Treating High-Functioning Individuals with Substance Use Disorders

Treating High-Functioning Individuals with Substance Use Disorders

Treating High-Functioning Individuals with Substance Use Disorders


By Sarah Allen Benton, MS, LMHC, LPC, AADC

“My family does not support my getting sober and continues to drink around me.”

“My friends do not think that my drinking is that bad and don’t want me to change.”

For high-functioning individuals with alcohol or substance use issues, it can be common for loved ones to minimize their problem.  They also may fear that if their loved one gets sober that it could change the social dynamic within their family or friendship group.  When one member of a family or friendship group acknowledges that they have a substance use problem or disorder, it can lead others to become defensive about their own substance usage and the unintended implication.  However, it is important that a decision to get sober is not based on the feedback of loved ones but instead on an internal certainty that this is the right decision for that person. 

Alcohol and Substance Use Disorders can be compared to spilling a seemingly small amount of water on a desk.  You may think that it was a small amount, but it infiltrates every paper on the table.  When an individual addresses their Substance Use Disorder (SUD), they slowly begin to realize that their use penetrated every aspect of their lives.  Those who had been using substances along with that individual may not be unable to be objective about the negative effects that their loved one may have experienced- particularly if they were maintaining their level of functioning.  When individuals have their job, finances, houses, relationships and other responsibilities, it can be more challenging for loved ones to see that they have an addictive issue.  The external successes can hide their internal struggles. 

High-functioning individuals with SUDs may experience a unique set of challenges and resistance from their loved ones.  Therefore, it is crucial that they engage in treatment that is able to understand their profile and are able to customize services accordingly. 

The In-Home Addiction Treatment (IHAT) model of care surrounds each client with a Care Team and a Family Wellness team that can support the family system in coping with these changes.  By providing services to the family members in conjunction with the client, it can allow those with SUDs to focus on their own recovery with decreased family stressors.  The IHAT model allows clients to continue working or attend school while engaging in treatment, which can often be a barrier and excuse for why this population will not seek out care. 

The IHAT Institute is training healthcare professionals in CT, MA, NH, ME, RI, IN and FL in this innovative treatment model.  Given all of the changes in healthcare over the past 2 years, there has never been a better time to learn about a model of care that can adjust to communication, family and logistical changes. 


1 Comment

Ryan Thorn
I'm not sure where you are getting your info, but great topic. I need to spend time learning more or understanding more about addiction treatment options. Thanks for the fantastic info.

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