What Does A Substance Abuse Counselor Do?

Studies have classified alcohol dependence and drug addiction as brain disorders that need to be treated. With the proper interventions, substance abuse sufferers eventually get better and are able to lead drug-free or alcohol-free lives once again. Throughout the lengthy and even painful process towards recovery, drug and alcohol addicts rely on substance abuse counselors to give them the treatment and support they need to help them break free from their dependence on these substances which have wrecked havoc into their lives.

Substance abuse counselors are professionals who work in rehabilitation centers, social agencies, correctional facilities, nursing and residential care facilities, abuse centers, hospitals and other organizations to help those who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. They provide individual or group counseling sessions to clients with the goal of helping them recover from their addictions.

Since most addicts turn to substance abuse as a way to cope with life’s pressures, counselors guide clients in behavior modification sessions so that they know how to deal with the problems that come their way without resorting to drinking intoxicating beverages or doing drugs.

When substance abuse counselors first meet patients, they initially assess the psychological and physical state of the client and ask about their addiction problem. In their first meeting with the client, they will determine his readiness for treatment and decide on the best course of interventions to take depending on the client’s physical and mental state and the substance he is addicted to. Substance abuse counselors may choose to use the 12-Step approach which was started (and is still being used) by Alcoholics Anonymous, cognitive behavioral modification therapy and short-term counseling. They may also choose other approaches.

Substance abuse counselors also work with the client’s families since having a support group is essential in helping the addict get back on the road to recovery. This is especially true for those who are seeking treatment in an outpatient program and not as inpatients confined in a rehabilitation facility. Before beginning treatment, they will inform patients and their families about the mode of treatment that they intend to use with the patient. They also counsel families about addiction and the strategies that they can do to help their loved ones recover from the disorder.

Substance counselors also work with other healthcare professionals in developing treatment plans for each client. For example, they may coordinate patient care with medical doctors, nurses, psychiatrists and social workers. In a drug rehabilitation facility, a patient typically has to go through a period of detoxification before the patient can commence with counseling and behavior therapy sessions.

Physicians and nurses normally take care of the detoxification process since the withdrawal symptoms of a drug addict can be life-threatening if not managed properly. The entire healthcare team works together to help in the patient’s recovery. When a substance abuse counselor feels that the patient will receive better care in the hands of other professionals, he makes the necessary referrals for the patient so that the necessary care can be provided.

The job of substance abuse counselors don’t end after a patient has left the rehabilitation center. Aftercare is a very vital part in the recovery of someone suffering from substance abuse. They monitor the progress made by patients in halfway houses to determine if they are ready to adjust to life in general society. They continue to conduct regular counseling sessions with clients so that they can give their recommendation if they are ready to go back to mainstream society or not. If they suspect that the patient has suffered a relapse, they can order drug tests and if their suspicions are confirmed, they could recommend that the patient go back to drug rehab so that the necessary interventions can be provided.

In a typical counseling session, the substance abuse counselor allows the client to talk freely. They do ask questions to facilitate the discussion and to probe deeper into what a client is saying. They also make sure to record their observations and assessment in the patient’s file. They also track the patient’s progress over time since this is what they will use when they make their final recommendations.

Substance abuse counselors are required to keep patient records confidential. They also need to maintain their professional distance even as they show empathy for what the patient is going through.

Career Spotlight: Substance Abuse Counselor

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