What Can an Addiction Therapist Do for the Struggling Addict?

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For an individual who has substance abuse and addiction issues, the use of those substances and the behaviors tied to that use cause major disruption and dysfunction in the daily living. The addict not only experiences physical, mental and psychological impairments due to their substance use, relationships with family and friends can also be significantly impacted along with loss of employment and trouble with law enforcement. For the addict, admittance into an addiction treatment facility may be the most ideal option. If the choice is made to enter treatment, a rehab therapist or counselor plays an essential role in the quality of long-term recovery of an addict.

What are the Roles of a Rehab Therapist or Counselor?

As outlined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a rehabilitation therapist (or counselor) is a trained professional who assists people by providing support, education and most importantly provide nonjudgmental confrontation to those addicts wanting sobriety and long-term recovery. For those recovering from substance abuse, the counselor can be their ally in the recovery process and provides to those addicted an understanding of their struggle as well as support. It is important to note that the counselor acts as a guide through the initial stages of recovery; the recovery process and the responsibility of recovery fall on the patient.


What Does a Counselor Strive To Do in Treatment?

Counselors strive to achieve a balance between being direct and allowing the patient to be direct. When counselors take the lead, they provide the structure of their therapy sessions and provides feedback regarding the course those sessions are taking and the progress of recovery. The counselor may also direct the patient to change behavior that may be problematic and could lead to relapse.

The counselor may put the onus of direction on the patient such as in role play where the patient explores how best to handle situations where using may be prevalent in social situations. In those situations where the recovering individual takes the lead, the counselor’s responsibility is to note as signs of regressive behavior and provide continual acceptance in regards to things as they are in the present.


The Goal of Alliance

Ultimately, there should be the goal of a therapeutic alliance between both the counselor and the recovering addict. In this alliance, the key components are both collaboration and partnership. This ultimate goal of partnership starts with the knowledge base of the counselor’s knowledge of addiction and the lifestyle associated with addiction. Even with that knowledge, the counselor realizes or must realize that the recovering addict is the expert on their own life and experiences. When those initial concerns are met, the counselor should then be able to forge the alliance with the newly recovering individual.

The underlying mechanisms of this alliance are based on empathy, active listening and the avoidance of passing judgment. It is important that the counselor’s personal views and experiences don’t cause conflict with the patient’s goals and outcomes. The environment the counselor creates should be one of honesty and candor so it gives the patient an avenue to share their feelings openly and honestly. The focus in treatment is on the patient, so the counselor needs to be careful of too much self-disclosure. Ultimately, the counselor must be creative in their approach as well as flexible since each patient has different backgrounds, experiences, and needs.


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  • Concerned with my son’s mental health. He has taken many RX for anxiety and depression and has been using pot for several years now. He is currently doing medical marijuana and still thinking about taking depression medication. He has gone to a treatment center but stayed for 10 days. Winter is difficult for him. I have insurance but as seen with his 10 day it was thousands of dollars. Concerned for him and if insurance will cover long term facility. Looking for information at this point. He at a local college but comes home every weekend. Semester ends in December. He didn’t like rehab because he was with alcoholism and cocaine related people whom he “thought” was not like him.

  • I like how you described how a counselor will be an addicts ally in the recovery process. My sister is attending a treatment center for people with addictions. I really am grateful for the information on what therapists can do for addicts.

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