Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance abuse counselor

Can people with addiction become substance abuse counselors?

Substance abuse problems often require professional help to be overcome. People with addiction seek help from support groups, doctors, special rehabilitation programs, and addiction counselors. Addiction counselors are professionals who specialize in the treatment of addiction. They may help the person overcome their negative behaviors, identify the triggers for addiction, and work with emotional issues that might be contributing to the substance abuse problems. Substance abuse counselors need to have a professional background, theoretical knowledge, and experience working with addiction. However, an additional question that appears when talking about addiction counselors specifically is whether addiction counselors should be people who have struggled with addiction themselves. Alternatively, the question is also whether addiction counselors who have been addicts in the past are more effective than those who haven’t.

This seems like an unusual question. In most cases, therapists are not required to have experienced the disorders they treat, although it does happen. Some disorders, like antisocial personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder, could likely affect the counselor’s ability to do their job in an effective manner. But in the field of addiction, this idea has been repeated a lot and seems to be generally accepted. So, why should the field of addiction be different? Where does the question come from?

The idea that the most effective addiction counselors are former people with addictions is a long-standing one. Even during the early days of addiction treatment, it was observed that people who have struggled with addiction could be more effective at talking to people with addiction, understanding them, and being persuasive. Many people believe that only someone with a past addiction could get a person with addiction to open up and get past any lies or defenses.

This view is at the core of Alcoholics Anonymous. While most of the people within this system are not professionally trained counselors, the central idea of this method is that people with addictions can and should support other people with addictions. They can offer support and help in a way that other people can’t, so Alcoholics Anonymous encourages people who have advanced more in overcoming their addiction to support newcomers. An example is the sponsors system, where a person will offer their support to another to help them stay sober. Alcoholics Anonymous builds a whole new support system for the person and that support system relies on people who have struggled with addiction in the past. People with addiction are encouraged to help others with the same problem.

Alcoholics Anonymous has gained a significant amount of controversy over the years. While it seems to show generally good results, there have been arguments about its methods and approach. However, it seems that many people within that system benefit from the support they receive, so many are able to reach and maintain abstinence. The success of the system can not be attributed solely to the people with addiction supporting other people with addiction method, as other factors might play a role, but it does seem that people with addiction can be effective in offering others their help.

Why does it work?  While addiction is an experience influenced by a person’s individual circumstances, personal experiences, and culture or society, different people with addiction have shared experiences. Different types of addiction might develop in a similar manner, so people with addiction might adopt similar patterns and connect with the experiences of someone else. People who have recovered might recognize the patterns and motivations they experienced during their addiction in others and use that shared experience and knowledge to connect and to see through what the person is saying to find the truth of what they are experiencing.

Most people feel that their experiences are unique, so others will not understand them. People with addiction might feel their loved ones don’t understand what they are going through or, if they don’t accept the problem, that they can easily fool them by making promises they don’t intend to keep or asserting that there are no addiction problems. A person who has been in that place can recognize that pattern for what it is and be more able to empathize with what the person is going through, voicing ideas and beliefs the person might have and deny.

People with past experiences of addiction know what they are talking about. This can add more weight to their words and also more truthfulness. For instance, it’s different to hear about the negative consequences of addiction from someone who lived them rather than from someone who read about it. It’s likely that the first person can add more weight to those words through their experience.

Another factor that might make people with addiction effective counselors is their attitude. They come from a similar place and they have had their own low points, so their attitude is likely to be sympathetic rather than “holier-than-thou” and are presumably less likely to take a superior attitude of pity. They know what the person is going through and can better understand why without feeling superior or more capable than the person.

Another potential advantage to the situation is that seeing a substance abuse counselor who has overcome addiction gives hope. This person has been able to recover, help others, and get their life together. They are living proof it can be done.

Counselors with a history of addiction might better be able to empathize, because they have a better understanding of what the person is going through. Overall, it seems to be that there are several advantages to an addiction counselor having a past addiction.

However, this doesn’t mean that all people with an addiction will make effective counselors. One aspect to consider is that a substance abuse counselor should be reasonably well-adjusted, so an addiction in the present is likely to affect their ability to help others.  For instance, a person who is not in abstinence might not be in a position to help others reach abstinence. When talking about professional counseling, it is also important that the counselor recieves training. Something like Alcoholics Anonymous might rely on informal support, but a counselor who offers therapy should also have the training and education they require. Substance abuse counselors should also have the right qualities and skills – for instance, they should have a good ability for empathy and good verbal skills.

So, does this mean that only people with addiction can be effective substance abuse counselors? Clearly, not. Many counselors deal daily with problems they have never faced. This doesn’t mean they can’t empathize and work effectively. Counselors don’t need to have been depressed or anxious or have had an addiction to work effectively with depression, anxiety, or substance abuse problems. The core aspect of a counselor’s work is the ability to empathize, avoid judgment, and offer a safe environment for their clients. However, a substance abuse counselor with a past addiction might have an advantage in the work they do with addiction.

So, can people with addiction become counselors for addiction? Yes, if they are willing to work and receive the necessary qualifications. Can people with addiction be effective counselors? Yes, it seems likely that they might have an advantage when dealing with addiction because of their experiences. Should only people with a history of addiction become addiction counselors? No, as many counselors can do effective work without the need to have experienced the problem they are dealing with.