Substance Abuse Counselor

How to choose a substance abuse counselor?

Substance abuse may or may not involve a harmful substance or drug. Nevertheless, the intake and overindulgence of any substance, whether harmful or not, can cause harm. The repeated overuse of any substance or drug in unregulated quantities is referred to as abuse. For instance, even though one or two units of alcohol per day has been argued to have no harmful effects  Certain clinical studies have reported on the beneficial effects of alcohol in increasing the amount of good cholesterol, and thus reducing the risk of stroke. It is widely accepted that the excessive intake of alcohol can have a deleterious effect on one’s physical and mental health. Similarly, clinical studies have confirmed the medicinal benefits of marijuana; however, an excessive intake can surely cause harm. The same holds true for harmless products, such as tea, coffee, and even certain foods.

1. Who is a Substance Abuse Counselor?
2. What is the role of a Substance Abuse Counselor?
3. What to Expect from a Substance Abuse Counselor?
4. So how do you decide which counselor to visit?
5. What Questions should you ask a Substance Abuse Counselor?

Ultimately, prolonged substance abuse can lead to addiction.

Who is a Substance Abuse Counselor?

Substance abuse counselors assist in the treatment and recovery of individuals combatting addictions. They work in conjunction with those recovering from dependence, and discuss ways to cope and potentially incorporate methods to help them recover. It is not unusual for some counselors to have a history of substance abuse, which can sometimes instill trust in patients during the recovery process.

You can find a substance abuse counselor in:

  • Hospitals
  • Mental health centers
  • Drug rehabilitation centers
  • Detox centers
  • Detention centers
  • Research facilities
  • Educational centers

A master’s degree in counseling or social work can sometimes be a requirement to work as a substance abuse counselor, but not every state requires this level of education. Although counselors with a higher degree can sometimes offer more help and services, it is not necessarily an indicator of the counselor’s effectiveness in assisting addicts recover. Some states do require a license to practice, therefore, be aware of those requirements.

In the US, the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse provides credentials in prevention and/or counseling, in 41 States. In addition, the Association for Addiction Professionals, formerly the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) grants certification in many States also having IC&RC reciprocity.

What is the role of a Substance Abuse Counselor?

The primary role of a substance abuse counselor is therapeutic counseling and to become the patient’s trusted advisor and partner during the recovery process. During counseling sessions, the counselor will try to discern the underlying cause or causes, of the patient’s addiction to include an understanding of the contributing factors, such as family history, upbringing, and current environment. The counselor will then attempt to assist the patient in coping with the addiction and suggest treatment methods.

The role of a substance abuse counselor necessitates tremendous patience, understanding, and compassion. A few therapeutic techniques employed by these professionals are listed below:

What to Expect from a Substance Abuse Counselor?

On your first meeting, a substance abuse counselor may inquire about your family, past, and present. Subsequently, the counselor may discuss with you the addiction and how, in your opinion, it is affecting your daily life and relationships. At a high level, this will help the counselor determine the intensity of your addiction and may also provide clues towards finding the root cause. Each patient’s circumstance and history will vary, therefore a counselor’s job is to understand these differences and modify the treatment method accordingly. Detailed interviews with patients assist the counselor in deciding upon the most suitable approach towards treatment.

The purpose of a substance abuse counselor is to help you identify your addiction-related behavior patterns and motivate you to confront behavioral and emotional issues that may be hindering your progress.

In addition to individual therapy, a substance abuse counselor may ask to meet a close family member(s), friend or significant other. Depending on the circumstance, this step may be undertaken early or later in the therapy. The inclusion of family members or people who are emotionally close in the counseling is important since these individuals often spend the maximum amount of time with the patient; therefore, the patient may feel more encouraged to accept and undertake treatment. Moral support from close family members and significant others plays a key role in the successful path towards recovery.

In some situations, counselors may suggest a consultation with a psychologist or a psychiatrist if deemed necessary by the counselor. On occasion, substance abuse patients may be asked to be admitted to a rehabilitation center. Sometimes a patient’s current addition could be deemed in crisis mode, therefore, a rehabilitation center could assist in stabilizing the immediate situation. All these steps are essential aspects of therapy and such decisions are made in the patient’s best interest.

So how do you decide which counselor to visit?

People seek counseling advice through various channels. Some ask those closest to them, for example, family or friends, some ask their physicians, and even look online for a substance abuse counselor who is located closest to their home or workplace. However, one should remember that substance abuse counseling is best provided by those who have experience in that particular field. Often, mental health facilities or psychologists will say they have experience, but when you investigate, it is not unusual to find that they sometimes just offer services related to mental health. Just because a facility or therapist is excellent in providing mental health assistance, it does not endow them with expertise in substance abuse counseling. Ultimately, it is best to take advice from patients of addiction who have been successfully treated or are undergoing treatment. This may be difficult to do, but if you have the ability to ask a current or past patient who has successfully recovered from their addiction, then that would be the best source of advice when choosing a counselor. Apart from being involved in regular meetings with their counselors, these candidates also maintain strong networks with other treated individuals, even after recovery. Moreover, a majority of them remain engaged in group counseling sessions with other addiction patients. Therefore, they will be able to recommend a counselor based on the substance or type of addiction.

It is inadvisable to choose any psychologist or psychiatric therapist when you need treatment for substance abuse. It is important to remember that a doctor may claim to offer such treatment but he or she may not have experience and training. Therefore, it is essential to seek help from a specialized substance abuse counselor if you acknowledge such a problem.

What Questions should you ask a Substance Abuse Counselor?

It is necessary for you to feel comfortable with your counselor. A good counselor will accept your questions openly, and sincerely want you to find a good fit. It is imperative you ask your counselor whether or not he or she has dealt with a similar substance abuse problem such as yours. If the answer is positive, then ask them their approach and possible treatment methods. Although it may not be possible, ask whether you can contact one of his or her current or past patients.

In short, you should be able to present all your queries to your substance abuse counselor without reservations. A counselor needs to develop a level of trust with the patient and not be judgmental. The counselor’s presence or company should be a reassuring to the patient.

It is natural to feel self-conscious at certain junctures of the counseling when discussing past and present behaviors, however, it is an essential part of the treatment. Your counselor should be able to encourage you to forgo your inhibitions and make you comfortable to confide in him or her.

A few visits are sufficient to ascertain whether or not you are comfortable with your substance abuse counselor. If not, you may ask him or her to suggest another counselor who may be more compatible with your personality and demeanor. Substance abuse counselors are aware that such treatments demand a level of comfort between the counselor and the patient; hence, the counselor should be able to guide you appropriately.




How to choose a substance abuse counselor?
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