A Therapist’s Journey into Addiction Recovery

Betsy Byler and Brian discuss addiction, recovery, and the importance of well-trained therapists.

Betsy Byler

They explore the growing concerns around gaming and gambling addiction and the need for industry regulation. Check out this summary, or listen to the podcast to gain valuable insights and find inspiration in their personal experiences and shared wisdom. You find the full interview here.

Super Summary:

Betsy Byler, a mental health therapist and addiction expert, discusses her journey into addiction treatment and the importance of well-trained therapists. She shares insights on guilt and shame in gambling addiction recovery, the growing concern of gaming and gambling addiction, and the need for regulation in the gambling industry. By sharing their personal experiences, Betsy and Brian highlight the challenges in understanding addiction and the significance of personal growth and trust in recovery.

Top 5 Takeaways:

  • Acceptance and personal growth are vital in overcoming guilt and shame in addiction recovery.
  • Therapists must be well-trained in addiction therapy to treat their clients effectively.
  • Gaming and gambling addiction is a growing concern, especially among young people.
  • There is a significant need for federal regulation in the gambling industry to protect vulnerable individuals.
  • Sharing personal experiences and stories is crucial in the recovery process.

In this episode, Betsy Byler, a mental health therapist, recounts her journey into substance abuse counseling, which started when she realized her knowledge was lacking. Humility led her to learn as much as possible to treat substance use effectively.

Betsy noticed many therapists lacked training in substance use and struggled to help their clients effectively. She believes addressing both mental health and substance use is essential since they often intertwine. As a supervisor, she taught her interns and colleagues about substance abuse treatment.

Betsy’s passion for teaching inspired her to create the All Things Substance podcast. She aimed to make information about substance abuse treatment accessible to therapists who might not know where to start. Betsy shares crucial information therapists need to know in her podcast to treat their clients effectively.

Betsy’s Journey into Mental Health

Betsy’s journey began in high school when she heavily used drugs. After being blackmailed by her mother to attend therapy, Betsy eventually found an inspiring therapist. She decided she could do this work and help kids like her one day. Betsy stopped using drugs at 18, but it took her longer to realize that drinking wasn’t a good idea either.

Betsy stresses the importance of accepting that moderation isn’t an option for addicts. By accepting this, she believes individuals can move forward without shame and find ways to live healthy lives.

Brian realized at 18 that he had a gambling problem, but he talked himself out. He’s impressed with Betsy’s dedication, as she spent seven years studying to become a therapist, ultimately obtaining a master’s in clinical psychology. Betsy had been working with high school kids in a mentoring role for an organization called Young Life in Michigan. Many kids drawn to her were also using drugs. She realized they needed therapy but couldn’t find a therapist they’d talk to. It led her to want to help them professionally.

After college, Betsy attended grad school and interned at a 100-bed residential facility in Montana called Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch. It was for kids with trauma-based mental health issues, and she worked mainly with teenage girls. Besty Bayor found that she related well to kids who had been through a lot of trauma because they wanted someone real, someone like her. Betsy believes she’s relatable because of her experiences as a teenager, and she’s open about her past to an extent.

On the other hand, Brian struggled with guilt and shame for his past actions, like flipping a car while under the influence of alcohol. He seeks Betsy’s professional advice on how to move past these feelings. Betsy refers to Brené Brown, a psychologist discussing a “shame spiral.” Guilt is motivating, while shame is paralyzing, and Brown’s work could be helpful for Brian.

Guilt and Shame in Addiction Recovery

Brian and Betsy discuss feelings of guilt and shame associated with addiction recovery. Betsy highlights the distinction between guilt, which is about wanting to do better, and shame, which is paralyzing and makes one want to hide. She believes that part of getting past shame is owning and sharing it with someone else. Betsy also mentions that as one progresses in their recovery, specific issues and memories will keep coming back but at different levels, and it’s essential to let go of the less significant ones. (If you find this section interesting, we highly recommend you read our relapse guide. It’ll help you transform the feeling of guilt and shame into motivation for change.)

Betsy acknowledges that the longer someone is away from their addiction and the more open they are about their past, the more the guilt starts to fade as trust rebuilds. Brian shares an experience where his wife mentioned a concern about his past gambling addiction, even though she wasn’t around then. Betsy suggests that this defensive response is a result of shame being triggered. She believes that when someone has an overreaction, it’s usually because something from their past is being poked.

To move past shame, Betsy advises that people should share their past with someone who can accept and support them and then continuously remind themselves that they’re no longer in that place. She praises Brian for his incredible work to become trustworthy again, emphasizing how significant it is for someone in recovery to have others trust them with valuable items.

The Importance of Well-trained Therapists

Brian and Betsy discuss their experiences with gambling therapy and how it helped them overcome various issues. Brian shares that he had to see a court-mandated counselor due to a car accident. It led to the discovery of his gambling problem. Betsy explains the importance of therapists being well-trained and not practicing out of their scope.

Betsy’s podcast aims to help therapists understand the importance of being well-versed in addiction therapy. The first five episodes set the stage, explaining why gambling therapists should care about addiction and how to help their clients. She also stresses the importance of additional training and responsible language use by gambling addiction therapists, who hold much power in their clients’ lives.

Betsy continues talking about addiction as a whole and touches on various forms of addiction. She mentions that gambling is currently the only officially recognized behavioral addiction. However, she also discusses other behaviors that may be considered for inclusion in the future, such as internet gaming disorder, sex addiction, and food addiction.

Gambling and Gaming Addiction

Brian and Betsy then discuss gambling and gaming addiction and how it’s becoming a major concern. They touched on how gaming companies use similar tactics to casinos, which could create problem gamblers, especially among young people who play games like Fortnite.

Betsy mentioned that she and her husband used to be gamers but never got addicted because they had other responsibilities like work and kids. Betsy explains how people aren’t aware of the potential dangers of gaming and gambling addiction and how it’s becoming a bigger issue as more sports teams partner with sportsbooks and online casinos.

The conversation then shifted to how mental health therapists and psychologists aren’t trained to deal with addiction, including gambling addiction, during their education. Betsy explained that while they’re trained on many other things like depression, anxiety, and childhood disorders, addiction and gambling are usually left out. It is even though substance abuse, gambling, and sex are common issues that people have been dealing with throughout human history.

Betsy believes therapists want to learn and know about these issues but often don’t know where to start. They have to fill in the gaps with their continuing education credits. She’s had experience working with people who have gambling issues and has been screening for it for a long time, but she admits that there’s still a lot she doesn’t know about gambling addiction.

She concluded that the recovery community is essential for people dealing with addiction because there isn’t a lot of support or information available, especially for those not using substances. The conversation highlights how important it is to raise awareness about gambling addiction and to provide mental health professionals with the necessary training and resources to deal with it effectively.

Finding Support for Gambling Addiction

Many face difficulties when trying to find support for gambling addiction. Betsy and Brian highlight that not every support group is the same, and finding one that feels right may take time. With online meetings now available, it has become easier to access different support groups.

However, they agreed that there is a lack of trained therapists specializing in gambling addiction. Many therapists focus on substance abuse, and gambling, often called the “hidden addiction,” gets left out. Betsy emphasized the importance of therapists learning about gambling addiction, given its high suicide rate and the prevalence of depression and anxiety in those affected.

When seeking therapy, Brian asked how to ensure the therapist knows about gambling addiction. Betsy suggested mentioning the gambling issue to the intake person when booking an appointment. However, she acknowledged that many people feel uncomfortable disclosing their addiction to someone who isn’t a therapist.

Brian shared his own experience of admitting his gambling problem to his parents, and the difficulties he faced in doing so. Betsy pointed out that the brain changes that occur with addiction can make individuals more numb to consequences and less able to recognize the need to stop. They also discussed how people without addictions often struggle to understand the mindset of someone with a gambling problem.

Sharing Personal Experiences and Overcoming Challenges

Betsy and Brian have an engaging conversation about addiction, its challenges, and the importance of sharing personal experiences. Betsy highlights the difficulty for non-addicts to comprehend the mindset of someone who is addicted. People often question why addicts can’t simply stop their harmful behaviors. Betsy emphasizes that addiction isn’t a choice, but addicts still have responsibility for their actions.

Brian shares his experience with gambling addiction and how it consumed his life. He also discusses the financial impact and the desperate measures he took to try and manage his debts, which often led to more gambling. They both acknowledge the duality of their thoughts, with their recovered selves looking back in disbelief at their past behavior.

The Need for Regulation in the Gambling Industry

The conversation moves on to the question of culpability and the need for regulation in the gambling industry. Betsy mentions a landmark lawsuit against the industry, like previous cases against tobacco companies, arguing that the industry knowingly creates environments designed to exploit people’s addictive behaviors. They both agree on the need for federal regulation in the gambling industry to protect vulnerable individuals.

Betsy invites anyone listening, especially therapists, to reach out and discuss gambling addiction with her. She aims to raise awareness and help other therapists recognize the symptoms of gambling addiction, ask the right questions, and provide support to those struggling with this addiction. Brian expresses his appreciation for Betsy’s work and the importance of sharing stories during recovery. You can find it here if you want to listen to the full podcast episode.

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