Thanks to shows like Celebrity Rehab, the issue of addiction is now front and center and receiving the attention it so rightly deserves. Not a week goes by without hearing about a public figure having an addiction related issue or entering rehab. Most recently, it was Prince and it cost him his life. The disease of addiction does not discriminate. It is an ever growing problem and there is a great need for addictions counselors to help battle this disease.
I’m Not An Addict, Can I Be An Addictions Counselor?
The short answer is a resounding YES! There are many effective counselors with drug and alcohol certifications that are not addicts themselves, most notably, Dr. Drew Pinsky from Celebrity Rehab.
This question has been the source of contention in the recovery community for quite some time. The basis of this controversy lies in the idea that only a recovering addict knows what the person is truly going through. There is an unspoken bond that exists simply because both the counselor and addict can relate to what the person is going through. They can say things to the newcomer like, “I know what you are going through because I have been there.”, or “I’m in recovery also, you can trust what I am telling you.” Some misguided people may even advise people to not disclose anything to people who haven’t been in recovery, thus, treating them like some sort of “enemy”, even though those people may have a drug and alcohol certification or have taken a number of drug and alcohol courses.
So Should A Recovering Addiction Counselor Even Disclose Their Recovery in the First Place?
More often than not, this answer to this question is NO! A basic drug and alcohol course will tell you that you are there to give support, education and calling them out on issues as needed. According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse, too much self-disclosure removes the focus from the patient. “…the counselor should avoid too much self-disclosure. While occasional appropriate self-disclosure can help the patient to open up or motivate the patient by providing a role model, too much self-disclosure removes the focus from the patient’s own recovery.”
The main message is that it is important to maintain a professional relationship with the patient. Disclosing their own recovery may make it easier to build trust in a patient, but you should not become friends with them either. Recovering addiction counselors may disclose their recovery from time to time and on a case by case basis, but it is certainly not the norm. In some cases, recovering drug and alcohol counselors without the experience and knowledge of a drug and alcohol certification, want to “fix” the patient, which isn’t healthy either.
Why Should You Become an Addictions Counselor?
Helping addicts save and recover their lives can be very fulfilling. With your help, some addicts recover and go on to live healthy lives and realize their previously out of reach potential. If you are unsure about whether this career might be for you, start by taking a drug and alcohol course at your local community college.
It is a fascinating career, to say the least, and those who get their feet wet are likely to take multiple drug and alcohol courses and go on to earn a drug and alcohol certification. Along with a formal education, an aspiring counselor should also make an effort to learn things that aren’t so formal, like the 12 Steps of A.A. and seek out any and all approaches that can help them become the best counselor they can be. If you are a people person and enjoy helping others, being an addiction counselor can highly rewarding work!