What is Addiction Counselling?
The birth of counselling came about during the second World War as soldiers having completed their ‘tour of duty’ or were injured (shell-shock) required someone to hear their stories and purge themselves of nightmare making experiences. This simplistic ‘humanistic’ approach proved invaluable and over the years various modalities, approaches, techniques and strategies have been developed in an attempt to meet the the increasingly complex needs of modern man!
Often, basic counselling, I.E. listening to another persons issues still remains a valuable resource which was reinforced by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous who promoted the therapeutic value of one alcoholic talking to another. It’s interesting that today, carers have the ability to overreact and send concerning loved ones straight to psychiatrists and yet this can prove to a negative move as psychiatrists are trained to find a diagnosis and prescribe medication, they are NOT counsellors! Many psychologists have very no insight into addiction and are mostly geared to psychometric testing and assessing personality types.
Addiction counselling is highly specialised as many of the counsellors are ‘recovering addicts’ themselves. Like I wrote below, that does automatically make them effective counsellors as they ‘MUST’ address their own psychological issues before working on other people’s! Addiction counselling is specialised because we have to deal with such a broad spectrum of client issues such as the addiction itself, grief and loss, trauma, anger and resentments, guilt and shame as well as psychological disturbances such as anxiety or depression plus personality disorders! A client post detoxification is an unknown quantity and it takes a broad skill set to assist these clients in addressing a lot of addiction related content.
Essentially, addiction counselling is humanistic in nature and heavily salted and peppered with a selection of personal experiences, strategies and techniques that are gradually introduced in assisting the client in becoming more aware of their attitudes and behaviours and how they affect themselves and others.
How To Help Lost Souls?
Back in those early days of training I truly believed that simply wanting to be a counsellor meant I was automatically a ‘good’ counsellor! Admittedly this fantasy, underpinned by my ego lasted for a couple of years and this started to change once I got into further studies in counselling and psychology. I went through extreme stages of feeling inferior and superior until I started to understand the reality of the responsibilities that comes with being am counsellor. This gradual awareness was very challenging as I began to question whether I could actually go forward and become qualified as a counsellor! On reflection, this trepidation was quite healthy as it helped me to realise that the world of counselling is NOT so glamorous, that its hard work and is actually a ‘thankless’ sometimes ‘lonely’ profession!
Now that I have been a therapist for over twenty years I have more clarity about ‘effective counselling’. I have been privileged enough to interview therapists of varying types and I often ask “what makes a good therapist”? I have heard some interesting quotes plagiarized from well known fore-fathers of therapy such as Freud or Jung which was not what I was looking for. Personally, I believe that the better therapists have engaged in a lot of personal therapy and healing in order to develop a better relationship with themselves. Lots of ‘letters’ after a therapists name on a business card does NOT mean that he or she is an effective therapist.
I have worked with therapists who have few qualifications but have worked hard on self-development and so have the ability to respond well to clients as not preoccupied with personal issues. Carl Rogers, one of the founders of Person-Centred Therapy compiled six sufficient conditions that are essential ingredients for being an effective counsellor. The three core conditions are a well recognised guide in assessing the counsellors understanding of themselves and their limitations as a counsellor:
Three Essential Core Conditions
Carl Rogers asserted that the most important factor in successful therapy is the relational climate created by the therapist’s attitude to their client. He specified three interrelated core conditions:
1. Congruence – the willingness to transparently relate to clients without hiding behind a professional or personal facade.
2. Unconditional positive regard – the therapist offers an acceptance and prizing for their client for who he or she is without conveying disapproving feelings, actions or characteristics and demonstrating a willingness to attentively listen without interruption, judgement or giving advice.
3. Empathy – the therapist communicates their desire to understand and appreciate their client’s perspective.