Updated: Aug 2, 2019
“It’s important for teenagers to not be afraid to discuss their feelings.” That’s what Gary Howard, a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor in Minnesota, believes wholeheartedly. Gary and I spoke at length about what he accomplishes as a LADC and his opinions on the problems teens have with addiction and what they should do to overcome them.
Working in a treatment center, Gary Howard is able to reach 10-16 clients at a time with different forms of therapy. He explained to me the importance of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in changing the way we think. Gary told me “If we change how we think, we can change how we feel, and, in turn, change how we act and get better results in our life.” It is essential to find the origins of the ‘automatic thoughts’ that everyone has in their head that tell them they aren’t good enough. The thoughts that immediately come into our minds on a daily basis are hardly the moral compass we need to follow. Gary wants to use CBT to change these thoughts because he feels that the brain lies to us. His groups work to break down barriers and understand the root of their thoughts because Gary strongly believes that “If we can acknowledge and understand when our brain is lying to us and when it’s telling the truth, then we have an excellent chance at success in life - once we can break down what are the lies and what are the truths.”
This can also be joined with solution based therapy and positive psychology. Those in therapy analyze the problems in their lives and, rather than continue to only focus on their problems, start to develop solutions. When clients see beyond the problem and establish brighter futures, they can focus on themselves and the success in their lives. Through positive psychology, Gary can help individuals build on the strengths that they recognize within themselves.
A different example of a typical group therapy session with an LADC is called recreational therapy. Through recreational therapy, clients can learn coping skills and have fun while maintaining sobriety. Gary Howard says “I’ll give the clients a piece of paper and have them write down a song that inspires them or brings back happy memories. We will put it in a bowl and I’ll go around and play everybody’s song, and they’ll discuss the feelings it brought back or what it inspires them to do.”
While many people do seek a treatment center like Gary Howard’s, there are still countless more who should consider it. Contrary to the beliefs of many, Howard explains that “Asking for help is a sign of strength because to leave yourself vulnerable to ask for help takes courage.” There are numerous resources for anyone who needs them at any time, and Gary recommends that teens either seek out a professional, or confide in a trusted parent or friend who supports them. While discussing that teens should connect with like minded individuals they know they can count on, Gary Howard explains that the people that teens hang out with can be indicative of their own character. Through this conversation it is clear that “Healthy peer support and connection are essential in success."
While seeking these peer connections, you can also be a safe space for someone else. Gary Howard is a firm believer in the fact that “Everybody needs help at some point in their life; nobody can do everything themselves.” As a teen, and a person in general, all feelings are normal and we shouldn’t be ashamed of any of them. The main advice that Gary gives to all supportive friends is to not judge others for how they are feeling because that will only push people down. As a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor, Gary Howard stresses the power of a strong group because he feels that “The more that we help each other the better chance we all have at success.”
Huge thank you to @crazyheadcomics for the great graphic. Go check them out on instagram for more!