Applied Psychology

How can an Addiction Counsellor Help?

Apr 08, 2021
Addiction Counselling Courses South Africa

Many make the decision to quit an addiction. However, the continual follow through is difficult, especially as there are often psychosocial factors involved. An Addiction Counsellor is often key to assisting a recovering addict in attaining and maintaining their sobriety. It’s a life long journey for which an Addiction Counsellor can help provide a map and the tools needed to assist with successfully living substance free.

What is Addiction?

Addiction is more than just using a substance. When using falls into one of these four categories, it can be deemed substance abuse and indicative of an addiction.

The 4 categories of substance abuse and addiction are:

  1. A Drug cycle where dependency, withdrawal and tolerance are factors.
  2. Social problems that result from use of a substance,
  3. Impaired control in the form of overwhelming urges, cravings and persistent thoughts as well as an inability to stop
  4. Risky behaviour linked to use or trying to obtain the substance.

Drug addiction, to a large extent, depends on the physiology and predisposition to addiction of an individual. Legal substances can be just as or even more addictive than illegal substances. For example, nicotine is highly addictive. The five factors which influence the addictive nature of a substance are: Intoxication, Reinforcement, Tolerance, Dependency and Withdrawal.

10 Common Signs of Addiction:

  1. Poor performance at work or school (including being late or absent)
  2. Social withdrawal
  3. Loss of motivation
  4. Lack of energy
  5. Risky behaviour, when intoxicated or to get intoxicated
  6. Stealing
  7. Lying and covering up in relation to use, getting substances and storing them
  8. Overspending on a substance, especially when it creates financial risk
  9. Neglecting outward appearance
  10. Neglecting physical health needs

How does Addiction Counselling Work?

In order to address any underlying psychosocial and contextual factors as well as personal difficulties pertaining to an addiction, seeking the help of a professional, such as an Addiction Counsellor is advised.

“Addiction Counsellors provide a way forward and tools to recovering addicts and their support structures to better enable long term sobriety.”

The most important role of a counsellor in the addiction treatment process is to establish trust and a rapport with the client in order to establish a therapeutic relationship. Often clients come to sessions feeling judged, misunderstood and have been rejected by both family and society as a whole due to their addictions. A counsellor offers a way of helping the individual restore their dignity and self-respect. As well as address past and present difficulties within their lives. Additionally, a counsellor can assist in helping to restore relationships where possible and rebuilding a life that is addiction free. Most importantly, a counsellor provides a safe space for the recovering addict where they can address confidential issues without fear of judgment or ostracization.

Three Influnces in Combating Addiction

When an addict decides to address their addiction, there are many changes they need to make. Within this arena there are three practical first steps that need to be taken:

1. Thoughts have Power

In order to successfully sustain a substance-abuse-free life, the underlying psychosocial factors need to be addressed. This means understanding the contextual dynamics like family and friends as well as the underlying thoughts and beliefs an individual has.

Talk therapy is a good avenue for addressing the psychosocial factors which can underlie an addiction. These are two of the approaches Addition Counsellors use:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): Focuses on assisting clients to manage their problems by changing the way they think and behave as well as equipping them with coping techniques and tools
  • Rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT): Is an action-oriented psychotherapy that teaches individuals to identify, challenge, and replace their self-defeating thoughts and beliefs with healthier thoughts that promote emotional wellbeing and goal achievement.

2. Changing Lifestyle

As far as possible, in order to live substance free, a recovering addict will need to make major life-style changes. This could mean relocating from current accommodation or a neighbourhood, forgoing social events, breaking ties with friends and family who use or enable substance abuse and perhaps even seeking new employment. It will also mean actively making a new life that is a fulfilling one. This is likely to entail making new friends, discovering new hobbies (or rediscovering old ones), joining a club, sports team or taking a class. There are many options but the most important thing to remember is that this new life needs to be sustainable in life-style and enjoyable, so as to help the individual better resist cravings and temptations in the long run.

3. Support is Key

Ideally recovering addicts need a mixed support base. From their family and friends, other recovering addicts and an addiction counsellor. It is also strongly recommended that families and close friends of recovering addicts receive support too. This is for their own benefit as well as the recovering addict that they are seeking to support. Addiction counsellors advise that working with families of addicts is vital as they often form the major support system in the abstinence or recovery process. However, where families have had to take a step away from the individual or have rejected them due to their addiction their involvement can be complicated. Happily, it often happens that once family and friends see that the addict is making an effort to change their lives, they are willing to support and rally around the recovering addict.

For Recovering Addicts

An Addiction counsellor will generally start with an assessment of the individual for psychotherapy/groups, psychotherapy, implementing intervention strategies and providing support, addictions, play therapy, facilitation of support groups, psycho-education and lecturing. They will then advise which options best suit the individuals’ needs and assist them to get the support that they require.

For Family and Friends

Generally, those supporting the addict will at first tend to interact with the primary addiction counsellor, who will then advise them on what type of support is best suited to how they need to support the recovering addict and their own contextual dynamics. This could be in the form of group sessions, support groups or even individual counselling. An addiction counsellor, while maintaining the privacy of the recovering addict, could also provide support sessions and give insight into how to best help the recovering addict on each step or milestone of their journey.

How to Become an Addiction Counsellor

The personal qualities that are necessary to being an effective Addiction Counsellor include:

  1. A compassion for others
  2. Empathy and understanding
  3. Good interpersonal skills
  4. The ability to listen and communicate effectively
  5. A positive attitude accompanied by patience and tenacity

If you have these qualities and are interested in helping others within a professional capacity then consider enrolling at SACAP. SACAP offers a Bachelor of Psychology professional degree, approved by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) for the education and training of Registered Counsellors. For more information, enquire now.

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