5 Things to Know When Starting Individual Therapy for Substance Abuse at Authentic Connections

Embarking on a journey towards recovery from substance abuse is a courageous step. Here at Authentic Connections Counseling Center, we provide individual therapy that is personalized to each individual, providing each client with the support and guidance they need. In our experience as licensed addiction counselors, there are a handful of important considerations to be aware of before starting therapy.

1. Defining Moderation: Understanding standard drink sizes and the threshold for concern is crucial when discussing alcohol use. According to the National Institute of Health, one standard drink is 12 ounces of regular beer (about 5% alcohol), 5 ounces of wine (about 12% alcohol), or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (about 40% alcohol). It is surprising for many to learn that heavy drinking is defined as having more than 4 drinks per day or more than 14 drinks per week for men, and more than 3 drinks per day or more than 7 drinks per week for women.

2. Serious Health Risks of Combining Substances: Combining substances, such as benzodiazepines (benzos) and alcohol, can lead to severe health risks, even if the substance is prescribed. Both substances depress the central nervous system, and their simultaneous use can intensify their effects, potentially resulting in respiratory depression, overdose, and death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns about the dangers of combining substances  due to the potential for severe and/or life-threatening impacts.

3. Assessment: Individual therapy involves a comprehensive assessment of an individual’s substance use history, even in outpatient settings. Therapists explore factors such as specific amounts, frequency, and patterns of substance use, as well as coordinate with other healthcare providers. This assessment helps therapists accurately identify the need for treatment, assess the severity of the substance use disorder, and develop effective treatment plans.

4. Individual Therapy May Not Be Enough: It’s important to recognize that individual therapy alone may not always be sufficient for individuals with Substance Use Disorders. Some individuals may be at risk of severe withdrawal symptoms when reducing or discontinuing substance use, which can be life-threatening. In such cases, therapists may recommend a higher level of care, such as medically monitored withdrawals, intensive outpatient programs, or residential treatment providers, to provide concurrent support, improve the effectiveness of treatment, and ensure safety through the recovery process.

5. Cannabis and Other Decriminalized Substances: While certain substances, like cannabis, may not carry criminal charges in some jurisdictions, it is important to acknowledge their potential risks for substance use disorder. The active compounds in cannabis have not been consistently measured or verified for medicinal benefits. Long-term cannabis use can lead to respiratory problems, central nervous system damage, fertility issues, and exacerbation of mental health conditions. Therapists will support regular inquiry and monitoring of all substances, regardless of their legal status. 

Starting individual therapy for substance abuse can be a transformative experience on the path to recovery. Being aware of these five important aspects will help individuals make informed decisions, engage in effective treatment, and ensure a safer and more successful recovery journey. Remember, individual therapy is just one piece of the puzzle, and a comprehensive treatment approach, tailored to individual needs, can significantly increase the chances of a successful outcome. 

At Authentic Connections Counseling Center, we make it our mission to assign clients to the right therapists and we promise to involve you every step of the way to ensure you feel comfortable and cared for throughout the entire process. We will ensure you find a therapist that meets your needs and aligns with your values. If you’re ready to make the phone call, please reach out to us at 720-370-3010 or email us at info@authenticconnectionscounseling.com for more information. The right therapist can make all the difference in your mental health and overall well-being and we would be honored to be that difference in your life! 

Written By:  Cherisse McNaughton-Balzano, LPC, LAC


  • https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/what-standarddrink 
  • https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-bingedrinking
  • https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/sma12-4079.pdf
  • https://www.asam.org/asam-criteria/about-the-asam-criteria
  • https://www.hazeldenbettyford.org/addiction/marijuana-symptoms