Addiction Counsellor: Roles And Treatment Techniques

Addiction is rampant in society, with almost 20 million Americans battling with at least one addiction in their lifetime. 

This high rate of addiction cases stems from the likelihood of individuals having repeated patterns of harmful behaviour without taking into consideration the damage that it might inflict on their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. This can prove detrimental to their quality of life and affect all aspects of their social and financial well being.

Addiction can encompass a wide range of problem areas such as alcohol and drug addiction, gambling, eating disorders and various behavioural issues.

Addiction counsellors seek to help their patients come to a realization of these destructive tendencies and help them achieve and maintain their sobriety. The role of the counsellor encompasses all aspects of emotional and mental growth an addict faces in their struggle against addiction. 

A good addiction counsellor should be empathetic and ready to listen to their patients. Trust is vital when handling individuals in recovery processes; therefore the counsellor should create a safe avenue for discourse and maintain compassion and understanding throughout the session.

Addiction counsellors should also dissuade from pinpointing issues and underlying problems that the patient might have, as this halts the recovery process. Listening and guiding the patient towards discovering the causes of their addiction and helping them adopt sustainable measures to stop is better suited when counselling.

Substance abuse counsellors seek to mentor and engage in advocacy, enabling the patient to become a better member of society. This, in turn, validates their impact in the society through reducing violence, crime and hospitalizations, greatly contributing to social development.

Treatment Therapies 

Addiction counsellors use a variety of therapies to patients depending on the intensity of their addiction, personality traits, age and the type of addiction they have. Different people have different coping mechanisms. Therefore there isn’t a one size fits all in addiction treatment therapies. 

  1. Behavioural therapies

These treatment therapies seek to observe the patient’s behaviour and examine the reason behind their reliance on addictive processes.  Behavioural therapies are the most common treatment options that addiction counsellors use, and they comprise of the following:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

This therapy focuses on observing how the thought processes influence behaviour and choices that an individual makes. By observing the responses to problematic or destructive behaviour, the addiction counsellor seeks to help the patient replace these responses with positive and affirmative ones, thus ultimately encourage coping mechanisms to prevent relapse.

  • Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT)

This therapy focuses on treating patients who experience feelings of self-harm or suicide as a result of their addiction. This therapy process encourages relaxation processes to deal with the uncomfortable thoughts, feelings or behaviours, and acceptance of such feelings without the patient seeing them as a liability. 

  • Matrix model

This therapy seeks to involve evidence-based techniques to elicit behavioural change in an individual through the use of support group participation, family involvement and educational materials. 

  1. Holistic therapies

These therapies seek to encompass non-medicinal methods to change an individual’s behaviour and adopt new routines that assist them in handling their addiction. For instance, the counsellor advises on incorporating practices such as yoga, massage therapy, nutrition change and guided meditation aim to distract the patient and replace harmful practices with beneficial ones. Addiction counsellors who use these methods tend to assist the patient embrace different physical exercises, reducing the appeal of drug and substance abuse, and encourage healthy nutritional practices into their daily routine. 

  1. Motivational therapies

Counsellors use this method to encourage the patient to discover motivation within them to quit their addiction and change to become a better person.

  1. Family therapies

These involve the family unit’s involvement in their loved one’s treatment process. The family is taught on ways to support their own and how to communicate and handle the individual during the recovery process in terms of age, personality and behaviours.

Qualifications of an addiction counsellor

Each region or state has different qualifications for addiction counsellors which consider different entry qualifications such as the college certificate and levels of acquiring a license. For instance, the NBCC offers a platform for counsellors to find out the required examinations and certification levels needed to practice in different states.

However, there are mandatory universal requirements for addiction counsellors which consist of the following:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Psychology or any related field
  • National Counsellor Exam (NCE)entry exam

Different areas of specialties require different entrance exams. Therefore, choosing a specific counselling specialty require different credentials. Multilingual counsellors also reach a wider target audience and are prone to handle more patients. Addiction counsellors also require re-certification experience during practice every three or ten years. This enables them to stay updated on emerging counselling procedures and provide their patients with the best optimum care. 


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