There is a significant disparity between a qualified addict counselor who has not had personal experience with drug recovery and the one who has been or is in recovery. Substance abuse counselors, generally, are a diverse group with the essential training, certification, educational background, and experience in managing individuals who are suffering from substance abuse. In many ways, they provide both long and short-term addiction therapy as well as crisis management.
In some states in the US, it is possible to change careers and become a counselor with just a high-school diploma equivalent and counseling credentials. In the credentialing stages, a to-be clinician may decide to identify as being in addiction recovery if they wanted to, or decide to keep this fact excluded.
One of the most searched categories in the pool of substance abuse treatment providers is the counselor’s recovery status. According to historical reports, the substance abuse facilities were largely managed by individuals who are in recovery themselves and promoted the notion that the most qualified people to provide psychosocial support to patients suffering from Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) are recovering addicts that have, more or less, lived through these experiences. Although, after years of development and research, the substance abuse field adopted the inclusion of professionals without an addiction recovery background. Research also showed that non-recovering addiction counselors were also just as effective in managing addictions in patients.
Table of Contents
- What is the Role of the Counselor in Substance Abuse Recovery?
- Differences in Recovering and Non-Recovering Counselors
- Reasons Why Recovering Addicts Make Great Addiction Counselors
- Counsellors’ Tips for Recovering Addicts
- Every Client is Unique
What is the Role of the Counselor in Substance Abuse Recovery?
To better understand the contributions of a counselor who is a recovering addict, it is pertinent to be informed on what the roles of an addiction counselor are. These roles are mutually exclusive and may vary from one facility to the other, depending on the settings. These roles are, but not limited to:
1. Build a Therapeutic Alliance with the Patient
A therapeutic alliance is formed when the counselor forms a bond with the patients. This trust allows the patient to work with the counselor in their best interest. These alliances are made by:
- Showing the patients that you are dedicated to their well being
- Being attentive to the patient’s challenges during sessions
- Showing empathy
- Improving communications through understanding
2. Motivate Patients to Enable Recovery
The recovery process is extremely challenging and the dynamics differ from one person to the other. More and more people get caught in the same loop of addiction and some are unable to sustain sobriety through the treatment process and are faced with relapse risk. The responsibility falls on the counselor to guide the patient towards recovery by recognizing underlying issues and empowering them to take counter-actions.
3. Develop a Comprehensive Relapse Prevention Plan for Patients
A well-laid relapse prevention plan is specifically tailored to the patient in question and takes into consideration aspects such as the patient’s substance abuse history and experience, and danger signs, inclusive of management technique. The plan should include emergencies, prioritization of wellbeing as well as a change in lifestyle. A network of support groups such as friends, parents, and others can be included in the plan.
4. Suggest Aftercare Support Groups
There are a myriad of substance abuse support groups out there, ranging from Alcohol Anonymous to Narcotic Anonymous, all providing community-based support to ensure accountability and to enable the patient to meet and learn from individuals who have had similar relatable experiences. These programs strengthen the will of the patient and guide them through sobriety.
There are, of course, many other roles that a counselor play in the recovery process and these extend beyond the scope of this guide. So, what are the things that may differentiate a recovering counselor from a non-recovering one? Are their approach to substance abuse exactly the same?
Differences in Recovering and Non-Recovering Counselors
There have been numerous conclusions on the differences between a recovering and non-recovering counselor. These differences are hinged on their experiences and ideologies on how addiction can be tackled to yield better results.
In most cases, the two types of counselors understand addiction differently. They also conceptualize solutions inversely and this creates a significant gap in the diagnosis and treatment techniques. Here are a few findings on differences in techniques:
- Recovering counselors were more conclusive about alcoholism as a diagnosis for potential patients
- Recovering counselors were more open to applying wide-range treatment techniques with reasonable goals than their counterparts
- Recovering counselors were found to have a deeper sense of responsibility and commitment to their work than non-recovering counselors
Reasons Why Recovering Addicts Make Great Addiction Counselors
Addiction is a life-changing experience that may never be completely cured but can be managed, depending on various factors surrounding the addict. When a recovering addict becomes a counselor they have real-life experience to work with because they have been in the position of the addict and they can relate to the struggles of the individual
The experience of the recovering counselor gives them credibility with their clients and enables them build a professional relationship based on trust with the patient.
One important aspect is that the recovering addict is more empathetic and less likely to discriminate. They also have high-stress tolerance while dealing with the moods displayed by patients, especially in the case of a relapse; one would require a lot of tolerance and professionalism to counsel individuals who have gone back to using drugs after being sober for a period of time.
An essential aspect that makes a recovering addict an invaluable counselor is their own success through the stages of treatment and the number of years that they have been sober. Their personal testimonial can stand as the best form of motivation that any addict could possibly need to gear up on their journey to recovery.
Counsellors’ Tips for Recovering Addicts
Some individuals in recovery may decide to give back to society and to engage in meaningful change by shifting careers. Becoming a counselor for substance addiction is not uncommon for those who are in recovery stages of substance addiction. However, there are a few things that one should consider before diverging into this line of service:
The individual must be stable enough in recovery to take up a central responsibility as a counselor and caretaker. This position is critical and demanding. The individual may find themselves, not only counseling others on how to maintain sobriety but also becoming a role model and yardstick for those who intend to also excel in achieving sobriety and entering the same line of work. this can only be established when one has taken charge of their own lives in every way.
The experience of a recovering counselor is always a welcome addition to helping others get through their substance abuse challenges. Nothing feels better than knowing that your counselor can relate personally to your problems because they have been through it and survived its trials, it can be quite encouraging. Clients can draw strength from everything they have in common with their counselor. However, in doing this, it is also important that the recovering counselor maintains professional boundaries.
Every Client is Unique
Even though the counselor has experienced addiction to a certain substance in their own capacity, this does not necessarily mean that they know it all. Addictions differ from one person to another and from one substance to the other. Every client is unique and has a different type of challenge. Care should be taken in addressing each case.
Addiction, in some cases, is life-long and extra care must be taken to sustain sobriety for both clients and recovering counselors.