A typical client who has been abusing substances may find their addiction to include alcohol, illegal drugs such as amphetamines, opiates, cocaine, or prescription medications. Substance abuse is a dependency on any mood-altering substance. As defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) External link addiction is a “treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences. Prevention efforts and treatment approaches for addiction are generally as successful as those for other chronic diseases.”
Without treating the addiction or engaging in recovery activities, the addiction can progress, resulting in disability or premature death.
While there are similarities of behavior across all types of substance abuse, an experienced substance abuse/addiction counselor knows to carefully treat each client as an individual with a unique history, personality traits, and pattern of abuse. Treatment plans External link are personalized based on a range of factors and may include individual or group therapy, as part of a comprehensive inpatient or outpatient treatment plan.
Substance abuse counselors must skillfully forge a trusting therapeutic relationship with their client, while they continue to assess their needs and progress, as summarized by the National Institute on Drug Abuse External link . A skilled counselor will help their client to become invested in the process. A substance abuse counselor is one part of a larger treatment plan that may also include a community support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous External link (AA), alcoholism education, halfway houses and/or medication as prescribed by a psychiatrist or other medical doctor. Successful outcomes have been attributed to intervention, aversion therapy, stress management, solution-focused brief therapy, and social skills training.
The substance abuse counselor must determine the optimal counseling modality (cognitive, experiential, behavioral, dynamic) at each progression. Successful counseling has process factors including the counselor’s establishing an open and collaborative rapport, facilitating client cognitive learning through reframing, feedback, and insight, and assisting the client in behavior changes through behavioral regulation, reality testing, and successful experiences. A successful substance abuse/addiction counselor will establish trust, create structure, address problems, and incorporate various therapeutic techniques where appropriate.
The optimal outcome is for clients to be able to successfully utilize the tools you have given them to achieve and maintain abstinence, reestablish their lives, make amends, and continue on with their daily life confidently, healthily and carefully.