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What Role Does a Counselor Play When You Are Seeking Recovery?

What Role Does a Counselor Play When You Are Seeking Recovery?

Counselors can help patients identify and understand the problems causing addiction

People come to addiction treatment on a variety of paths. Often, friends and family members are involved in helping their loved ones understand their need for help. Sometimes a professional interventionist is involved. In other cases, counselors of various types can help people understand their addictions and their need for assistance in dealing with the condition.

Addiction typically causes a wide range of relational and emotional problems, so there are many reasons that people who suffer from it may have a relationship with a counselor even before they fully acknowledge or understand the reality of their disease. Young people may, for example, be referred to a school counselor because of slipping grades. People may seek out a marriage or family counselor because of relationship strains. Because addiction and mental health conditions often co-exist, sometimes people will see a counselor because they are seeking help with anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How Counselors Help People Move Toward Addiction Treatment

Counselors can help people move toward addiction recovery in a number of ways including the following:

  • Identifying the issue – It is often difficult for people to determine when substance use has become abuse or addiction. Counselors can help bring clarity. There are a variety of addiction screening instruments that may be used ranging from short questionnaires with only a few simple items to those with much greater complexity and length.Counselors may fill a void that is not otherwise being filled in helping people identify addiction because screening tools are not used routinely by healthcare providers. A 2000 article in the Journal of General Internal Medicine examined the use of alcohol use screening tools among primary care physicians and psychiatrists. The study determined that 88 percent of physicians reported asking new patients whether they drank alcohol, but only 13 percent routinely used formal tools to screen for alcohol use disorders. Psychiatrists were more likely to do so. Psychiatrists were also more likely to refer patients to an addiction treatment program.
  • Overcoming denial – Denial of addiction was once thought to be simply a psychological defense mechanism but is now believed to be due, at least in part, to brain changes caused by substances of abuse. Various areas of the brain may be damaged by drugs and alcohol including those involved with memory and judgment. A 2002 article in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience reported on a study finding that denial was correlated with impairments in verbal memory, visual inference, executive function and mental speed.People suffering from substance-induced cognitive deficits may fail to associate substance use with its negative consequences. Counselors can help patients identify and understand the problems being caused. They can also help patients overcome denial that may be associated with the stigma of addiction by explaining the biological basis for the condition and demonstrating a lack of condemnation or judgment.
  • Overcoming ambivalence – Even when people begin to understand that they suffer from addiction, it is common for them to have conflicting desires regarding giving up their substance of choice. Change often involves passing through a series of stages. These include pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance. Counselors can help patients move from any of the beginning stages to action, where treatment is sought.
  • Increasing motivation – There are a number of ways that counselors can help increase a patient’s motivation to enter treatment, even if ambivalence is not fully resolved. They may use techniques such as Motivational Interviewing (MI) or Motivational Enhancement Therapy. They may also provide or help family members and friends provide incentives for attending or staying in treatment. The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that sanctions and enticements can significantly increase the rate at which people enter and stay in treatment and consequently the ultimate success of therapy.
  • Determining the best treatment option – No one treatment program is right for every patient. Personal characteristics and desires as well as the strength of the addiction and type of substance used are all factors to be considered. Counselors can help their patients determine the intensity and type of treatment that is likely to best meet their needs.

Begin Your Journey toward a New Life

If you or a loved one has recognized a need for addiction treatment, we can help you find a program that is right for you. Admissions coordinators, who staff our toll-free helpline, are knowledgeable and compassionate and understand the issues you are facing. They can answer your questions and can even check your insurance coverage for you if you wish at no cost or obligation. The helpline is available 24 hours a day, so there is never a wrong time to call. Why not call now, and begin your journey toward a new life?