Skip to main content

A Team Approach to Substance Abuse Counseling

Nov 25, 2011 06:46PM ● By Peggy Malecki

For individuals facing divorce, a death, job loss, or even dealing with difficult teenagers, stressful situations can lead to unhealthy behaviors. What begins as comfort eating, relying on sleeping pills to rest or prescription meds to block the pain, or consuming “just one more glass of wine” to take the edge off, can quickly turn into substance abuse (or even addiction), says Stevhanie Howard, founder of Nexus Healing Solutions, in Bannockburn.

“When faced with challenging events, the situation becomes even more difficult because they may turn to selfdestructive behaviors,” says Howard. “My goal is to help clients live a fulfilled and positive life without excessively using alcohol, drugs and other unhealthy substances. I believe in empowering people, encouraging them to gain the appropriate life-affirming tools and knowledge to build strength and confidence in order to move forward and live in a positive manner with a healthier sense of self.”

Howard was exposed at an early age to unhealthy and destructive behaviors, as she observed the impact of family addictions and parental divorce. These firsthand experiences stayed with her and influenced her eventual career path. Howard graduated from Chicago’s Columbia College and built her career as a commercial real estate broker—a position she held until she married and started a family. When her marriage did not work, Howard divorced and tried to cope with the challenges of being newly single and raising a daughter alone.

“During my divorce process and after it was finalized,” she recalls, “I needed a program for recovery as well as a support group to help relieve the fear, anxiety and depression that accompanied this challenging life transition. It was challenging to remain positive for my child, overcome mistrust, and find how to move forward. It took a long, painful time to build my self-esteem and learn how to live on my own.”

Determining her new “life plan” was difficult. Real estate no longer interested Howard, who now wanted to help others to find their way. Recollections of her family’s struggle with addiction piqued her interest in counseling. She went back to school, discovered her true passion for healing and became a substance abuse counselor. Subsequently working for six years in traditional rehab situations, she realized there had to be another option.

“I saw a need for an alternative style of treatment,” Howard says. “It is not easy for individuals to set aside 28 days for conventional rehab. Through work experience, I witnessed that just eliminating the substances—alcohol, drugs, food, and other unhealthy behaviors—was not enough.”

Howard says each person holds their own belief system, passion and lifestyle, and a traditional 12-step program may not be right for everyone. Treatment often needs to be one-on-one and customized. In traditional counseling, she also found that the words alcoholic and addict have a negative stigma and may prevent some people from receiving the appropriate help needed.

To become most effective in helping others, Howard knew she had to create a different treatment model. “In the summer of 2011, I opened Nexus Healing Solutions, which is based on a team approach to wellness that treats the whole person and not just the unhealthy behavior,” explains Howard, who adds that recognition of the complete person makes Nexus treatment approachable and successful. Her team of local professionals works in areas beyond substance abuse, and includes a nutritionist, yoga and meditation instructors, life and career coaches and clinical therapists—all in one location. She also hosts a free weekly divorce meeting at the office.

Nexus treatments are discreet and non-judgmental, an approach that helps individuals with their healing process. “Men, women and adolescents may be ashamed of what’s happening to them,” explains Howard. “We understand, and focus more on the solution than the problem. We do visit the past, but do not stay where unhealthy and self-destructive behaviors have occurred. By focusing on finding solutions and developing healthy tools and behaviors, my clients find solutions, see results and take healthy action.”

With today’s economic challenges, Nexus offers flexibility. Clients may select only the services they want, and a sliding scale may be available. After initial consultation, which includes lifestyle and situation evaluations, Howard builds a customized plan to meet the client’s needs. “We recognize the client’s passions, belief system and lifestyle, and develop a treatment plan accordingly,” she says. “We do not force anyone to do anything they are not comfortable with. Sobriety should be enjoyed; it should not be feared or dreadful to experience. I want our clients to celebrate their lives and have fun.”

“At Nexus, we do not solely focus on the problem,” she continues. “We help men, women and adolescents to identify the situation and take action.”

Nexus Healing Solutions is located at 2101 Waukegan Rd., Suite 206, in Bannockburn. For more information, call 847-914-0092 or visit