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The Changing Face of Addiction Counseling

The job of the addiction counselor is to engage the client in becoming a participant in a life change process. This needs to be presented as an opportunity. Clients need to be treated as adults, though they may not be acting like adults. They need to be offered options and allowed to make choices. The counselor's job is to help the client more clearly see the benefits and consequences of their choices. The relationship between the client and the counselor should be a partnership or collaboration.


A rarely mentioned fact is that most substance abusers will stop using on their own, eventually. The counseling process is about educating the client, offering both support and accountability, and reducing the pain in the meantime.


Some shifts for counselors to consider:

  • Looking to the future, not the past.

  • Looking to strengths, not weaknesses.

  • Emphasizing a thorough assessment; making recommendations based on information the client supplies; asking, "What do you want to do?"

  • Asking ourselves if the terms "addict," "alcoholic," or "disease" are really that important; expand our view to helping the whole person.

  • Setting as a goal - living with purpose; we must help our clients develop a purpose in life.

  • Focusing NOT on what recovery eliminates (alcohol or drug use and related problems), but what recovery adds to individuals, families, and communities (health, productivity, citizenship).

  • Embracing the concepts of "partial recovery" and "enriched recovery."

We must come to understand and accept both the varieties of the recovery experience and the process of the recovery experience. Even the Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text states:


Many people think that recovery is simply a matter of not using drugs. They consider a relapse a sign of complete failure, and long periods of abstinence a sign of complete success. We in the recovery program of Narcotics Anonymous have found that this perception is too simplistic.






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