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Mental Health Blog

Substance Use Disorder Therapy in Franklin MA

Substance use disorder

Interview with

August 3, 2022

Image of Jim Gardner

In this article we’ll hear from Jim Gardner, LICSW, P.h.D. whose personal challenges related to the maintenance of sobriety guided him to helping others along their recovery journey.

We’ll discuss what substance use disorder is, what treatment for substance use disorder involves, and what to expect from working with Jim at our office in Franklin, Massachusetts.

Jim knows first hand the physical, mental, and emotional burdens of addiction. He believes that we are all works in progress, and when confronted with a problem such as addiction, Jim shows us that we have the spiritual wisdom within us to solve our problems.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use disorder or addiction, we’re here for you. Please contact us today at (413) 343-4357 to schedule an appointment with one of our trained mental health professionals in our offices in Franklin, Wilbraham, Amherst, and Springfield.

First, What is Substance Use Disorder?

Substance use disorder is a mental health disorder that interferes with a person’s brain and behavior, leading them to excessively use substances, like drugs or alcohol, to self medicate.

-Jim Gardner, LICSW, PhD

SUD (Substance use disorder) is a complex mental disorder that affects a person’s brain and behavior. When someone depends on the use of an external substance to feel good- whether it’s alcohol, medications, or illegal drugs- their inability to use the substance despite the adverse effects it has on their behavior leads to SUD.

Virtually every area of a person’s functioning, at work and school, in the family, and in the community, will be affected by their substance use.

So, What Causes Substance Abuse Disorder?

While a person’s substance use behaviors might lead you to believe that their condition is self-imposed, we need to remember the biological, psychosocial, and contextual factors that contribute to the disorder.

Biological: Substance abuse and addiction changes the brain’s normal chemical balance. When someone becomes addicted to an external substance, such as alcohol or illegal drugs, the substance interrupts the brain’s normal chemical balance. This

This interruption between brain cells causes distorted thinking and abnormal patterns of behavior, such as intense cravings, withdrawal symptoms, learning and memory problems, and personality changes.

Psychosocial: A person’s personality traits, such as high-impulsivity, aggression, and sensation seeking can contribute to SUD.

The prevalence of other mental health disorders, including major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, attention-hyper-deficit disorder (ADHD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can lead to SUD.

Contextual: Having a family member with a SUD, lack of family involvement, poor child-parent relationship, family disruptions such as divorce, acute trauma, and chronic stress, social isolation, and abuse can all contribute to the development of SUD.

For more information about SUD, including causes, symptoms, and treatment, check out our SUD article.

What Can Family Members Do About a Loved One’s Substance Abuse Disorder?

If you’re concerned about your friend or family member’s substance use, Jim suggests to step in quickly and effectively. Contrary to popular culture, people do not need to hit rock bottom before they can recover from SUD.

Pay attention to the obvious warning signs, like secretive behaviors, sudden mood changes, or slurred speech. It’s better to take more extreme measures in the beginning, before their substance use causes more damage to their life.

-Jim Gardner, LICSW, PhD

Depending on the nature of your loved one’s condition, you might be inclined to express how their addiction has effected you and your relationship. You might feel a strong urge to get them to change. It’s important to remember that the decision to change is their own decision. A person is more likely to open up and receive help if you communicate honestly, without attacking or threatening them.

If you’re involve in your loved one’s treatment process:

  • Work on building a trust with your loved one.
  • Communicate your feelings and tell your loved one how their addiction has impacted you and be honest about what you want to happen next.
  • Do not blame, humiliate, or criticize your loved one in counseling.

If your loved one decides to pursue treatment on their own:

  • Respect their privacy and do not tell friends, family members, coworkers about your loved one’s treatment without their consent.
  • Respect their privacy in therapy.
  • Be patient, change does not happen over night.

If you’re concerned about your loved one’s substance use, or have a friend or family member with an addiction, know that they can change and come on the other side of addiction. While you cannot force them to change, you can encourage them to get help and support from one of our trained therapists. Contact us today to make an appointment.

What Does Your Substance Use Disorder Treatment Involve?

Jim believes that a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and involvement in a 12 step program is the most effective treatment approach for SUD.

Jim integrates the teachings of Dr. Wayne Dyer, one of the most widely known and respected authorities in the field of self empowerment and psychotherapy into his practice. Central to Dyer’s philosophy is the belief that problems exist because of the way we process information about our lives and everything that happens in the world around us. To Dyer, problems represent living in low energy fields. When you bring higher energy into your life, through any form of upbeat activity, the low energy dissolves.

When people are struggling with substance abuse and addiction, they calibrate at a very low energy. Everything is in disharmony. When you bring higher energy into the presence of disharmony and negativity, you are bringing a healing energy.

-Jim Gardner, LICSW, PhD

Jim believes that we all have the power within us to bring light to the presence of darkness: dissolving the hate, fear, and sadness that brings us down and creates suffering. Through cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness techniques, we can learn to discover, challenge, and restructure the patterns of thought and behavior that are no longer serving us.

I encourage my clients to pay attention to their thoughts. If we can interrupt our negative thoughts through a spiritual activity, whether that’s through listening to music or taking a walk, we can bring higher energy into our lives.

-Jim Gardner, LICSW, PhD

What Do You Like About Working in Franklin, MA?

Franklin is a beautiful town. It’s very family friendly, with lots of small businesses, parks, and restaurants. It feels like a quintessential New England town, with a strong Italian heritage. You’re not far from some beautiful nature trails, and can easily escape to Boston or Providence for the weekend.

-Jim Gardner, LICSW, PhD

What Have You Enjoyed Most About Your Sobriety?

When I finally admitted that I was powerless over my addiction, and that I didn’t have control over everything, I built faith in a higher power. I started to walk in the presence of the higher power within me. I saw myself on the other side of addiction, and it’s since felt like serenity.

About The Author

Nettie Hoagland Headshot

Nettie Hoagland is a writer with experience in local news reporting and nonprofit communications and community development. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in Media Studies, Journalism, and Digital Arts from Saint Michael’s College. Nettie is a believer in the healing power of the arts to create connection and community. She is passionate about using writing and storytelling as an instrument for personal and social growth in the field of mental health. Nettie is endlessly curious about all things mental and behavioral health.

James Gardner Headshot

Jim is an LICSW with a Ph.D. from the Smith College in clinical social work. He not only focuses on an individual’s mental health, but considers the role of the social environment that affects an individual. After receiving his MSW in 1982, he served at the D St. clinic in South Boston for 28 years. And as a person in recovery for over 10 years he is personally acquainted with the struggles related to maintenance of sobriety. More About Author →