Marin County Psychological Association
Marin County Psychological Association


Author: Dr. Sharon Cushman

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, it can feel as though you are very much alone. Alcohol and drug abuse can begin to take over most areas of a person’s life, affecting work and home in major ways. The addicted person’s life can begin to feel out of control and family members may feel at a loss about how to help their loved one. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, one in four children grows up in a home where someone drinks too much.

Addiction is a disease that has both physical and psychological aspects.

Physical dependence, tolerance and withdrawal can keep the person engaged in addictive behaviors. The addicted individual and family members often experience intense feelings of isolation, denial, shame and loss of control.

Fortunately, effective treatment is available. There are many different levels of treatment including outpatient psychotherapy, intensive outpatient programs and inpatient programs depending on the needs and resources available to the person struggling with substance abuse and their family.

It is best to begin with an evaluation with a trained mental health professional with a specialty in substance abuse treatment. Also, it is highly recommended that the individual’s physician be contacted, because medical supervision is an integral part of treatment planning.

Through the Marin County Psychological Association web-site (, you can find several psychologists with a specialty in treating substance abuse disorders. By setting up an appointment for an evaluation , the psychologist can determine the next steps for treatment.

If the person who actively drinking or using drugs does not want help, it is important for the family members to break the denial system and begin to heal. Psychological help for the family is also an essential part of treatment, whether or not the addicted individual participates

Have you ever wondered if you or a loved one or friend is struggling with alcohol or drug abuse?

Four major areas to look at:

  • Cravings – A strong need or urge to use drugs or drink;
  • Loss of Control- Not being able to stop using or drinking once drinking or using has begun;
  • Physical Dependence – Withdrawal symptoms, such as upset stomach, sweating, shakiness, delirium tremens, and anxiety after stopping drug use or drinking;
  • Tolerance – The need to drink or use greater amounts of alcohol or drugs to get high.

“At risk” or heavy drinking is considered to be more than 4 drinks on any given day for men, and for a women, more than 3 drinks on any day.

 Many people struggling with alcoholism or substance abuse are struggling with an underlying psychiatric disorder. These individuals are considered to be “dual –diagnosis” clients, which means that they have both a chemical dependency diagnosis and one or more psychological diagnoses. Many people need help to identify these underlying disorders which may need to be treated both with psychological treatment as well as medication.

Alcohol and drug abuse are treatable disorders. With the appropriate evaluation and recommendations, individuals can begin to move forward and live healthy and productive lives.

Professional Resources:

Below are MCPA Members with specialties in this area:

Marin County Psychology Association (MCPA) provides this listing service for licensed psychologists who are current association members. The people on the list have entered and have direct control over what is posted. MCPA does not verify this information. We hope this service helps you find an appropriate psychologist to fit your needs.