How Can a Therapist Help Parents When Their Child is Misusing Drugs Or Alcohol? Every Question You Secretly Want To Ask, with Laura Richer, LMHCA CHt

Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
How Can a Therapist Help Parents When Their Child is Misusing Drugs Or Alcohol? Every Question You Secretly Want To Ask, with Laura Richer, LMHCA CHt

Sometimes as parents we get so laser-focused on our kids and their problems that we forget we might benefit from some help of our own. There are often family dynamics that need to be dealt with while a child is struggling with substance use, or while they're in treatment. We need to understand our own traumas, areas of enmeshment, ways we might be contributing to the issues…and none of these are easy to sort out on your own. That's where a therapist can step in.

Laura Richer is a therapist, coach, podcaster, and lover of all things mental health. She spent time with me answering all the questions we have about whether or not having a therapist while our child is struggling with substance use or emotional issues will really help. We cover topics like trauma, EMDR, PTSD, hypnotherapy, marriage and relationships – all of it!

This episode will be useful to anyone curious about what a therapist might be able to help them with, without even having to see one.


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Brenda Zane, Laura Richer
Hello, and welcome back to Hopestream. I’m glad you’re here today to listen to this really helpful conversation with Laura Richer. She is a therapist who works with people one on one and with families and she has a practice here in my hometown of Seattle, Washington, which is how we met. And the reason I wanted to have Laura come on the show with me today is that a lot of us have questions and hesitations around therapy. What is it? What do you do if you work with a therapist? What kinds of things can they help you with? Or do they actually even help? And I also know that many of you are suffering from your own trauma and PTSD symptoms. You’re having struggles in your marriage or your partner relationship because of your child’s substance use. And when I met Laura, we talked about all of these things and I said I absolutely need to have this conversation on my podcast. Can we redo it and just hit record. So here we are. 
Brenda  03:38
For some quick background on Laura. She’s a licensed mental health counselor associate and the founder of Anchor Light Therapy Collective. She has spent a lot of her career studying the relationship between trauma and relationships in people’s lives. She is a couples therapist, psychotherapist, hypnotherapist and coach. And if that wasn’t enough, she also has her own podcast called holding ground, which you can listen to wherever you get your podcasts. It’s fabulous. She talks all things mental health, so really, really great information. And if you’ve ever thought about working with a therapist, but you’re not really sure if it’s the right thing for you, you will definitely get a lot out of this episode. So please listen in now to a great very informative conversation with Laura Richer.
Brenda  04:30
Hello, Laura. Welcome to the podcast. I’m excited to talk with you today. All things therapy. This is like the questions you always want to ask a therapist but never get to. And it’s so fun to talk with somebody from my hometown, even though we still don’t get to be together. But anyway, welcome to host stream and I can’t wait for this conversation.
Laura  04:51
Thank you so much for having me. I’ve been looking forward to having this conversation with you as well.
Brenda  04:56
Yeah, it’s gonna be a good one. We have several different kinds of topics. But I think talking with a therapist is really helpful to help explain some of the dynamics that go on in a family when you’ve got somebody with substance use issues. So we’re going to get into all of that. Before we do though, I would love to ask you a question just to let people get to know you, Laura a little bit better as a person. And that is, what did you want to be when you were growing up?

Laura  05:23
Oh, so many things. And I don’t think that therapist was even on the list I wanted to be, 
Brenda  05:28
you probably weren’t thinking I am going to sit and talk to people with lots of problems.
Laura  05:33
I wasn’t, but I just have always naturally done that. So I think I wanted to be a teacher and a lawyer and you know, a fashion designer and all the things we think of as kids. But I was always a natural helper, even as a little kid, I remember wanting to hear my friends talk about when their parents were getting divorced, or you know, the relationship drama that you have as a as a kid and a teen. So I really always had a natural interest in people’s stories and helping people. But I didn’t think of it early on. Actually, it took me a few career tries before I landed here.
Brenda  06:05
Oh, really? What did you do before this? 
Laura  06:07
Well, I had thought I was gonna go into teaching. And then I did, I went after college, I lived in Spain for a couple years. And I taught English there to high school-age students and realized I didn’t really care for teaching, it is a wonderful profession, but very difficult. And I decided I wanted to come home and just make some money and get caught back up on all my student loan debt and travel that and all those things. And so I started working in a corporate job and telecom and I was there for a while. And then I moved into the insurance industry, but just corporate-type jobs until about my mid 30s. And then I kind of felt like this is not meaningful to me, I don’t really have a genuine passion for insurance. And I started to look for something different to do, which is what landed me here. 
Brenda  06:55
Interesting. So you’ve sort of been around seen a lot, which is helpful. I think when you’re when you’re dealing with people in all different sort of intersections of their life. so fascinating.
Laura  07:05
Yeah, a lot of therapists usually come to it as a second career, it’s kind of good to have some life experience behind you before you dive into the complex issues of other people. 
Brenda  07:16
That helps, perspective is always helpful.
Laura  07:19
Brenda  07:20
Yes, nice. Well, I think that one of the questions that I get from the moms that I work with is, why do I need a therapist for myself? Well, first of all, I guess, do I need a therapist for myself when I have a either a teenager or a young adult? So usually up to like, 24, 25? Or so still living with me? or potentially not? But most of the time in the home. Why would I need a therapist for me? Aren’t I supposed to be sort of like solving all the problems for my child? And so I thought maybe we could start out with that, because I think that’s kind of foundational. And then we can kind of go into a few other things.
Laura  07:57
Yes. And that’s a very important question. And when there is an issue in the family system, like a child who’s dealing with substance abuse disorder, I think it’s easy for people to focus there and they give this problem was resolved, then that would resolve all of our problems. And in fact, there’s just so many things going on in the family dynamics that probably everyone involved needs some sort of, of help during that time. But especially the parents, I think one of the most basic reasons is a parent’s greatest fear is happening is something happening to their child. And when you have a child who is suffering from addiction, that is a constant threat that you’re dealing with, which is going to trigger all kinds of trauma for the parent, that they’re going to be needing to work on their own issues as so that they can be an effective support for the child.
Brenda  08:50
That is so true. It is really one of the worst fears that you have, as a parent, it’s like, you could think of all the bad things that could happen. And this is very, very high on the top. And so you’re right. It’s like, wait a minute, now how do I live my life when I have this huge, massive, scary thing happening? And I’m also supposed to be going to work every day and functioning and managing my other kids and being a spouse and all the things you know, many of the people in this situation are caring for elderly parents, you know, who might have dementia. And so it’s just so much it’s, it’s just overwhelming and scary. So I think that makes a lot of sense that having somebody to help you through that. And I kind of think of it as the ripple effect. I’m sure there’s maybe like a therapy term for that, that you could tell me but I think of the ripple effect of you know, what goes through family in all the different ways that people react to that scary situation.
Laura  09:53
Yes. And so it can trigger issues within the family. They always talk about addiction as a family disease, and it’s so true. Because every family member is dealing with some sort of impact from the addiction, whether they actually have the addiction, or they have a loved one with the addiction, and so learning how I mean, nobody knows what to do when their child is suffering from a severe addiction that didn’t come in the parenting handbook typically. 
Brenda  10:18
wait, there’s a handbook? I missed it.
Laura  10:22
Very specific instructions. Yeah.

Brenda  10:25
Don’t we wish, right?
Laura  10:26
Yes. So you know, for most people, there’s a couple of ways that this could happen, they could have come from a family history where there is addiction, and this is going to make this a complex situation for them. Because they might be dealing with the fears about their child, as well as past trauma from a parent who had an addiction or a sibling having an addiction. And so that can bring up a lot of things that they need to deal with on a personal level, or possibly they don’t have a history of addiction and their family. And this is all new to them. And they don’t even know where to begin or how to address this, they didn’t expect that this would happen in their family,
Brenda  11:03
the hereditary nature of it, you could be very triggered, say, if you had an I’m very fortunate that I don’t have you know this as an issue with my parents or anything. But that can be extremely painful. If you start seeing your child exhibiting behaviors that you’re like, whoa, wait a minute, I know where this is going.
Laura  11:22
Yes, and especially for people who have seen, you know, devastating effects of the addiction that can really trigger a fear response that might not be very effective, really, for them to be able to cope and live their day to day lives, but also in helping their child. So doing your own therapy, I think when you’re dealing with any serious issue, but especially a child who is suffering from addiction, that’s the first place to start, it’s kind of you know, they say, put your own air mask on before you can help somebody else. But it’s kind of like that, you really need to be taking great care of yourself, so that you can be supportive to your child. 
Brenda  12:00
And I would assume that I know when I first started seeing a therapist, I started way too late when my son was already in wilderness therapy, but she was just able to help me because I didn’t have that history with addiction. I was just clueless, she was really great at being able to just help me understand the brain and the you know, the chemically what was going on in his brain? So I think it’s sometimes it can almost feel intimidating. Like I don’t know, I don’t really know that I need to see a therapist, like do I have that much stuff going on? But a you probably do. Yeah, they can be just helpful and in understanding what the addiction is doing in the person who’s struggling with it, I would imagine.
Laura  12:42
Yeah, and I think education is so important, because I think there’s stigma obviously, around a lot of mental health conditions, but especially around addiction and people, sometimes their inclination, and it can be coming from a very good place or a place because they’re fearful. But, you know, the idea is that they could somehow scare the person or shame them into changing their behavior. And we know that really is not effective. And so sometimes really understanding the disorder, and what is happening for that person, and then learning how you can effectively support them without becoming enabling or codependent or without becoming fear-based or shaming.
Brenda  13:20
and just kind of from a more practical level, if someone is in the situation. So maybe they’ve got a 15, 16 year old who is, you know, they’re starting to experiment, or maybe they’re actively misusing drugs or alcohol, and they’re like, okay, I need to see a therapist. How do you go about doing that? Is it is, are there therapists who, you know, you would say, okay, this person is really specifically somebody that you would see if you are talking about substance use versus somebody else who might be maybe specialized in something else, like, how does the therapy world work? And how would a parent say, okay, this is the kind of person I want to work with.

Laura  13:58
So I would choose somebody who had some background in addiction counseling, because whether you’re counseling, someone who’s dealing with addiction, or their family members training, and then that specific field can be helpful, or also finding a counselor or therapist, that is a trauma-informed therapist, so they’re really looking to work with you from that perspective. Because when you have a child dealing with addiction, especially for a long addiction, so maybe there’s been many years of dealing with this fear and the issues that surround this disorder, you are traumatized is there’s no I can’t imagine there’s any other circumstance. And so you’re going to need somebody that can help you effectively work through that trauma. 
Laura  14:39
We know that people who suffer from a complex trauma which is something that’s going on going it actually changes your brain and actually it can also change the person so in ways that they may not understand you know, like their emotional responses might become different than they were before or they might become very hyper-vigilant and trauma-informed therapists can help you address some of those issues. But overall, the most important thing in therapy is the relationship that you have with the therapist. So if you just find somebody that you really resonate with, and you feel like they’re supportive of you, and that you’re making progress, that’s great, too. 
Brenda  15:13
That makes sense. I was just wondering, I think it’s, it’s confusing sometimes for people who are not in the medical or psychological world, we see letters after people’s names. What does that mean? It’s hard to understand, or, you know, like, what’s a psychotherapist versus a psychiatrist versus a therapist versus a clinical social worker, or, you know what I mean, it’s, it can be really confusing. So I like your advice of saying, okay, let’s at least have some substance use counseling or, you know, background, and then really that personal connection where you feel supported?
Laura  15:53
Yes. And all the letters are all very confusing. And all of those different designations could be helpful, depending on what they’re more specialized focuses. So those letters, I guess, don’t help the general population very much. But yes, somebody who feels like they resonate with you, and who maybe has some training around addiction, because I, again, the education piece of just understanding what addiction is, and how it works can help the person take a different approach instead of feeling so entrenched in fear or shame around it.
Brenda  16:32
And so I wanted to just go back what you said about trauma that is so important for people to understand, I had a couple of therapists who told me, you know, you have PTSD, right, and I was like, what, that’s just for war veterans, and survivors of war or whatever. And, and so maybe you can talk about that for just a minute about what, what trauma really is. Because I think there’s a lot of misinformation out there, at least just, you know, in what we believe, and then how that might translate into getting helped her therapist.
Laura  17:07
And that’s a really common misconception that I talk to clients about all the time is that trauma is not just reserved for war, and natural disasters, and all the big things, all those, those things are all traumatic for people. But trauma can be things like suffering from ongoing emotional abuse, things like bullying for children can be very traumatic, there are things that we experienced a breakup the end of a relationship, somebody can experiences traumatic, and just what that really means is that there is an event that has happened, that was so jarring and that we can’t let go of it. And so we have an actual physiological response to that, and it changes us. And so when we get stuck in a traumatic event, we can become very anxious, we can be depressed, we can have flashbacks of that event, we can be anticipating that it’s going to be happening in the future, even in places where, where it may not. So there’s a lot of you’re, you’re holding on to something in the past that has happened and you’re not able to move past it. And that can happen, especially for parents who have a child with addiction, because they’re constantly living with the threat that their child could be harmed in some sort of way or even die. And so that ongoing stress, it just changes you It changes your brain, and sometimes in really profound ways where a client would need medication or intense therapy to be able to function the way they did before that event happened.
Brenda  18:35
How would somebody know? Because, you know, I guess I went through so many years of that. And it never dawned on me that I might have PTSD. Are there things that if somebody is listening, that you could say, you know, here’s some things that might be going on, or that you might be feeling or doing that might indicate he should probably talk to somebody just to find out? If this is truly kind of a trauma slash PTSD? Well, I don’t even know if those should be combined in the same thing, but do you know what I’m saying? 
Laura  19:08
Yeah, so so trauma is an event that happens that is damaging? And then the PTSD part is that the stress that happens afterwards? And so if you are anxious, very anxious, or even, you know, just find yourself ruminating a lot, you’re thinking about a future outcome. That’s, that’s really scary or devastating. You’re hyper-vigilant, maybe in some of these things can be tricky, because you might feel like well, this is normal. I’m looking through my kids stuff all the time to look for something because you know, I know something is going on with them. But it can go to a level that is really dysfunctional for the parent. So hyper-vigilant, looking for what’s going to go wrong all the time. I worked with a client one time who was really struggling and her son was a heroin addict. And she was and he was an adult. He was a young adult and he was living outside of her home. But she was doing you know, she was going through his cell phone bill all the time she was spying on him, she was following him. And it was because she was so fearful, but at the same time that had become very intrusive in her own life to where she couldn’t go to work, she couldn’t function anymore. So it’s kind of tricky, because sometimes you’ll think, well, of course, I’m trying to save my child. But those behaviors are not helpful, often to the child or to the person who’s experiencing them.
Brenda  20:28
And it was interesting how you said you can become stuck in that. And I would love to talk for a few minutes about EMDR. Because that is something that I tried, I did have a few very specific events that happened, that I could not, I just could not get rid of them, you know, and not to say that I wanted to, like just forget them, but they weren’t, they were causing me lots of issues. And they were very specific, days, hours, moments, words, with my son that just were very, very difficult for me. And so I tried EMDR and was really amazed with how it helped me process through that to where now those are not, those events aren’t like sticking out to me. They just memories. Is that something that that you see as a solution for parents who are in this kind of ongoing? So it’s not like, oh, I had this horrible event happen when I was 20. And now you know, I need help for it. Is that something that can help as you’re going through years and years and years of this ongoing stress?
Laura  21:44
Yes. And like what you said that even if it’s ongoing stress, there are going to be certain memories that can be very triggering, you might flashback to a certain conversation or witnessing a certain event that maybe even though it happened years ago, you can just think of it and you can feel in your body the same response that you felt when it was actually happening. And so, yes, that’s what lets you know that you’ve been traumatized that a past memory is still alive in you in a way that it’s like it’s happening right now.
Brenda  22:15
So that’s a great description. Yeah,
Laura  22:18
yeah. And it’s very, it’s very painful. And so, so EMDR, which stands for eye movement, desensitization and reprocessing – a nice long name, there is a type of therapy that was developed by Francine Shapiro in the 80s. And they started using it to treat Vietnam vets who are coming back with post-traumatic stress disorder. And what they found was when you have a traumatic memory, your brain doesn’t really know how to categorize it. And so it just kind of, basically, you can’t file it back in past memories. And so this type of therapy helps your brain to reprocess this memory, so that you can detach from it so that you can, you will still remember it. And a lot of times, we feel like we want to forget traumatic memories, but that’s not possible, we and we sometimes want to hold on to the information that we took from them, we probably learned from things, something from that experience, but we don’t want to be triggered by it. And that’s what people are really saying when they want to forget is they just don’t want to feel that way anymore when they think about it.
Brenda  23:17
Okay, that makes a lot of sense. It was really impactful. And a, you know, I’m not educated enough to really be able to talk to it. So so I was excited to talk with you. Because I have had people asking me about it and ask whether it’s something in the sort of long slog that many of us are in, if that’s helpful, and I’m like, Oh, I don’t know, let’s, let’s actually talk to somebody who does this for a living.
Laura  23:41
Yeah. And it is, it’s really interesting. And that’s something that you when you’re looking for a therapist, for parents who are looking for their own individual therapist is you might want to work with an EMDR therapist, because they are going to be very, EMDR is to treat trauma, so they’re going to be very trained in trauma type of therapies. It is a very interesting type of therapy, even going into it as a student and learning about it. I kind of thought how is this really going to work? How could you have such a traumatic memory and through this process, be able to detach from it by moving? You know, I don’t know how did you do it where they did the I they had you supposedly with your eyes going back and forth? Like some lights or

Brenda  24:19
I actually had these little paddles that had vibrating pads on them?
Laura  24:24
Yes. Yep, so anything that causes bilateral stimulation, there is something with the bilateral stimulation and I can’t speak to all the science around it, but that it It helps your brain report process a memory and so it is very effective for people it’s also very challenging because you are going back to look at painful events. And so usually when you do a course of EMDR therapy, you don’t just show up and do a session and go home usually establish a relationship with a therapist that you feel comfortable with. You will do some prep work around coping tools and what to do If when we start to address these traumatic memories, if it’s triggering for you, and then the therapist just helps guide you and take it at the pace that you’re comfortable with. Sometimes clients are like, I just want to be done with all of it. Let’s just go to all of the really bad stuff right today. And that’s usually not the best.
Brenda  25:15
Right? We want the microwave. Put it in two minutes later ding, all better. 
Laura  25:22
How many sessions did you do you remember how much how long you did the therapy before you saw the result, or
Brenda  25:30
I actually felt better after just one, I did four different sessions. And it really was one example was a memory around when I had to basically kick my son out of the house, he couldn’t live with us anymore, because he was being so destructive. And in my mind, I what I saw, you know how you can visually like, you can literally see things. So in my mind, I saw him, it was also the day that we were moving out of our house. And I had this visualization of him sitting on the curb with all of his stuff in plastic garbage bags sitting around him, which did happen. 
Brenda  26:07
And then I remember driving away to go, we were moving out of the house. And so like the house was empty, the moving trucks drove away, I drove away and I turned around and saw my son 17 years old sitting on the curb with all of his stuff in trash bags. And I was just so dramatic. I mean, I would just make my chest would just get tight. I would cry when I would think about this. And so as I was doing the EMDR, what I realized sort of at the end was that’s not how it happened. Actually, his dad came and picked him up, put all of his stuff in his van, got our son into the car said I will take him and deal with it. But I had somehow, I don’t know, completely lost that memory. So it was so helpful. Because I don’t have that because I in my mind, I was like what mom drives away from her son who was sitting on the curb with a bunch of trash bags around him. It was like I was putting him out with the trash was sort of where my mind had gone with it. And it was so bad. So that’s just one example of what I worked through. So I don’t know is that something that happens that people have either like a different memory of how something happened or was that just unique? 
Laura  27:24
it’s really common. And the people will see this in doing EMDR work is the way that they have saved the memory in their mind when they explore it on a deeper level, that that’s actually not how it happened. And we have a way of wanting to make everything traumatic, our fault. And it’s very interesting, people will experience things that are totally out of their control, but somehow in their mind to process it, they associate somehow it was their fault. And so a lot of times when people go back, and we do that, to make ourselves feel like we have more control than we actually do. So there is a function for your brain wanting to do that. But oftentimes, when we go back and look at things, these just the memory you described as a perfect example of I’ve thrown my son out, he’s sitting there with the trash, I just left him, when you go back and re-experience it, you can tap into some more information around it that that in fact was not true.

Brenda  28:15
It was definitely very impactful. And I remember just leaving, and it’s exhausting. I will say like in my therapist said, you know, blank calendar after you take you know, after you leave the session, like you don’t have anything else going on for the day, because it is exhausting. But I just felt so much lighter and happier. I was like, Oh my gosh, I didn’t do that, though. I think it’s just it could be really helpful for people who have some of those really sticky, painful memories.
Laura  28:47
Absolutely. And you know, when you can go back and look at it, you can see what the negative cognition was that was installed. So you know, there’s something around that maybe for you that your brain said, Well, this is happening, because I’m a bad mom. And then or you know, any type of traumatic event, there’s something that that happens where the brain starts to believe something negative, I’m not safe. This happened because I’m a bad person, whatever it is. And so when you go back and you look at it in your process, the memory also what they’re going to do an EMDR therapy is have you focus on something that was positive, that kind of over Rives that negative cognition. So actually, you know, I was doing everything I could for my son at that time with what I was working with something to help you to detach from the negativity that’s associated with that, that she had you work with some beliefs to put there instead of whatever the negative belief was.
Brenda  29:41
Yeah, she did. And you know, and you do you realize because it is weird how we just hold on to the negative and all of that. And yeah, she was like, well, what else were you doing? Well, we had sent him to wilderness therapy, and we’d also send them to residential treatment. And we had done this and we had done that, but I didn’t think about any of that. It was just Okay, I love my kids sitting on the corner with the trash. So that’s all I did. That’s just what I did. So it’s yeah, it’s very weird how our brains do that.
Laura  30:11
It is. And it’s so powerful to know that you can actually heal. And when you’re in that much pain, it’s hard to imagine that you could feel better. Or if you’re dealing with something so serious as your child dealing with an addiction, that you could actually feel better and cope with it. But there are things that therapy can teach you where it doesn’t have to be, it’s not going to ever be a pleasant experience. But you can learn skills and tools so that you can still maintain some focus on your own life, and your other relationships and work through some of the trauma that you’re experiencing.
Brenda  30:43
I think that’s a good point that you actually can make change, because I have heard in talking with people, they’ll say, I don’t have a therapist, it’s not really going to do any good. What am I going to do is like sit on a couch and talk about my mom. 
Laura  30:59
You might a little 
Brenda  31:00
Yeah, you might a little bit. But there is a little bit of a, I think a hesitation, especially for parents who really have that control factor, which might also be impacting your child. But you know, if you are one of those people, and I’m sure you have lots of them in your office about like, I want to control everything in my life, I’ve got it, it’s fine. And there’s just a resistance to saying, you know what, maybe this whole therapy thing could work, maybe there’s actually something that could shift within me that would make my life feel better.
Laura  31:35
When I think you bring up such a good point around control, that behavior of wanting to control things that we’re not in control of is serving a purpose somehow that’s helping them to feel like they have some control or that they are managing the situation. And so it feels very scary to think about doing that in a different way. Or maybe my therapist is going to ask me to change things that I don’t really want to change. And so I think that’s part of the resistance, sometimes you or maybe even look at, you know, what my part in some of this is, and maybe that sometimes people feel hesitant to look at and that doesn’t come from a blaming or shaming way. But sometimes there’s dynamics and families that are toxic, that need to be looked at and addressed.
Brenda  32:15
So is the hard work to look at yourself. Yeah, trying to fix somebody else. It really is. It really is. Maybe we could talk for a minute about hypnotherapy. This is something I know absolutely zero about so I’m fascinated to learn about it. And whether that’s something that what is it? How do you use it? Is it anything that could be of use to parents in this situation?
Laura  32:39
So hypnotherapy is an interesting type of therapy, it’s gotten kind of this strange mind control quack like a kind of reputation because of like stage shows and things like that, that use hypnosis. But in fact, it’s a type of therapy that’s been around for a really long time. And when you’re in a hypnotized state way, all that is is you just get into a very relaxed focus state of concentration. So the state that you’re in, when you’re being hypnotized is very similar to a meditative state. It’s just a very relaxed state. And when you are in that state, it’s kind of it’s easier to get out of your analytical mind, the part of your mind that’s been turning over the same information, focusing on the same details that you’re aware of over and over. And it can help you access a deeper part of your mind which in hypnosis we refer to as the subconscious mind. 
Laura  33:29
So the thing that’s really cool with hypnosis is that it’s very effective for behavioral change, as well as teaching people how to relax, pull things that people who are dealing with addiction and any other type of behavior that they’re that where they feel out of control, it can be really, really effective in helping that the client just closes their eyes. I kind of talked about it as like talk therapy with guided visualization. So when you’re in my office doing hypnotherapy, you just close your eyes, you lay back, I do some guided visualization with you, I do some breathing exercises with you, we do some kind of using your imagination to help you tap into your own inner wisdom. 
Brenda  34:11
So is that then do you use that with people who are working to stop using substances as well as other people? Like, is this something that would be used in a treatment program?
Laura  34:24
If they are working towards maintaining sobriety? Yes, and a lot of people use hypnosis to quit substances like tobacco. But if you’re dealing with a mind-altering substance that you’re still using, it would not be an effective form of therapy. But for people who are working through staying sober it can be very effective because sometimes relapse is a very real concern when somebody is trying to maintain sobriety and so hypnosis can help them work through some of those triggers understand them on a deeper level. Imagine all the reasons why they want to stay sober what, what life has to offer them when they are sober. And just through that process of imagining it, it helps us get closer to achieving those goals. So if there’s something that we’re trying to accomplish, but we can’t really imagine it happening, you know, I’ve never been sober for longer than a year, or I have poor coping skills, and I can’t imagine not using substances to cope, it can be really hard to sustain. But with hypnosis, it gives you an opportunity to really imagine what your life would be like. And as you imagine it, you bring those feelings into your body, and you start to become more aware of the possibilities that are available to you. And so it can be a really supportive treatment for that.
Brenda  35:37
Very cool. That is something I did not know.
Laura  35:40
And therapy is a very, for any type of behavioral change or modification, it can be a really effective therapy, and then also just for learning relaxation techniques is it’s pretty effective.

Brenda  35:52
That sounds actually really great. Yeah, maybe that’s something you know, if a parent has a specific way that they always interact with their child that’s negative. And I’m thinking potential, because I know there are so many parents who have been in this for years, right, like 10 years or 15 years, they have a child who’s been using substances, and it’s so hard, it’s not like, okay, I just found some weed in my 15-year-olds backpack, it’s at a whole different level. And so they’re trying to figure out how to live life long term with, you know, maybe a 25-year-old or 30 year old, who has been using substances for 15 years, and they’re living in the jungle in a heroin camp, you know, like, how do you even function at that, at that level,
Laura  36:42
it’s extremely challenging. I mean, you and you, obviously know better than anyone what that is, it’s that experiences like, but there are different coping strategies that people can learn. And it’s not that it will ever feel good, or that they will never be worried, but that they can, they can learn how to function at a higher level. One of the things in hypnotherapy, that can be really powerful, too, we call it chair therapy, where the client will close their eyes. And they will, they will imagine that they’re talking to the person that they’re having the issue with. And so that could be their child who’s addicted. And sometimes there will be so much information and awarenesses that come to them around this conversation in their mind, because they’re able to see that person in their mind in a way that they can’t see them in day to day life when they see them sick and engaging in really destructive behavior. So that’s another thing that can be really helpful, too. 
Brenda  37:34
that’s good to know. Those are the people, my heart breaks for a lot of people, but especially for the moms and dads who have that child in long, long term addiction, and trying to figure out how to cope and put a smile on your face every day when that child might die that day. So I think that’s just incredibly hard. Well, there’s another little topic, people in The Stream Community really wanted me to chat with you about, which is this whole topic of relationships with a partner or spouse, while you have a child who is in this, whatever stage it is, whether it’s just experimenting, whether they’re an act of addiction, maybe they’re in treatment, the relationship, part of it is so hard. And what we found out this week, we did a little poll in our community. And people said that they either talk about it all the time. So it has dominated every conversation, everything in the relationship revolves around this child and their issues, or the other extreme, they just don’t talk about it at all. And it’s usually one parent or the other more often than not, it’s mom takes on the responsibility of fixing this, like you did like you this year, you do the taxes, and I’ll fix the kid, I would love to spend a little bit of time talking about the whole relationship dynamic and how we might be able to be a little better at that.
Laura  39:02
Yes. So just like individual therapy can be very helpful couples therapy can be very helpful, helpful for couples who are dealing with a serious issue. And there can be a lot of opportunity to in couples where when you’re dealing with something that is so challenging, to turn against each other to blame, we blame each other. You’re trying to figure out why this happened. So there, there’s a lot of opportunity for conflict, as well as like you said, not being able to focus on anything else. And so going to therapy and addressing some of those issues specific to your relationship, maybe working through past events that can be really helpful in being able to be a partnership and work together and present a united front instead of having more free fragmentation in the family where now the couples fighting against each other. They’re fighting against the child’s addiction, and everything is kind of shattering.
Brenda  39:53
Yeah, that’s very true. It often is one parent thinks it’s a phase. Don’t worry about it, you know, all kids do this. And then one parent is like, Oh, no, no, no, no, this isn’t a phase, we need to take action. And so what a therapist be able to sort of help get parents on the same page, do you think if they come in and one’s in one camp and one is in the other is that the kind of work that a therapist could help with? Or is that something that I don’t know has to get fixed somewhere else?
Laura  40:22
Oh, a therapist could definitely help with that. Because it would be interesting to understand why each parent has a different perspective, one parent could have their own history with addiction and feel like this is very serious, because I’ve experienced this in my own family of origin. And we need to take action, while the other parent maybe doesn’t have that same experience. And so they think that, that their partner is just, you know, oversensitive, or trying to be too controlling. So just even understanding each other’s past behavior, or past and why you feel the way you do about the situation can be very helpful. And what’s in a couples therapy, a lot of times, we’re just helping couples have structured conversations that don’t derail because they become triggered emotionally. So it just gives you that space to talk about these things. 
Brenda  41:07
And there’s also a lot of past ways that people believe addiction shouldn’t be dealt with, because it’s a moral failing. And so you just have to discipline them harder. And if you just apply more discipline, that will make them see their ways. And you know, the error of their ways, and they’ll come around. And then there’s the more CRAFT based approach, you know, with really working on motivation and keeping a relationship, and it’s not you know, just kick them out, let them hit rock bottom. So if you’ve got those two opposing attitudes within a marriage, or in a partnership, that’s really, really hard,
Laura  41:45
very challenging, and that’s going to create a huge rift in your relationships. So that’s why I think I think education is so important around substance abuse disorders, because people do think that it’s a moral issue that if they were a good person, they wouldn’t do that, when in fact, there are so many reasons why people have some substance abuse disorders that have nothing to do with morality, they could have underlying psychiatric illnesses, anxiety, depression, bipolar, they could have experienced a trauma and they have gone to addiction as a coping mechanism. There’s just so many reasons that have nothing to do with being a good person. So just the education piece, I think, can help couples, and even together coming to that learning more about addiction, if that’s not something that they’re familiar with, can help them in their relationship. 
Laura  42:32
And then also in couples therapy, the goal is to really help the couple, strengthen their bond and work together. So learning to understand your partner and why they’re responding the way they are, can help you to respond to them in a different way that’s more supportive of you working together. You know, sometimes when people have really religious backgrounds, like you said, they can believe this is a morality issue. And that’s why they’re responding in the way that they are, while the other person has a different approach. And just having those conversations can bring you back together and figure out how to work together.
Brenda  43:03
I mean, it’s devastating enough to have a child going through this, but then if you lose your relationship over it, that is just incredibly hard. And I know many, many, many of us are doing this, and I did this with an ex-spouse. So then you’ve got a step-parent involved. Parents have a completely different viewpoint on this child, they can be much more objective in probably in good and bad ways. But that whole dynamic is another just really, really confusing one.

Laura  43:34
Yes, and learning how to work together when there’s another person involved can be like you said, extremely challenging. But there are things you can learn to so that you could I mean, how great would it be for everyone to be working as a team instead of working against each other?
Brenda  43:49
Right like an army against itself? right?
Laura 43:55
And when something tragic is happening or traumatic is happening, it’s easy to go to the past and try to blame and point out past issues and past events, sometimes working through those past issues can be helpful as well.
Brenda  44:07
Right? Right, because there are parents who are divorced, you know, so then their ex spouse is maybe semi in the picture, then, you know, it turns out, okay, we have a child who’s misusing substances, and maybe the ex spouse is also either currently in addiction, or they have been in recovery for a while, where I can see there would be a lot of temptation to blame, you know, this must be your fault. You know, you’re also an alcoholic, or you have a gambling addiction, and now look what is happening with our child, which would be easy to do, but I can’t imagine that that’s very productive.
Laura  44:46
not productive, not effective for helping your child very easy to do. But the goal is always to help the child so basically a waste of time. So the more we can avoid that, the better it is, but of course that’s very natural as well. response, you’re trying to make sense of what has happened. And that’s your brain is going to search through all the possibilities.
Brenda  45:06
Is there anything so if somebody is listening that are like, this kind of sounds like my family, is there anything, just maybe one or two little tips you could give for a couple who is maybe there’s a couple that’s on different pages about what this is, or a couple who’s pretty much on the same page, but the stress and the strain is just, you know, killing them.
Laura  45:28
I think learning how to, it’s pretty simple in that you want to just learn, difficult to do, but you want to learn to better and understand each other and see if you can’t collaborate instead of working against each other, even if you’re on different pages, there is probably a point where you can come together and talk about the things that you disagree about. But there are probably some places where you can intersect to and work together to do what’s most effective for helping your child. And, again, we don’t know, this isn’t something we just come into the world knowing how to handle a problem like this. So some help from a therapist or any other way that you want to educate yourself, whether it’s being part of a community, like The Stream, like your community, or you know, Al-anon or any way that you can, you can figure out how to better educate yourself, I think is the first place to start. 
Brenda  46:13
And taking some time. I know, some people will do a like, you know, the kind of quote-unquote, date night, but date night is also like a child freeze zone where you’re not allowed to talk about that particular child, and you really just put up a boundary around that, specifically, and it kind of sounds silly, but it’s like, you know, between seven and 10pm. On Wednesdays, that topic does not come up. I didn’t have that. But I’ve heard of people that do that. And it sounds like a really good idea.
Laura  46:47
I think it’s not silly at all and or to just have a designated time where we do talk about this, you know, every day between six and seven, or six and eight or whatever, we talk about all our concerns. And then the rest of the time, unless there’s something imminent that needs to be addressed. We don’t talk about it, because, as you said, it can be all-consuming. And the truth is a lot of people have other aspects of their lives that they need to continue to manage. They have other children to the parent, they have jobs, they have aging parents, it doesn’t have to be their entire focus, they’ll feel inclined to want to make it their entire focus, because it’s so scary. But it actually is really effective to be intentional about not doing that.
Brenda  47:26
I really like that I actually like that better than the this is the off time is because then that leaves way too much time to talk. Yeah, really? Yeah, that’s really smart. Just to say, Okay, this is obviously going on, it’s it could consume our whole life. Here’s the specific time that we were both not hungry. What is it HALT, hungry, angry, lonely or tired? Pick one of those times when we can have this and then and then let it not let it go. Because you can never let it go. But right, but get on with the other parts of your life so that you’re not day to day, hour by hour consumed with it so
Laura  48:01
and it is helpful to do that. Because you’re very, you need to be able to talk to your partner about it. But you’re also when you’re talking about it all the time. You’re amplifying it. So you’re amplifying that stress in your body as you talk about it more and more. So it’s good to have some boundaries on that.
Brenda  48:18
Definitely. Yeah, I love that. That’s a great tip. Well, what do you love most about what you do? I would? I’m always curious about that. And then also being a therapist, and you’re working with lots of people, how do you take care of yourself so that you don’t run out of energy for your clients that you work with?
Laura  48:36
I love helping people, like I said earlier in the conversation, I’ve just always kind of been a natural helper. I’m really curious about people and their stories I have people that are not part of the therapy world asked me often do you get sick of hearing about people’s problems? And the answer is no, I’m fascinated by people’s lives. And I also love seeing how resilient people are and how they can overcome obstacles and difficulties in their life. So I just feel very inspired by my client I clients that I get a ton out of that. 
Laura  49:09
How do I take care of myself, I think the interesting thing about a therapeutic relationship with someone it’s very different than a personal relationship. So I can have compassion for my clients and kind of this whole this space of unconditional love for them. Because they don’t impact my personal life. And that’s something that’s special to a therapeutic relationship. And that’s the benefit of a therapeutic relationship is it can be objective, and my emotions are not tangled in with my client’s emotions, and that gives them a safe space to process there’s nothing that they’re going to say that is going to necessarily damage me and so it’s not as draining I think as people might think, but I do have to do my own therapy. I do have to make sure that I don’t overwork so that I can be fully present and not bring my own emotions to a session but it’s very different, it’s interesting, my family, I can’t be a therapist for my family, there’s been many times I’ve said to my sister, like, I, you need to go talk to your therapist, like, I can’t listen to this anymore. It’s too stressful to me, because she’s my sister, I love her. If she’s in pain, then that, then that’s going to hurt me. But it’s very different when working with clients.

Brenda  50:18
Actually the fact that you aren’t emotionally entangled in your clients life is such a benefit to them. Because you, you can be so objective, and you just see things through a different lens, I think when you’re caught up in the middle of trying to help a child or whatever it is, you are coming at it from such a distorted perspective, often, that it’s helpful to have somebody to sit with who is not looking through that same crazy lens, and can give you that perspective. And, and you do feel safe, like this person isn’t gonna take what I’m saying and twist it around and think it’s personal. 

Laura  51:02
exactly. You know, it comes from such a good place to parents just love their children so much that, you know, it’s it’s devastating to see them in pain and suffering. But that also doesn’t make them the best therapist for their kids.

Brenda  51:15
Right, right. Yeah. Are there any specific resources that you like, either like a website or a podcast or a book, anything that you think is helpful for parents who are struggling with somebody doesn’t even necessarily have to be substance use, but just really struggling with something difficult around their children?

Laura  51:35
In the world of substance use? I really like Gabor Mate’, he has a book that I think is fantastic, called in the realm of hungry ghosts. Have you ever read that?

Brenda  51:42
Oh, my gosh, it’s so good. 

Laura 51:45
It’s so good. And it just helps people understand the science behind addiction and understand how trauma plays a part of addiction and really take like that shame, blame stuff out of it. So I love that book, I read that book in graduate school, and I just has always stayed with me is one of the best books, you know, finding resources to that specific to your situation. I think a lot of times people come to addiction for different reasons, especially kids, whether it’s a result of underlying psychiatric illness, or maybe a child who has questions around sexual orientation or gender identity. So maybe you just really learn even more about what is specific to your child that you’re, you’re trying to help with them. It’s so awesome in the day and age of the internet and podcasts that there’s a million different resources out there that you can educate yourself with.

Brenda  52:33
There is literally I think, a podcast for everything.

Laura  52:37
Anything you could think of the most, you know, some detail about woodshop or you know, there’s just so many random so crazy.

Brenda  52:45
Yeah, yeah. And speaking of podcast, I would love to just have you tell us about your podcast, and then about your you have a therapy practice here in Seattle. But how can people find you and your podcast.

Laura  53:00
So I my podcast is called Holding Ground. And it is a radio show that’s on KKNW 11:50am here in Seattle, and then they push it out to all the places where podcasts are streamed, so you can find it on iTunes and Spotify and podcast one and all those different places. But that is I created that podcast as a place where we can talk about different issues in mental health. And so we talk about everything. I have different guests, different therapists that work in my business that come and talk on the show. So anything in the world of therapy and positive mental health, we talk about anything that’s coming up, so check it out if you’re interested in and then if you’re looking for a therapist, we are in the upper Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle, the name of my practice is Anchor Light Therapy. And we work with people on all kinds of issues. We do a lot of couples therapy, we work do addiction counseling, individual therapy, so

Brenda  53:52
you do EMDR and hypnotherapy as well, right? Yeah. In your practice.

Laura  53:57
We offer both of those. Yep. EMDR and hypnotherapy. 

Brenda  54:01
Well, thank you. These are like all the questions you want to ask a therapist but you never get to. So this is just been amazing. 

Laura  54:07
Well, good. I’m so glad. Thank you for having me. I love to be able to share on these topics because they’re so important.

Brenda  54:13
Awesome. Thank you so much, Laura.

Laura  54:15
Alright, thanks, Brenda.

Thank you so much for listening. If you like to go to the show notes, you can always find those at Each episode is listed there with full transcript, all of the resources that we mentioned, as well as a place to leave comments if you would like to do that. 
You might also want to download my free ebook called HINDSIGHT: Three Things I Wish I Knew When My Son Was Addicted To Drugs. It is packed with information that I truly wish I had known back in the darker years with my son. And so I share it now in case it might be helpful to you in your journey. You can get that at, and I will put a link to both of these resources in the show notes as well. Thank you so much for listening. I’ll meet you right back here next week.

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