Little Cities of Hope: The Role of Substance Use Disorder Counseling


By Aurelio Rodriguez

The month of May is nationally recognized in the United States as Mental Health Awareness Month. The need for mental health services is steadily growing everywhere, but in places such as rural Utah, with community-specific health needs, a specialized type of counseling known as substance use disorder counseling (SUDC) can be an additional valuable resource.

Substance use disorder (SUD) refers to a condition characterized by the recurrent and problematic use of substances such as alcohol, drugs (both legal and illegal) or medications. It is a diagnosable mental health disorder recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

SUD involves a pattern of substance use that leads to significant impairment or distress, including difficulties in controlling substance intake, experiencing cravings, neglecting responsibilities, and experiencing negative consequences in various areas of life, such as relationships, work, and health.

Michelle Corona is a Substance Use Disorder Counselor at Multicultural Counseling Center (MCC) based out of West Jordan. MCC provides a variety of in-person mental health services at their main office in West Jordan and satellite offices in Tooele and Moab, and also provides services through telehealth in other areas in Utah, including Carbon and Emery counties.

“Substance use disorder counseling is focused on understanding substance use disorder or co-occurring disorders while teaching skills to reduce or stop the recurrence of use,” Corona explained.

Clients who receive SUDC learn life and coping skills as well as create a “relapse prevention plan” to stay substance free or reduce the risk of harm from substance use. This type of counseling can occur in individual or group settings.

Corona explained that those that qualify for SUDC include “any individual that meets the criteria of a substance use disorder based on the DSM-5 and any family members of an individual who meets the criteria.”

When asked about the benefits of SUDC compared to conventional mental health services like therapy, Corona said, “Substance use disorder counseling is individualized and clinically driven, aiming to address all areas of a client’s life impacted by their substance use. It can be used independently or in conjunction with therapy to support areas where mental health providers may lack expertise.”

Corona emphasizes that SUDC is based on the disease model of addiction, which views SUD as a chronic brain disease. This perspective is less stigmatizing than perceiving SUD as a moral failing. She noted, “Many mental health providers may lack the education to understand their client’s disease, recognize signs of return to substance use, identify SUD patterns, withdrawal, and intoxication, and provide appropriate interventions.”

When asked about her personal interest in the field of SUDC, Michelle shared her own experience, saying, “I grew up in a household with family members who used drugs and alcohol. Initially, I didn’t recognize the signs and grew up angry at their actions and behaviors. It was only when I became older that I learned about their substance use. I didn’t understand it or know how to navigate it because I resorted to societal views that addiction is a moral failure. This environment led me to my own SUD. But when I moved to Utah, I had the opportunity to distance myself from that environment and get into recovery. However, I still struggled with anger and coping, which led me to seek help. Through counseling, I learned about addiction in families, how to stop enabling, and how to let go of what I can’t control. My personal story gave me the drive to help others suffering like my family and myself.”

Michelle also shared a success story about a client she worked with who had been using nicotine, cocaine and alcohol since childhood. The client’s substance use began as a way to cope with stressors and adverse childhood experiences.

Initially, the client was referred by their partner, who received psychoeducation on the impact of addiction in families. Eventually, the client themselves sought SUDC with the goal of getting their life under control and improving their relationship.

Through motivational interventions and discussions about the client’s goals, Michelle helped the client understand the barriers their substance use posed. The client gained insight and awareness of their addiction, history, and SUD patterns.

After two months of services, the client achieved recovery from cocaine and alcohol, with only one instance of alcohol use occurring since then. This return to substance use was used as a teaching moment to develop a “relapse prevention plan.”

The client has now been in recovery for six months and is actively working on reducing their nicotine use. The client now speaks about how recovery has significantly improved their quality of life and given them hope for a future beyond substance use.

Substance Use Disorder Counseling has proved to be a transformative experience for this client as it has helped them gain control over their life, develop self-awareness and acquire essential skills for maintaining their recovery. Their success story serves as a testament to the effectiveness of SUDC in providing comprehensive support to individuals experiencing SUDs.

If you or someone you know is seeking assistance with SUDs, Michelle Corona at Multicultural Counseling Center (MCC) is dedicated to helping individuals on their journey to recovery. You can contact MCC’s Customer Service at (801) 915-0359 or visit their website at to find more information about SUDC.

Substance use disorders can be complex and challenging, but with the right support and guidance, individuals can overcome their struggles and find hope for a brighter future. By raising awareness about SUDC and sharing success stories like this one, we can encourage more individuals to seek the help they need and break free from SUD to begin their recovery.

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