Your Addiction Recovery Counselor: Connection, Collaboration, Confidence

Dec 5, 2023

You may not think a sports analogy applies when talking about substance abuse recovery, but it does. Behind every successful player stands a dedicated coaching staff: The people who thoroughly know you and how to bring out your best efforts, ones you can trust without a second thought, and those whose support for you will never waver.

The same principle applies in substance abuse recovery — you need a team, and the most essential person on that team is going to be your addiction counselor.

Your Addiction Recovery Counselor: Connection, Collaboration, Confidence

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Why Is a Professional Counselor Necessary for Recovery?

A counselor provides specialized, therapeutic intervention for a variety of different issues. These include grief, trauma, marriage and family problems, mental illness, co-occurring disorders, and substance abuse and addiction. Their level of expertise depends on personal background, post-secondary schooling, training and licensing, and experience.

Ultimately, addiction is a chronic disease that changes your brain chemistry, making it nearly impossible to recover fully on your own. A diabetic, for example, wouldn’t be expected to handle his disease merely by self-monitoring glucose levels. Yes, his commitment to staying healthy is a critical component of his care. Still, he also needs a trained professional to monitor his progress, adjust medications as necessary, and serve as a point of contact when other physical or mental health-related issues arise, e.g., vision problems, edema, depression, etc.

While your counselor needs to be credentialed to provide behavioral health therapy (or actively working toward that goal), you must also ensure they have the training or licensing required specifically for substance abuse. Many states still do not have addiction counseling license requirements, so in those cases, opt for someone who has an extensive background in treating people with substance abuse.

“One of the excellent benefits of working with a comprehensive substance abuse rehab program is that you have access to professional counselors trained in both addiction and mental health modalities,” said Preston Dixon, COO at Renaissance Ranch, a men’s treatment center with locations in Utah and Idaho. “We find that many of our clients suffering from substance abuse also have underlying mental health issues that need to be addressed in treatment.” He continued, “Additionally, our staff consists mainly of men who have gone through personal recovery journeys, so they come from a place of knowledge about what works and what doesn’t.”

How Will Having a Counselor Help You?

Like a coach, an effective substance abuse counselor guides you through your recovery. They have many responsibilities associated with that rule, but in this article, we will focus on the three we think are most critical: Building and maintaining connection, frequent collaboration on plans and goals, and instilling confidence and trust.

1. Building and Maintaining Connection

First and foremost, your counselor will seek to build a strong connection with you. They do this as they spend time with you, ask questions, and become familiar with your story.

No two substance abusers are the same, even though they both share a common disease. Each has unique needs, interests, backgrounds, and personality traits that will affect how they respond to counseling. The counselor’s job is to gather all this information and tailor therapy to give their patient the best chance at recovery.

Another essential way counselors build connection is through education. For most people, checking into a substance abuse rehab, be it residential or outpatient, represents a drastic lifestyle change. Work, hobbies, leisure activities, and even family obligations suddenly have to take a back seat to beat addiction. As a result, a patient will likely have a lot of questions and apprehensions about being there. The best weapon in fighting this natural fear and discomfort is knowledge.

A counselor will let you know what to expect, answer your questions, and assist you in managing the transition from your former life to a life in recovery. Consequently, when the time comes, they will also be there to help transition from treatment back into daily life.

Finally, your counselor is a central intermediary for you when arranging additional treatment needs and strengthening your communication with your family and loved ones. Addiction destroys trust and creates walls between you and the ones you care about, leading to estrangement and lost connection. While your counselor works with you on your journey, he can also direct your family to helpful resources they can tap into to begin their healing.

2. Frequent Collaboration on Plans and Goals

Your counselor is your teammate. We say teammate instead of cheerleader because counseling goes far beyond offering support and encouragement. Your counselor is on the field with you, not waving from the sidelines or the stands. They actively challenge and encourage you to tackle negative thoughts and behavior patterns, make attainable goals, and progress in your recovery step by step each day.

They are also the person you can lean on when cravings seem unbearable, and treatment feels hopeless. Their strength becomes your strength, and your success is their success.

As they work with you on your treatment goals, your counselor will also be responsible for creating a relapse prevention plan. That’s because roughly 40% to 60% of people who go through addiction treatment will relapse.

It’s essential to note here that relapse doesn’t equate to failure. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, regression is also common with similar chronic diseases like asthma and hypertension, so it should be viewed more as a temporary setback.

In fact, a 2020 study clearly shows why it’s so important to never give up — 75% of those who had received treatment for a substance abuse problem reported they were now in recovery.

An individually tailored relapse prevention plan should include the following:

  • A list of people you can call if you feel like relapse is imminent.
  • An emergency course of action if relapse occurs.
  • Suggested lifestyle changes to avoid triggering people, places, and situations.
  • Specific warning signs and coping strategies for them.
  • A trusted friend or family member with whom you can conduct regular check-ins.
  • Ongoing therapy.
  • Time management recommendations.
  • A list of clear, short-term, attainable goals to keep you on track.
  • Regular support group meetings.

3. Instilling Confidence and Trust

An effective counselor will work to build trust with you by being an empathic and attentive listener and through honesty and openness. They want you to feel comfortable sharing everything you’re thinking and feeling as you go through recovery.

This may be difficult at first since the only thing you have put your trust in up to this point is your addiction. Now that you don’t have substances to prop you up, it’s normal to feel isolated, angry, sad, or helpless. It is critical to let yourself feel these emotions and work through them in a safe space.

In time, you should feel more at ease during your sessions, knowing that you are talking with someone who cares deeply about you and is invested in your recovery.

If you’re struggling with substance abuse or know someone who is, call us at 855-736-7262. The first step may be the hardest, but it will put you on the right path to a healthier, happier life.