chemical dependency Articles

What is chemical dependency? Perspectives from a Christian counselor

I was recently speaking at an event for marriage and family therapy students and emerging professionals. It was the kind of event where students could meet others in the field who have gone in a variety of different directions and ask any  questions they might have.

Some students asked about the various job opportunities available, some about how to handle the emotional stress. One question directed towards me, though, stood out. As I had been hosting the event, I previously introduced myself multiple times and touched on my own line of work. Besides working at Seattle Christian Counseling, I work in a community mental health setting, working mostly with people with substance abuse issues. The question brought to me inquired about my language, “people with substance abuse issues.”

“I noticed you never said you work with alcoholics or addicts. Why is that? Is there something that’s changing about the language in the field?” the current student asked me.

See, she is currently a chemical dependency professional branching out into the marriage and family therapy field. Her experience has been working with addicts and alcoholics, and that’s how she has always referred to the people with whom she worked.

She asked me about the use of my “person first” langu...

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Addiction is Not a Moral Failure: A Christian Counselor Speaks

By Pam Shaffer, MA, LMHC, CDP, Seattle Christian Counseling, PLLC

“The Bible says, ‘Do not get drunk…’”

“Addiction is not a disease. That’s just a cop out.”

“If you’re really a Christian, you won’t have problems with drugs or alcohol.”

As a Christian growing up in the church, I have heard these statements made by many. It is very easy to cast judgment on something with which we do not struggle ourselves. Many people who become addicted to substances never intended their lifes to take that path. In my experience with addiction counseling, I’ve never met an addict or alcoholic who intended to become a junkie or a drunk. The church continually fails people who struggle with addiction by marginalizing them even more. The above statements are not an invitation to find healing and recovery, but are packed full of judgment and condemnation.

Addiction Impairs Normal Functioning

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines disease as a condition of a living animal or plant body, or of one of its parts. It impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms.

The two phrases that are important here are “impairs normal functioning” and “distinguishing signs and symptoms.” Alcoholism and drug addiction clearly impair normal functioning in the majority of those who su...

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Overcoming Addictions in Christian Counseling, Part 2

By Barney Armstrong, MA, LMHCA, Bellevue Christian Counseling

We all know how powerful addictions can be. Despite the best will in the world, the decisions that we make to stop engaging in harmful activities all too often come to nothing. This is because the decisions that we make do not reflect our true desires.

In my previous article I explained how our decisions and our desires are located in two different parts of the brain. This means that, while we may decide to stop a particular activity, we often don’t really want to stop it and so will continue doing it. Our desires are rooted in that part of the brain that we call the heart, and these two parts have become alienated from one another, making us double-minded. If we are to genuinely change our actions, we need to deal with our desires. Our problems with addiction will not be resolved by making rational decisions, but can only be resolved by a genuine change of heart.

Purify Your Heart

Overcoming our addictions by changing our desires is hard work and This takes some sweat.  While  running a marathon is really  tough, at le...

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Overcoming Addictions in Christian Counseling, Part 1

By Barney Armstrong, MA, LMHCA, Bellevue Christian Counseling

Addictions are powerful forces that many of us experience in one form or another. We struggle to break free from them, often with little success. We tend to think that we can overcome addictions simply by changing our behavior, only to discover that it doesn’t work like that. We honestly think that we should be able to do something if we put our minds to it, but it doesn’t take us long to discover that life is not so simple. Why is it so difficult for us to change? And what is going on here?

The reality is that our actions are not only based on our decisions, but also on our desires. If we are to change our actions, we need to understand and change those desires that make us act in a particular way. In this two-part series I am going to be looking at the roots of addiction in our lives, and at how we can overcome our addictions by purifying our hearts.

You Don’t Actually Want To Change

You might think that the knowledge that an activity is ruining your life would be enough to make you stop it. But the reality is that we often don’t really want to change. If you ask what I mean by this, I would say that your “decider” and your “want...

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