Nicole Sutton, MSW, LCSW, LCAS
PINEHURST--As the nation grapples with a growing substance abuse problem, FirstHealth of the Carolinas is committed to helping patients right here at home who are facing this challenge.
FirstHealth Behavioral Services' Relapse Prevention group therapy meets weekly to provide support for those who are battling abuse of any substance, legal or illegal. Facilitated by Nicole Sutton, MSW, LCSW, LCAS, the group provides a support network of peers to solve problems, create accountability and learn new coping strategies. While individual counseling can be helpful, Sutton believes group therapy can offer additional benefits to participants.
"My personal observations are that complete strangers can begin a group together, and a sense of intimacy and deep connection is established," Sutton says. "I have also noticed a progression in recovery and healing in a group setting versus an individual setting. It's remarkable to see how newcomers are welcomed and made to feel comfortable in an established group. The more established members seem so eager to help new members feel comfortable by sharing their own stories and recovery efforts. It really becomes a nurturing and supportive environment; that's why I enjoy facilitating group therapy."
Substance abuse can involve the improper or excessive use of alcohol, prescription pills, over-the-counter medications, narcotics, or inhalants. Sutton says the group helps patients deal with the adverse affects of abuse and identify various triggers, such as people, places or things that could cause a craving to return to drugs or alcohol.
"The group helps people become aware of their internal and external triggers, prepare a plan to address these triggers and prevent cravings, or deal with cravings when they arise," says Sutton. Participants can bring current stressors or triggers in their life to the group for feedback, suggestions and support.
Sutton monitors each patient's progress throughout their participation in the group, and emphasizes that there are no hard and fast rules on how long a patient can remain. "They can stay in the group as long as they need it and they adhere to the group's rules," Sutton says. "As patients progress, I will encourage them to step down to individual therapy if they are stable, but it is all based on each patient's individual progress and stressors." For those patients who experience a relapse or are in active addiction, Sutton arranges for a higher level of care.
The Relapse Prevention group meets weekly from 3 to 4 p.m., each Thursday at FirstHealth Behavioral Clinic, 35 Memorial Dr., in Pinehurst. For information about joining the group, call (910) 715-3378, or visit www.firsthealth.org/behavioral.