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6 Tips to Help People with a Substance Use Disorder

Dr. Andreas Bienert, Assistant Professor, Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Learning how to overcome a substance use disorder is not a small task. Substance abuse and drug addiction are overwhelming and require strength and courage. Most importantly, recognizing drug addiction does not only impact individuals who actively engage in substance use; it also impacts those who are closest to them, such as their family members and friends.

While every situation is unique, here are some general guidelines that can help you and others with substance use disorders.

Educate yourself on substance use disorder.

It is essential to educate oneself on the disease of addiction and begin to understand the disease process. Addiction is one of the most complex diseases, impacting every area of a person's life. Knowledge is considered a powerful tool that will help one gain greater insight and awareness of one's own role in the treatment process. Education is a tool that allows us to shift from negative judgment toward empathy and understanding.

Give yourself grace.

There is a lot of pain and grief involved when you love someone with a substance abuse problem. A critical lesson is the importance of being good to yourself, regardless of where your loved one is in their addiction or recovery. It is hard to control another person; however, one can make healthy decisions for oneself to have hope of supporting and encouraging another. A valuable component of self-care is utilizing counseling services, for example — it is not just for individuals who actively struggle with substance use disorders; family members and friends benefit just as much.

Determine when to help.

Talking about the problem vs. trying to hide it can be very healing, both for the person trying to overcome addiction and their loved ones. A person with a substance abuse problem may be reluctant to come to you and ask for help, but open dialogue is your best chance to be there for them when they need you the most.

Establish trust.

If an addicted person has already betrayed and broken trust, regaining and maintaining it can be very difficult and even scary at times. However, establishing trust both ways is an essential first step in helping someone with addiction consider a change.

Support vs. Enable

Learn about the difference between enabling vs. supporting. Often, family members find themselves enabling their loved one's addiction without fully realizing that they are doing so. When someone you love has a problem with substances, it is easy to fall into the trap of shielding them from the consequences of their addiction. A good tip for supporting your loved one is to set healthy boundaries with them.

Get help for yourself first.

Being in a relationship with a person who has a substance use disorder can be stressful and disruptive. It is important for family members to learn to accept that what they are going through is difficult and requires support. Family members may want to consider participating in community support groups, such as Al-Anon or Naranon. Children and Teenagers can find support from Alateen.

Colorado Christian University Counseling Programs

The Colorado Christian University Community Counseling Center is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with in-person and virtual visits. The Counseling Center provides affordable, outpatient mental health services. Our staff of highly trained master's-level and doctoral-level clinicians have extensive experience at integrating faith-based principles into ethical clinical mental health treatment.

The Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree with an emphasis in Substance Use Disorders addresses the high demand for trained professionals to address widespread behavioral disorders and addiction to alcohol and other chemical substances. This program equips you to provide leadership in developing, evaluating, and implementing holistic models for addiction and substance abuse treatment.


Colorado Christian University does not guarantee any job placement as a result of earning this or any other degrees offered by the university.

Find out what options you have for continuing your education and learning more about a future career in the field of substance abuse counseling.

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