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Role of the Counselor in Addiction Therapy

Addiction is a treatable disorder. Research on the science of addiction and the treatment of substance abuse disorders has led to the development of research-based methods that help people stop using drugs and resume productive lives, also known as being in recovery.

Like other chronic illnesses such as heart disease or asthma, treatment for drug addiction usually isn’t a cure. But addiction can be managed successfully. Treatment enables people to counteract addiction’s disruptive effects on their brain and behaviour and regain control of their lives.

Research shows that when treating addictions to substances like opioids, heroin or fentanyl, medication should be the first line of treatment, combined with some form of behavioural therapy or counseling.

Role of the Counselor

Addiction is more than a physical dependence on drugs or alcohol. Even after detox (quitting the drug), there is a high risk for relapse when the body is no longer hooked. Certain psychological and social factors that can be powerful triggers include:

  • Stress, especially sudden life stresses
  • Cues in the environment, like visiting an old neighbourhood
  • Social networks, like spending time with friends who continue to use

These factors can create a strong ongoing urge to use again. Counseling as part of addiction treatment helps individuals escape cravings and learn to manage without drugs or alcohol.

Several counseling methods are used to treat substance abuse. Each follows different approaches, making different methods more appropriate for different clients. No one therapy works for everyone with an addiction. The right treatment plan will be tailored to the patient’s substance abuse disorder and individual needs.

There are many aspects to successful addiction recovery, but the counselor is one of the most important elements. This individual is instrumental in developing a treatment plan. They also participate in the aftercare program. The purpose of that is to prevent relapse. Research indicates that the risk of using again is significantly lower in patients who are in counseling or therapy.

Building Trust

For the patient to create an alliance with their counselor, they must have trust. The bond is a therapeutic alliance that allows the person with substance abuse issues to feel comfortable sharing their feelings. This allows the person to believe that there is someone there for them even when things are difficult.

If a counselor doesn’t have a relationship of trust with the client, recovery is more complicated. To foster that connection, the counselor must:

  • Be attentive and listen closely
  • Demonstrate empathy
  • Show interest in the client’s physical and mental well-being
  • Understand the client’s needs
  • Actively communicate that they hear and understand the client

This relationship is very important in the recovery process. Without it, addiction treatment is less likely to have a long-lasting positive outcome.

building trust

The Counselor’s Role in Aftercare

Another crucial aspect of the counselor’s role is to focus on the patient’s aftercare. While it is ultimately up to the individual, the counselor helps in several ways in this regard. Patients are more likely to enjoy long-term recovery if they have a counselor who is proactively helping them prepare for success.

Aftercare is a continuation of support when the patient returns home from rehab. It often includes day program counseling at the rehab facility. Like the rehab program itself, aftercare is designed for each individual, and the counselor’s involvement raises the likelihood of the treatment being successful.

A good counselor will help prepare the patient for life after rehab during counseling. They can do this by:

  • Encouraging clients get back into their career field
  • Assisting the client in learning coping mechanisms
  • Giving access or referrals to support groups
  • Ensuring an aftercare plan of action
  • Leading therapy sessions

The counselor is a critical part of the addiction treatment process. Without the counselor or therapist, there is a much higher risk of relapse.

Types of Therapy

During recovery, patients can choose group or individual counselling, or a combination of both. Group counseling allows individuals to learn from their peers by listening to their experiences with addiction.  Individual therapy is highly tailored to the person. Both modes of counseling are important components of an addiction treatment plan.

Most counselors are trained in many different types of therapy. They will choose the correct therapeutic modality with input from the healthcare team and the patient. Counseling generally takes place at least once a week, but this may vary for some patients and circumstances.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT, teaches how to recognize moods, thoughts, and situations that can trigger drug cravings. A therapist helps the client learn how to avoid these triggers and replace them with healthy thoughts and feelings that will help them to maintain their sobriety.

The skills learned can last a lifetime, so this is a powerful treatment method.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) focuses on acceptance and change. Started in the 1970s to treat people who were suicidal, DBT has been adapted for other uses, including addiction. In treating this condition, the emphasis is on curbing substance abuse and the behaviours that lead to it while encouraging healthy behaviours – such as nurturing positive relationships – that will help the person avoid using.

Contingency Management Therapy

This method gives the patient positive incentives to stay clean. Vouchers for goods and services, or privileges in a more rigid treatment setting, are common.

Motivational Interviewing

In this method, therapists try to motivate the patient and help them maintain abstinence from drugs or alcohol. The counselor helps the individual identify what motivates them to stay sober. For example, if the patient is prompted by the love of family or the prospect of returning to work, these may become the focus of the treatment.

motivational interviewing

Maintenance Therapy

Addiction is a chronic illness with a high risk of relapse, especially for people who are in the early stages of recovery. Some patients will need a lifetime of treatment, counseling, and possibly medication.  Maintenance therapy helps with the long-term success of the recovery process.

The type of therapy chosen depends on the needs of the individual and the substance being abused. A personalized treatment plan will be developed at the beginning of recovery. Counseling can take place at the rehab centre or in the therapists’ office, or even via an online conferencing tool such as Zoom.

Finding a Counselor

At Thousand Islands Rehab Centre, we offer fully customized addiction treatment programs that include the right kind of counseling for each client. We will develop your treatment plan in consultation with our team of experts, with input from the most important person – you. Our rehab program combined with our comprehensive aftercare program will give you the best chances of long-term recovery. Call us today for more information.

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