Margaret A. O'Hara PhD, Psychotherapist
Margaret A. O'Hara PhD, Psychotherapist
LPCC, LMHC, NCC, CET II, BC-TMH, CASAC, ICADC, PPS
2022: Fresh Start
January 8, 2022
As the Eat, Drink, and Be Merry season winds down, we enter a time of fresh starts and new beginnings. January is a month when many people make resolutions for the year ahead. Personal commitments to lose weight, exercise more, spend less, stop smoking, or limit use of alcohol or other substances are made with resolve and hope for the desired change.
In this article, a holistic model developed by a former professor at New York University, (where I currently teach) will be shared to support your wellness efforts. We’ll take a look at two of the eight domains of the model and provide a rationale for why one might use counseling services for growth in these areas. Next, we’ll explore why some resolutions might be a set-up for failure, such as when there is substance or behavioral addiction and how counselors can help.
Wellness approaches such as Peggy Swarbrick’s Wellness Model (2006) provide a framework to guide one’s self-care efforts. While many holistic practices address the mind (mental), body (physical), and soul (spiritual), Swarbrick expands attention to also include one’s social, occupational, financial, environmental, and emotional well-being. In the United States her model has been adopted nationally by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) to support recovery for individuals seeking balance in their lives.
Considering Swarbrick’s eight domains, you might ask, for example, “How would psychotherapy help one financially or in their occupation?” The answer is that while some people simply need an accountant, financial planner or vocational counselor, others need to explore and resolve deeper issues at the core of their relationship with work and money. These may include internal messages of not being good enough commonly experienced as the Imposter Syndrome or other mental or emotional blocks that interfere with self-confidence. Counseling is appropriate as a front-line defense as finances and work stress often trigger anxiety, depression, and other challenging emotional states.
Some individuals find they are unable to keep their resolutions for long and others avoid making them due to past failure. Lack of hope for positive change can be disempowering and debilitating. Assessment by a counselor may reveal issues that require more than the determination and resolve of New Year’s resolution. For example, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) specifies that impaired control is a criterion used to diagnose Alcohol Use Disorder (aka alcoholism) according to the DSM-5, the diagnostic manual (APA, 2013, p. 490).
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as a “treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences” (ASAM, 2019, para 3). Many who struggle with addiction strive for control and become disheartened by repeated failed efforts to achieve it. The good news is that there have been significant advances in recovery from addictions, whether to a substance or behavior such as gambling.
Not all therapists are equipped with the knowledge and expertise to effectuate change and even among health care providers stigma exists. Research found that alcohol and substance use disorders are among the top four most stigmatized human conditions across the 14 countries participating in the study. Mental health counselors such as licensed professional clinical counselors who have successfully worked with this population, especially those who hold an alcohol and substance abuse counseling credential or certification understand how hard it is to navigate this stigma and ask for help.
The American Counseling Association defines counseling as “a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, couples, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals” (ACA, 2010). So, you see that counseling supports personal growth resolutions such as enhanced self-care for wellness and deeper psychological issues.
Counselors utilizing Swarbrick’s wellness model can teach you how to advance across all eight domains. Examples of how counselors may address domains not expanded on in this article (spiritual, social, environmental) include how mindfulness may enhance one’s sense of spirituality, the importance of social support to navigate life stressors, and how time in nature impacts mental health and wellness.
As you consider your vision for 2022 and the changes you hope to achieve, consider counseling to support your efforts. As the gift-giving season winds down, it may very well be the best gift you give yourself and loved ones, who may appreciate your healthy presence as the best present of all.
American Counseling Association. (2010). Definition of counseling. Retrieved from https://www.counseling.org/about-us/about-aca/20-20-a-vision-for-the-future-of-counseling/consensus-definition-of-counseling
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596
American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2019). Definition of addiction. Chevy Chase, MD: Author. Retrieved from https://www.asam.org/docs/default-source/advocacy/revised-def-of-addiction-final.pdf?sfvrsn=a8aa4fc2_2
Swarbrick, Margaret. (2006). A Wellness Approach. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 29(4), 311–314. https://doi.org/10.2975/29.2006.311.314