An addiction counselor has many roles; counselor is only one of them. Others include interventionist, mediator, advocate, change agent, adviser, and facilitator (Lecture Module 4, 2013). While treating a client those roles are constantly changing and are necessary to help a client to overcome addiction. In addition the counselor must be able to maintain a balance of ethical, moral, and legal behavior while treating their clients.
This may seem easy; however there are often blurred professional boundaries present that the counselor is forced to navigate flawlessly or risk upsetting the balance between helping and hurting their client. While an addiction counselor’s main goal is to improve the mental health and wellness of clients through a treatment plan the goals need to be based on the individual the counselor is working with; therefore each case must be individualized to meet the needs of the client.
Individual therapy consists of working directly with an individual, an assortment of approaches are used in individual therapy. The approaches include harm reduction, coping skills training, life-skills training, motivational interviewing, cognitive-behavioral therapy, social skills training, and behavior therapy these approaches are included in the direct effect strategies as well as the broad spectrum strategies. The central component to these strategies is the client- counselor relationship also known as the therapeutic alliance.
The counselor must be able to listen objectively to the client, they must be aware of their responses not only verbally but non-verbally as well. They must be able to validate the client through non-verbal communication as well as positive regard. The language the counselor uses must engender motivation toward change for the client. By moving away from negativity these strategies give the clients hope and breed independence which leads to abstinence. These strategies are imperative to the success of the client and the counselor is the facilitator of this.
Individual therapy consists of creating an environment where lifestyle changes can begin, the therapeutic relationship is a partnership in which the counselor facilitates change with the client (Smith & Stevens, 2013). When working in a group many of the same approaches are used; however a counselor must now be able to use the strategies in broad form to reach all of the members of the group. Groups are more focused on the here and now; because there is a time limit they must be able to stay focused in order to make progress.
A group setting gives a client a bigger base of support; however the counselor must be able to provide culturally diverse guidance to all of the group’s members. This can often be challenging, so the group counselor should be a highly trained individual. A rapport must be established with the group so that trust can be built and cohesion will occur. The cohesion of the group takes precedence over the individual needs of clients (Smith & Stevens, 2013). There may be times when a counselor acting as an advocate for the group must remove a member for the greater good of the group.
Group development can be considered in terms of stages or phases; the group can become more complex and resourceful over time with sufficient leadership and member investment. It is also important to note that clients should receive pretreatment as an individual in order to prepare them to become productive members of a group and to receive maximum benefits from the process (Smith& Stevens, 2013). Relational therapies involve individuals and intimate others in the group process to examine bonding and boundaries (Smith & Stevens, 2013).
This type of therapy group can help individuals, couples, and families avoid dynamics that contribute to replay of unfinished business or relapse. The role of the counselor is to create a therapeutic alliance through creating a safe and honest environment by which the client’s family can support each other. In this type of therapy each member of the group must be allowed to share their feelings to essentially cleanse the environment of past resentment and to start fresh. Families often avoid dealing with the problem of drug or alcohol abuse they would rather hide it than deal with it.
The counselor must be able to root out the pattern of abuse so that the family can work to change it. This can be hard because the counselor must be careful about being overly critical of the client this could cause the family to turn on the counselor and become counterproductive. Addiction encompasses every aspect of the client’s life this includes their family, it is imperative to address the patterns that exist within the family not only to help the client but also to prevent future generations from having the same issues.
There are many soft skills that a counselor must possess in order to be effective. One of the biggest is empathy; empathy requires that the counselor be able to feel how the client must feel and to communicate understanding in order to help the client move past the addiction. The counselor must show warmth by showing they care what happens to the client. Listening is paramount as well; the counselor should create an environment where the client wants to share their story. By doing this the counselor builds a trusting relationship where the client feels safe from judgment.
The counselor must exhibit communication skills being able to redirect when necessary, verbal and non-verbal communication must be on point. The counselor must also be able to maintain a professional and ethical position with the client. The counselor must see the client as a human being worthy of help; accept the person not the behavior (Doyle-Pita, 2004). When all of these skills are employed to help a client the many roles a counselor must facilitate will be more easily navigated and the client will be more likely to achieve success.