UNCG Research

Treating Addiction: Professor’s text offers a real-world snapshot for student counselors

Posted on Thursday, June 6th, 2013 by Sangeetha Shivaji.
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Repost from UNCG Now

Article By Michelle Hines

image of Substance and addiction treatment book coverTodd Lewis decided on a different approach.

Lewis, an associate professor in the Department of Counseling and Educational Development, wanted to write a textbook that went beyond the current theories of substance abuse counseling. He also wanted to give students a closer look at the real-world, clinical aspects.

The title of his new text, “Substance Abuse and Addiction Treatment: Practical Application of Counseling Theory,” published by Pearson, reflects his aim.

Most textbooks on substance abuse counseling are heavy on addiction-based information, Lewis says, but leave students wondering, “Well what does counseling actually look like in session with someone addicted to substances?” His book, by contrast, is “chock-full of technique, but technique grounded in theory.”

Lewis plans to use the book as the main text for his substance abuse counseling course starting this fall. To bring the theories to life, he uses a running case study, “Michael,” an amalgam of clients Lewis has worked with in his clinical practice.

He lays out Michael’s case along with popular treatment theories — including cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing — and applies each theory to Michael’s case. He brings in numerous other case studies along the way.

Lewis explores the pluses and minuses of each technique as it is used with Michael. Students also can access online resources, including training videos.

Alcohol and drug abuse remains a huge problem, Lewis says, especially among young people. About 45 percent of college students binge drink, and there is a trend among young people to mix alcohol and marijuana, amplifying the effects of both.

Lewis sees substance abuse and addiction “like a disease.” Rather than a moral defect, it is a problem that needs treatment, he says, and which can be overcome with support, motivation, healthy thinking, and willpower.

To help them build empathy for those addicted to substances, Lewis requires students in his substance abuse counseling course to give up a habit for the semester. It could be something as simple as nail biting or a favorite food.

Almost all those struggling with addiction have underlying problems — depression, anxiety, boredom, abuse — that lead to substance abuse, he says. Twin studies indicate that between 26 and 54 percent of a person’s risk for addiction is genetic, and anywhere between 60 and 70 percent is environmental. Some variance in addiction is unknown.

“Yes genetics can play a role,” Lewis says, “but that’s not the whole story.”

UNCG Now story posted by Michelle Hines (mkhines@uncg.edu )