Q&A with Sandra Principe, Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor & Prevention Specialist

Sandra Principe, Substance Abuse CounselorClinical Substance Abuse Counselor and Prevention Specialist

What does a Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor do?

It’s a mixture of assessment, education, prevention and counseling.  The first step is to assess if the person has a substance use disorder, what they think about it and what they may be willing to try. The education has to do with correcting a lot of myths about what an addiction actually is. Trying to stop the progression of the disease before it gets any farther by developing a treatment plan to address an individual’s specific issues; the substance use disorder is the number one concern. Counseling is very individualistic but the general focus is on coping with all aspects of their life through a motivational approach, along with learning assertive behaviors and communication that will help prevent stress or at least help to alleviate it. A Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor is an advocate, confidante and someone who understands.

When a patient comes to see you, what information should they bring?

An open-mind and willingness to take a look at their usage and what problems it may have caused.

What are some questions patients should consider asking during their visit?

  • How can this help?
  • How difficult might this be?

What is the largest misconception you think patients have about a substance use disorder?

The same misconception that many people have and that is that if they are functioning in society with jobs, families and community, they can’t possibly have a problem with alcohol or other substances. The other misconception is if they are drinking or using more heavily than they even think they should, if the other problems in their life could be dealt with, they wouldn’t need to use that substance. Both of these are false.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give patients to improve their overall health?

Take life one day at a time, plan for the future, but don’t worry about what tomorrow will bring. Learn from yesterday, but live for today.

If folks wanted additional health information about addiction to marijuana, what are some available resources?

Call one of the Substance Abuse Counselors at Memorial Medical Center’s Behavioral Health Services.