literally either too emotionally numb, or too busy riding a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows from my drug use to have been able to make any kind of progress therapeutically. Fortunately, with the searching that my ongoing misery led me to pursue, I finally located another of my guardian angels. This lady (a chemical dependency counselor) performed a merciful intervention on my addiction one morning at 2 A.M. It was that night that my addiction to pills and alcohol was “called out” into the open where it could be clearly identified, confronted and dealt with. Later that same morning, I admitted myself to a residential treatment hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Thirty-three years later, here I am, still sober and extremely grateful. It was my fond memory of that therapist’s compassion for my emotional suffering that inspired me to move forward with my dream of helping other addicts find their way out of the nightmare of addiction. I returned to college not long after having gotten into recovery from addiction, divorced my alcoholic husband who refused to quit drinking and began to experience the richness and joy of a sober life. Don’t misunderstand, it’s not that my battle with addiction was easy, but having received the specialized treatment of my addiction counselor in treatment, I learned that I could face and deal with any problem that I encountered.  It became exceedingly clear to me just how fortunate I am to be alive and to have been spared suffering the agony of having taken anyone else’s life on those small town roads I’d so haphazardly, repeatedly navigated while under the influence.

So . . . . here is where you, the client, must take responsibility for being your own advocate! You absolutely must be totally open with your therapist about every medication you take and the amounts and frequency with which you use mood-altering substances. Don’t take chances with your life. Accidents usually happen because someone has been careless. Know that accidental overdoses are exactly that . . . they’re accidents that happen because someone has been careless in neglecting to research the possible dangers of mixing their prescription medication with another mood-altering substance. Whenever two mood-altering substances are mixed, each intensifies the potency of the other! Any pharmacist will gladly answer any questions you might have about any drugs and/or their interactions with one another. They can also be easily “googled” on the internet. The necessity of taking responsibility for everything we put inside our bodies cannot be overstated.

Don’t take chances with your life.

Make it your business to be in-the-know!                               

(Copyright 1974 – 2014 by JC Fredlund) Copyright 2014 by JC Fredlund (JC Eberhart, Past Pen Name): ©JC Fredlund and JC Fredlund’s Artistry Blog, 1974 – 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to JC Fredlund and the link to http://www.JCFredlund.wordpress.com blog is included with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



“Many patients have asked me to explain addiction and to tell them what they can do about it. This thing called, “Addiction/Chemical Dependency/Alcoholism” is, in my opinion, the most insidious disease in existence today” . . . . 

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