Pregnancy, Advocacy, Gender & LGBT

Pregnancy: Does that change my approach?

As it stands, addiction is already a complex disorder to deal with due to the varying factors that contribute to addiction (e.g. families, addicted partners, co-occurring disorders, and disabilities). However, when viewing addiction from a biological standpoint, the addict is only harming oneself.

The aforementioned could be exposed to another layer of complexity if the addict is responsible for another human being, particularly, through pregnancy. One of the complexities is that the addiction can no longer be singled out to having negative impacts and consequences on the addict solely. This complexity spreads itself, at least biologically, to the unborn child as well. This could cause the unborn child to become exposed to addiction and great difficult during birth and for the rest of their life. This layer of complexity would alter my treatment approach. I usually like to take the approach of using therapeutic techniques and interventions without the utilization of medication (or as less as possible). However, in this case, I would want to look at substance abuse treatment using a medication-assisted approach. This would be mostly to assist the mother in minimizing the risk of obstetric complications. As a counselor, working with this population could bring up some personal experiences that I have with a cousin who was born addicted to drugs. Still, I would have to work through my issues outside of the counseling session and acknowledge the risks that a client may experience through this behavior. Therefore, I would speak openly with clients using psychoeducation to address possible risks such as severe obstetric complications, long-term pediatric and neonate risk for the child, and even death for an addicted child. This would be difficult to do. Yet, if a client continued to use drugs or drink heavily, I would be more inclined to advocate for the unborn child in this circumstance.

Advocacy: The road less traveled?

As a counselor-in-training, I have not seen much advocacy for the population that I serve. Therefore, it means a lot to me to be able to advocate for the clients at my practicum site and substance abuse users alike. I believe that advocacy helps to make a difference and to give issues a voice that everyone is too afraid to tackle. Advocacy also helps clients to feel like they are supported and heard throughout their recovery.  I am actually enjoying my role as an advocate in my practicum site. However, I will acknowledge that I did not expect to take on this role as a counselor. However, as a counselor, I think that it is imperative to advocate for all clients, no matter the population because sometimes clients do not know how to advocate for themselves. Therefore, there are no groups that I see as harder or easier to advocate for. This is due to the fact that I am a firm believer that everyone should be treated equally. Unfortunately, that equality is not always present in our current society. Therefore, advocacy is important to bring equal rights to all individuals no matter if they are a substance abuse user or a schizophrenic. In my opinion, mental health still has a long way to go because there is such a stigma associated with it and society labels it as a “bad” thing due to this reason. Ultimately, I think that advocacy is imperative to alleviate the stigma that mental health has and even less obvious subject matters such as addiction, gender, and the LGBT community.

Gender & LGBT: 4 ways to learn more!

March of dimes: This website is essential to assisting woman as it relates to pregnancy and healthy babies. The website offers a plethora of information on understanding how to have a full-term baby and any potential problems that could impact the health of babies. More specifically, this website offers videos and a lot of information on smoking, alcohol, and drugs while pregnant. For example, the website informs mothers of the types of drugs that they should avoid and the fact that serious medical problems could take place during pregnancy due to the passing of these substances to the baby through the umbilical cord and the placenta. Overall, this site is very helpful to pregnant woman, especially those that need information on substance abuse while pregnant.

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG):  This website is essential to LGBT issues in addictions counseling because it provides a platform for education and advocacy as it relates to parents, families, and friends of lesbians and gays. This website provides education around respect in the school and suggestions and strategies for seeking equality in this community for all. Likewise, this website gives its viewers the opportunity to take action through viewing issues in legislation, election, and candidates. Finally, this site acknowledges issues such as relationship recognition, family acceptance, workplace fairness, safe school, military, hate crimes prevention, and health.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):  This is a resource used to “reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities” ( However, more specifically, this site provides professional, healthcare provides, and educators with current health issues among the LGBT community through a resource kit. This kit is free of charge on the SAMHSA website. It provides terms and definitions (e.g. two-spirit versus transsexual) to the aforementioned individuals on behalf of the LGBT community. The kit breaks these top health issues down by lesbians, gay men, bisexual men and women, transgender people, etc. This breakdown examines physical health, such as heart disease, cancer, behavioral health, such as mental health, and sexual health, such as STDs. All of this information is essential when working with the LGBT population.

Women, Girls, and Addiction: Celebrating the Feminine in Counseling Treatment and Recovery: This website gives a synopsis of a book by Cynthia A. Briggs and Jennifer L. Pepperell that speaks to treatment approaches and interventions specialized for women that are addicted. The book provides an overview of woman, girls, and addiction from a historical perspective and the feminist theory as it relates to addictions counseling. The text also acknowledges the biopsychosocial issues related to this topic. Finally, information related to prevention, treatment and relapse prevention across the life span is outlined for women and girls that are dealing with addiction.







Attitude & Experiences towards drugs

As a child and a teen: What did I think?

I cannot remember much about my childhood and substances other than the fact that I come from a family that loves to party and enjoy themselves. Therefore, I never thought that the use of alcohol or “weed’” was a bad thing. This was mainly due to the fact that the adults in my life were still able to maintain a level of functionality while indulging in these substances. 

“Hey Ayzha! Would you like a glass of wine?”. At the age of 15-16, I was asked this question by my older family members. I grew up in an environment where children were able to drink under the legal age as long as it was in confounds of a family member’s home. Therefore, these experiences shaped my attitudes towards substances when I was a child and an adolescent. As an adolescent, I thought that substances, like alcohol, were okay to consume as long as I was being monitored by an adult.

To High School and College and beyond

Once I got to high school, I do not remember too many substances being around. If I did attend a party full of my peers, there was normally alcohol or weed there. As far as the alcohol, I never indulged because I knew that I was under age and I knew that I was not in a comfortable environment with my family in the event that something happened to me. I did not indulge in smoking weed because I didn’t like the smell of it.

Once, I got to college, I was over drinking and partying because I was allowed to be “kinda” free at family events in these departments. I was able to be around friends that partook in substances but I never had a desire to indulge. My philosophy was “that’s not for me, but I won’t judge someone else that wants to do it.

So today and in the future, my views are pretty much the same. Therefore, I do not think that it would be difficult to work with a client that decided or decides to make a choice different from my own. I try my best to be as non-judgmental as possible when dealing with clients and it would be no different in this scenario.

 Advice! Advice! Advice!

I was taught that alcohol is okay to indulge in as long as you don’t go overboard with it. However, I cannot remember a specific time when someone actually told me not to do drugs. I think it was just an unspoken understanding in my family that we understood the impact that drugs would have on our lives. Therefore, I have always understood alcohol to be something that is used in moderation and that it does not look good to over indulge in it. I have also understood that drugs are not acceptable and should never be touched. I think the freedom that my family allowed has always discouraged me from drinking a lot, if any at all. It almost feels like the thrill that I needed to understand and feel was fulfilled in my adolescence and young adulthood. I am unsure of how I will emulate this model as a counselor because it is not my job to promote or encourage drug use. I also have a better understanding of the idea that individuals may be at risk for addictive behavior based on genetics and would never want to be the root cause of such behavior. However, as a parent, I think allowing this type of freedom with my child as my family did with me will assist her in making the wisest choices when not in my presence or the presence of family.  


Wow! Aren’t you stressing yourself out even more!


I agree with authors Baumeister, Heatheron, & Tice (1994) who stated that the best coping strategy is in one’s ability to self-regulate. However, there are times when individuals are no longer able to use the best and most effective coping strategies for managing stress. Often times, individuals feel fatigued and cannot think clearly and logically enough to use the best strategies possible. I am not except from this!


When I am stressed and my self-regulation “muscle” is fatigued, I usually procrastinate on assignments. For example, this week, I had a case presentation that was due for my practicum class. I knew the week prior that I needed to get this done. However, I decided to procrastinate and spend time during the weekend with friends and family. Finally, I made a decision to get it done on Monday while a work. However, that was a bad idea because I had three meetings which made my day fly by and to top it off, in one of those meetings, I received some really bad news. This caused me to have to rush to get this assignment done approximately 30 minutes before class started and I did not feel as confident as I wanted to when presenting my case to my peers! I do this a lot and it actually adds more stress than it prevents.

Build up!

Not only do I allow myself to procrastinate when I am stressed, I also allow things to build up. What I mean by this is that I do not take the time to speak to those closest to me and ask for help. For example, instead of asking my significant other to wash the clothes so that I can type a paper, I will still try to wash clothes and type the paper but compromise my sanity and elevate my stress levels.  The same is true at work. I don’t ask for help a lot when I have competing deadlines. Instead, I wait until I am at my “breaking point” and cannot contain the “buildup” and actually explode. This explosion usually leads to a panic attack or just some sort of emotional breakdown that could have been avoided. At this point, I am usually a nervous wreck and inconsolable! However, this is one of the many ways that I ineffectively cope with stress!

Now you know all of my secrets! Until next time!




Personal & Professional Theories◄►12-step program


Let’s get personal!

I think that the 12-step facilitation of treatment relates closely to my own personal theory of life. More specifically, the 12-step facilitation of treatment is all about taking responsibility for your own actions and the acknowledgement of a higher being that has power. Spirituality is an intricate part of my life. I feel like it is because of something higher than me that I am able to do most of the things that I do. However, I also believe that I have to be responsible for myself, my actions, and in a sense my own recovery, or next steps in life. This became even clearer to me, after attending an AA meeting, I could see the spirituality and responsibility that was a shared commodity amongst the meeting members.

However, two of the steps that I find I needed to integrate in my life more are #8. “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all.” and #9. “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” I could definitely integrate this into my personal life and I think that I should. There have been individuals that I have harmed and have not made total amends with that have passed away. So today, I am living with regrets and a little bit of guilt because I didn’t say, “I apologize for….” more often.

Okay! Back to professional!

I see myself as a CBT counselor. Therefore, when examining the 12-steps, there are a number of steps that coincide with or have some element of CBT. The 12-step program focuses on the here and now just like CBT. Likewise, CBT focuses on the identification of behavior that the client wants to change and individuals in the 12-step program are asked to do the same. Similarly, individual in the 12-step programs are asked to be mindful and take personal inventory which could be mirrored to thought logs and mood logs in CBT. Finally, the 12-step treatment focuses a lot on a higher spiritual being and while CBT does not have this element, it does have the element of mindfulness and meditation that is encouraged for the client.

I am not sure if there is much that can be utilized for treatment in the 12-step treatment because it is already heavily CBT based. However, I will say that some of these elements in the 12-step treatment could be used in other instances. For example, the first step speaks about being powerless over the addiction. The word addiction could be replaced with something such as depression, anxiety, panic, etc. The reason for my logic is because most individuals present to counseling for depression, anxiety, or panic because it has interfered with daily functioning. Therefore, to some extent all clients may be powerless to something even if only temporary.

Until next time! ~Ayzha

Pharmacotherapy in the treatment of addictions?


I have always had the belief that God (or whomever we want to believe) created drugs for a reason. If someone has a headache, we recommend they take a Tylenol. If someone has sinuses, we recommend they take some Claritin. However, I never fully understood why there is an argument around pharmacotherapy, especially when an individual states that they are an addict and would like to seek treatment. However, I do understand that no one ever sets out to become dependent on drugs. Just like no one ever sets out to being diagnosed with cancer.

It is my opinion that pharmacotherapy is essential to the recovery of an addict. It is important for us to understand that drug use may start with an individual being prescribed something for pain or taking something for recreational use. This drug may relieve that pain or give a heighted feeling of pleasure that caused the individual to continue the drug use. Eventually, this leads the client to have changes in the brain and crave the drug making them dependent on it. Therefore, when this perspective is given to drug use and the way it alters the structure of the brain, I believe it is almost essential to use pharmacotherapy to assist a client. It is my belief that there is no way that an addict can completely do counseling free of drugs that their bodies have become so dependent on. Therefore, when drugs are prescribed that assist with recovery, it is more helpful to getting the client’s life back on track. I have seen the positive effects of this type of therapy working with substance abuse clients this semester and I don’t know how effective it would be to try to do therapy to an individual that was still using drugs as a means to minimize withdraw symptoms or stabilize themselves. It is my belief that pharmacotherapy makes a huge difference in this population. Therefore, I fully support it!


Exploring my inner self!


To be or not to be: That is the question!

It is my belief that it is essential to be connected to the client. However, as a counselor we are constantly trained to be neutral and to be unbiased when seeing clients. Contradictory! Right? In some cases it can be. However, I believe that it takes a certain level of passion and empathy to remain connected to your client. There are times that we will not be able to relate to our clients. However, it is important that as counselors we place ourselves into the shoes of the client to try to explore their problems from their vantage point.

Currently, I am counseling substance abuse patients and they already feel a divide between those individuals that have done drugs and ones that have not done drugs. I was actually just recently attacked by a client in my practicum because he claimed that I did not know anything about the streets and anything about addictions. In that instance, I could see how he saw a sense of self-righteousness in me. However, this is a trait that I work so hard to avoid. In order to do that, I continuously speak to the clients and let them know that any day we could be trading places. I think this is the key to making sure that you stay connected to the client. It is always possible for you to become the client and the client to become the counselor. Therefore, staying connected to my inner client is valuable and it keeps me humble in the profession and always checking myself to insure that I am not looking down on a client or forgetting that I could be the person being counseled are both essential tactics that I have figured out to help me as I begin to explore the counseling world.

We are the same!

I believe that there are a number of factors that we as human beings have in common. These factors include struggles, trials, tribulations, emotions, families, identities, etc. Therefore, I think that knowing these things keeps me leveled with my clients and helps me to avoid the “us” versus “them” mentality. For example, when working with substance abuse clients, I often say to them that everyone is addicted to something. When appropriate, I share my struggles with my addiction with them to let them know that we are similar and that we both may be struggling with some form of addiction. However, I don’t pretend that my addiction is as severe or as difficult as that of a substance abuse user. However, I believe it is a powerful tool to help the client feel at ease and to avoid being judgmental. I believe that no matter our struggles, we are all the same and have something to relate to!  

Motivation: To be a competent substance abuse counselor

Foundational philosophies of counseling

Of the various foundational philosophies of counseling, I am most comfortable with motivation. I think that I am most comfortable with this philosophy because it is one that I have used in my own life. I believe that motivation will take you far and will help any individual to achieve their dreams. I believe that this is true even when an individual only has a little glimpse of motivation. Or when an individual is faced with great failures and adversity. 

Likewise, I have been told by others that I have a motivating spirit and the ability to walk in a room and change the temperature of it. I felt like that was powerful. Therefore, as a counselor in training, I understand that I am the model for the client. Therefore, if I can model how to be a motivated individual, I think that clients that lack motivation may be able to rethink the lack thereof. Likewise, I feel that the clients that have motivation may find more motivation through my modeling. 

Tolerance and attitude are everything

Prior to this semester, I had a low tolerance for individuals that were addicted. Mostly because I have seen the way addiction has torn my family apart. Individuals have become estranged with an individual in my family during his drug addiction. Likewise, I always believed that individuals had a choice in whether they wanted to be addicted or not. However, after receiving more formal education, I understand that it not that simply. I also understand that the brain structure and functionality completely changes when an individual is addicted. Therefore, my attitude toward the addiction population has changed drastically. 

I am also currently working with substance abuse patients for my practicum and I know and understand how having a low tolerance for this population is a sign of ignorance to their experiences. I also am fully aware of the impact that my attitude has on the substance abuse population. I have witnessed clients interact with other clinical staff who have something like a “stand offish” attitude and the impact it has on the clients. I have also witnessed how this type of attitude makes it least likely for a client to open up. Therefore, my attitude is mostly warm, open, receptive, non-judgmental, empathetic, etc. For this reason, I have found that clients are more willing to open up and more willing to give their all when in group sessions or individual counseling sessions. I am also learning that individuals that are addicted to substances have some of the same problems that I do and that just because I am in a position to help does not make me better than they are as individuals. 

Signing off for now! 


What’s your addiction?



Work & Success-you are my beloved friends!

According to Joshua Becker, author of 12 ways Friends Improve Our Lives, authentic friends: encourage us, challenge us, motivate us, celebrate us, keep us honest, add joy to our lives, improve our health, provide opportunity for influence, and provide opportunity for sacrifice (!

When I think about how hard I work and how successful I have become in just 25 years, I can see how the two have become a beloved friends to me and ultimately an addiction. I have been encouraged by “them” to do better, I have been challenged by “them” to become smarter, I have motivated by “them” to keep going, I have been celebrated by “them” through accolades from co-workers, professors, and family. I have been provided with a lot of opportunities and I have been challenged! I feel like they have added joy to my life because they give me a sense of meaning. Which leads me to believe that “my beloved friends” have improved my health, but they have not! But Why not stop this addiction?

Work and Success-Appealing to the senses?

I cant stop! I cant stop! This addiction appeals to my senses! It’s pretty sad when you get an instant euphoria from smelling new books  or stationary! That means that you should be addicted to work and success…right?! Right! At least for me! I love to see my accomplishments. So much so that I have a picture of all my “Thank you cards” in my office and a folder bulging over of accolades! I even have samples of work that I have done in the past so that at a moment’s notice I can provide evidence of my hard work! I love to hear my name being acknowledged for something innovative or scholarly I have done! I mean after all…I have been told since I was smart I am! Maybe this is where this addiction all started! Or is it? Maybe I use it to cover up other things going on with me. 

Work and Success-It heals me! It soothes me! 

As I sit here and write, I think about how much I was acknowledged as a young girl for being so bright and so smart-mainly from my father! I mean I actually only did a month in fourth grade and then was skipped to the fifth grade. I think that some of the accolades and reinforcements that I received as a young girl lead to my perfectionist tendencies which gave way to my addiction to success and work. However, I also believe that being successful and my addiction to it has been to get the approval of my father who was absent from my life for so long. I was his first child to graduate from college with honors! I felt like being smart and being successful was something that made him proud. And I always sought to do that and I still seek to do that! Even on the day that he passed away and even now that he is not here with me physically, I still seek his approval through my work and my success. I wonder if this balm is working though! 

Work and success-What has it cost me?

This addiction has cost me to abandon friends and loved ones. When I begin to work and feel success, my days fly by so fast that I forget to make phone calls and check up on loved ones. Sometimes it gets to the point that friends don’t even call me like they used to! And I also miss out on milestones for individuals like my god son! My relationship with my significant other lacks because I am always doing school work, work, or sleep because of the mental exhaustion that this addiction causes me! Being addicted to work and success causes me to be lonely and it cost me having someone to speak to about it because no one really wants to hear about work and school all the time! It’s sad because when I am asked what I have been up to…all I can say is “work and school”. Maybe this addiction is also costing me an adventurous time in my twenties because I should be exploring the world and living care free…..right? Maybe I need more help than I think I do! 

Work and Success-Where is the help?

According to Capuzzi & Stauffer (2012), work addiction is still being researched in the scope of diagnosing and treatment. However, after doing some individual research, I found workaholics anonymous ( which offers support groups, books, and other resources for individuals that are in my shoes!

The first step to recovering is admitting you have a problem. Right? Until next time!




Process Addictions: From my vantage point!



Do you think like the rest of society? 

I think like the rest of society, I am biased to process addictions. What I mean by that is we, as society are constantly putting “aholic” at the end of something. For instance, we say “shopaholic”, “sexaholic”, etc. This is usually done when one does something in “excess of”. However, I think by doing this we undermine an addiction, whether it is process addiction or substance addiction. I think as a society we are biased to all things negative and try to do our best to make things look better! Therefore, I would have to say for a long time I perceived those that did things in “excess of”…just a little…as a [blank]-aholic! Not fair right! But this is my vantage point! 

Vantage Point is shaped: by how you accept/reject behaviors! 

I guess for me, by nature, I more readily accept sexual behaviors or eating behaviors done in “excess of” as problematic because they are ones that are harmful to oneself or to another individual. However, I readily reject gambling, for instance. The reason for this is because I grew up in a household where going to the casino during the weekend was the greatest thing to do. Or even playing the lottery and scratch off were the best thing to do. AND IT CAUSED NO HARM! (or so I thought) I remember hearing screaming one day saying “We hit the lottery, we are going shopping”! That excited me. I was young at the time and what I did not recognize is that there must have been 3-4 times the money spent in order to gain what was won! (I wouldn’t be surprised if it weren’t more)! I also came to realize that although I could not see it, bills were not being paid because of this habit! 

But was it an addiction, a habit, uncomfortable, undesirable, or just unhealthy?

Although, I am not an expert in process addictions, I would not say that I am not quick to call it an addiction if I am uncomfortable with it or if I find it undesirable or unhealthy. I do think that I would have about 5-10 years ago. However, today, as an adult and aspiring counselor, I do understand how something is classified as an addiction. I also understand that just because I am uncomfortable with something or it is undesirable to me, does not make it an addiction. For example, one day while watching “Taboo” on National Geo channel, this lady allowed her pigs to nurse from her own breast! I found this very disturbing but would not put it in the category as an addiction. I viewed it as more cultural. 

Morals, culture, values, beliefs: How do they shape the vantage point!

With this example, I think this is great proof of how my beliefs, morality, or spiritual beliefs can shape my views of my client’s problem. I understand that my beliefs, morals, and values may not align with those same beliefs of my client. However, it is my responsibility to be open to different ways of thinking. I think it is easy for an individual to dismiss something or diagnosis something that they don’t understand. However, it takes a competent individual to understand a vantage point different than their own and still be an asset to clients. 

Signing off!


Self Assessment: Working with Substance Abuse Clients



My Approach

After reviewing the web references, I wasn’t really sure of the types of approaches that made me feel most comfortable. However, I took a moment and reflected on the process groups and individual counseling sessions that I have led so far with the substance abuse population at my practicum site. From those reflections, one of the things that I heard as a motivator for them to recover are their families. After having this “moment of enlightenment”, it dawned on me that I often wonder about the families of substance abuse users and how they are affected. Therefore, I would have to say that I think a family approach would be one that I would be comfortable with. I think that it would have been one that would have been helpful in Sahira’s case because it appears that her anxiety and her reason for using stemmed from people/ issues in her family. Finally, from our references, I found Al-Anon Family Groups as a wonderful reference and resource for using the family approach. This organization focuses on the family. They host groups for spouses & partners, adult children, teens, parents, grandparents, and siblings. I believe, though, that the limitation with this group is that they only support alcoholics. This group would be more effective if it expanded its efforts to substance abuse families. 

My Strengths

I think one of my strengths in helping someone like Sahira is my ability to display compassion, empathy, and sympathy. I believe that these have all been useful in facilitating groups at my practicum site. I have been able to clearly hear the stories of the clients and use compassion, empathy, and sympathy to genuinely want to help them through treatment in any way that I can. I have found that for them, it is a constant battle that they have to fight everyday and sometimes they are fighting it alone. This is because they have pushed those closest to them away due to their drug abuse. 

My Areas of Improvement 

I think one area that I can improve upon is increasing my knowledge around substance abuse. Likewise, altering my thinking about substance abuse recovery and believing that there is a “quick fix”. I am learning through this course and working with the substance abuse population that addiction and its recovery are both very complex and are not easily “fixed”. 

Signing off!