By Serena Howlett, Contributing Writer
Billerica – Stephen Moss helps people become their “healthiest self” – mentally. A psychologist, Moss provides assessment, counseling and therapy for adults, couples and youth ages 16 and up in his Billerica home office. Moss loves his work and feels “very fortunate to have found a profession that is such a good match for who I am at my core.”
“The primary focus of my practice is addiction,” he noted.
He describes addictions as compulsions that significantly impact a client’s life. The behaviors that he treats run the gamut from alcoholism and street drugs to “behavioral addictions,” such as gambling, fitness and the internet.
“The goal for each client,” he said, “is to become their healthiest self.”
Moss said that in his many years of practice, he has found that “addictions are typically associated with an untreated mental disorder.” Helping people understand their mental health issue — in most cases, anxiety and depression — is “the first step” toward treatment. To assess a new client’s underlying psychological disorder, Moss uses various screening tools in his office and on his website. Oriented towards the client’s present reality, Moss acknowledged, “I only delve into a client’s past experience when it is clearly relevant.”
Some cases are very complex, requiring a long-term therapeutic relationship (even as much as 10 years when a bipolar disorder is the underlying trouble).
Moss reflects: “For someone who starts at the bottom, it may take a long time to build a healthy life.”
There are many struggles on the road to recovery. For these complex cases, Moss will refer clients to other practitioners. For example, if he believes medication may be useful, he will refer his client to a psychiatrist. If medication is not effective, Moss said he may suggest “TMS” (transcranial magnetic stimulation), a noninvasive procedure performed under medical supervision.
“I’m excited about the potential therapeutic value of psilocybin, found in many varieties of mushrooms,” said Moss. “Some people call them ‘magic mushrooms’ owing to their psychedelic properties.”
Moss explained that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has designated psilocybin a “breakthrough therapy” for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). He is following a clinical trial investigating the use of psilocybin to treat MDD.
As a young man, Moss was interested in both psychology and history. After earning a doctorate in psychology, he began his career as a counselor. Later he directed statewide addiction services in Massachusetts, served as a behavioral health consultant to the federal government and all 50 states and wrote several books about health policy. Fourteen years ago, he returned full-time to his professional role as a therapist.
Moss is married to the “love of his life” — Janka, who works in the international student office at MIT. Pastimes include biking and American history. An “avid gardener” Moss is in the process of developing an arboretum on his property. He has purchased and planted small trees from around the world – “rare specimens that will grow into mature trees of interest and enjoyment for generations to come.”