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An addiction counsellor listening to a patient

What Does an Addiction Counsellor Do?

Addiction is more than just a bad habit that you can kick off on your own. Anyone who has personally suffered from any form of substance use disorder (or knows someone who did) can attest to how vicious and devastating it can be.

Licensed addiction counsellors are a critical part of every recovery program. They go above and beyond expectations to offer guidance and support to patients at every step of treatment, whether it’s outpatient, inpatient, or continuing care programs.

So, what does an addiction counsellor do exactly? In this article, we talk about their key responsibilities and how they help in patient recovery and relapse prevention.

1. Build Therapeutic Alliances With Patients

A therapeutic alliance refers to the cooperative working relationship between a patient and a mental health professional, which is crucial for successful addiction therapy. Its three key elements include:

  • Agreeing on the treatment goals.
  • Understanding the process.
  • Developing a personal bond of mutual positive feelings.

It’s the addiction counsellor’s responsibility to form a meaningful but unbiased relationship with the client; one that is enough to make them feel safe and comfortable to open up about their emotional trauma and other delicate matters relevant to their addiction. They must recognize their addiction counsellor as a trustworthy and reliable support system that can guide them towards unlearning negative habits and coping mechanisms without the fear of being judged, ridiculed, or gaslighted. 

Addiction counsellors create and maintain a strong therapeutic alliance by assuring patients that they genuinely care about their progress through actively listening, showing empathy, and offering a safe and respectful space.

2. Encourage Them to Continue Treatment

An addiction counsellor positively facilitating a group-based therapy session

Although acknowledging the need and finally deciding to seek alcohol or drug addiction counselling are the first major steps toward recovery, consistency and compliance throughout the whole process are more important.

Patients often have mixed emotions about seeing a drug and alcohol counsellor. They can change their minds or lose the motivation to get better real quick. While addiction counsellors cannot force patients to do anything unwillingly, they can gently but persistently encourage them to continue going to therapy or power through their stint in the facility. 

They can customize their motivational approaches according to a patient’s personality or particular needs and help them set manageable recovery goals. For example, they can explain how participating in group-based counselling sessions can make a difference in addressing their current struggles or inspire them about a promising future of sobriety. 

3. Help Patients Recognize the Possibility of Relapse, How to Prevent It, and Overcome the Guilt 

An essential part of what an addiction counsellor does is helping patients and their loved ones understand the chronic nature of addiction as a medical condition. Studies show that approximately 40 to 60% of individuals in recovery will relapse at one point in their lifetime, at the same rate as those with diabetes, asthma, or hypertension.

Addiction counsellors will guide patients with this imminent possibility that could be prepared for and prevented. They will develop a comprehensive relapse prevention plan designed to deliver continuing care once the patient has completed treatment and steps out of the controlled settings of rehab. 

However, it’s more than teaching them to stay strong in the face of temptation. Addiction is a disease that requires more than sheer willpower to say no to drugs or alcohol. Depending on the patient’s unique needs and circumstances, an addiction counsellor will create an effective relapse prevention strategy that may include:

  • Educating them about the stages and warning signs of relapse
  • Identifying their potential relapse triggers
  • Redefining the patient’s concept of fun
  • Helping them outgrow self-destructive behaviours
  • Equipping them with positive coping mechanisms
  • How to set up a solid support system outside of rehab
  • Acquainting them with the idea that they may need to avoid negative influences and stressful relationships (i.e. hurtful family members that may trigger emotional trauma or friends who are still abusing alcohol or illicit drugs)
  • Outlining treatment that they need to continue (i.e. attending therapy, joining local addiction support groups, or medications for concurrent disorders)

Nevertheless, it’s also an addiction counsellor’s job to assure patients that there is no shame or guilt should they fall into relapse. They should acknowledge that they are a work in progress and that what’s more important is that they’re prepared to pick up the pieces and start anew if it does happen.

4. Offer Additional Support to Their Loved Ones

An addiction counsellor comforting a family member of a patient

Addiction does not only affect the person who’s abusing; it also impacts the lives of their spouses, parents, children, siblings, or friends. In some cases, family members are at a loss about properly supporting their loved ones who are recovering from addiction without enabling them. Others may even turn a blind eye out of fear of upsetting the person or pushing them further away.

However, family and loved ones are valuable support systems that should be tapped for the benefit of the patients. Addiction counsellors can make this possible by: 

  • Assisting the family to stage an intervention 
  • Educating them about how to care for and empower the patient without enabling them
  • Teaching them about the chronic nature of addiction and the risk of relapse
  • Helping them set realistic expectations within the context of relapse
  • Encouraging them to consider family therapy sessions
  • Referring them to therapists and local support groups for family and friends

The more the family knows about addiction as a disease and the more actively involved they are with the addiction treatment process, the higher the patient’s chances will be of fully recovering. 

Reliable Addiction Counsellors at Freedom From Addiction

Freedom From Addiction is one of Canada’s leading addiction recovery homes. Aside from our remarkable evidence-based approaches, we also offer the most competitive team of healthcare professionals to support your healing journey. 

We have highly qualified therapists and addiction counsellors who are well-trained and experienced in treating individuals and helping families cope with a wide variety of alcohol and drug addictions. Beyond professional competence, our addiction counsellors are also compassionate to all patients as they guide them in the pursuit of a fulfilling life in sobriety. 

We hope this blog answered your question: “What does an addiction counsellor do?” Nevertheless, if you have more concerns or inquiries about our addiction treatment programs, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. Our treatment consultants are available 24/7 and will be more than happy to assist you.

Contact us today!

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