Substance Abuse Counseling

Participating in substance abuse counseling is beneficial in helping those with substance abuse, drug dependence, and chemical addictions to regain control and return to a sense of normalcy in life. Alcohol abuse as well as abuse of other chemical substances including nicotine, marijuana, and cocaine can generally be characterized by the inability of a person to perform regular life activities without collateral damage. Abusers cost the United States more than half a trillion dollars each year for the issues created by them. This includes police, justice, and social services workers along with the administration and operating costs for these workers. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:30-31)

The overuse of substances is often called drug addiction, chemical dependency, or simply drug abuse. These are "catch-all" phrases for the use of chemical substances outside of the socially accepted mores. However, it is important to understand that even when substances are used well within the limits of what is considered socially responsible, there may still be an issue. Substance abuse counseling is beneficial because even the use of substances can easily lead to addiction or substantial dependence. According to many in the medical community, a person can actually become physiologic dependent. What this means is that if the person were to stop utilizing the preferred chemical, of which the person has become physically tolerant, there would be a physical backlash. These symptoms are called withdrawal symptoms. Whenever there is an overindulgence of a legal or illegal substance that leads to personal detriment to a person's physical, or psychosocial health, or impacts others in a negative way, substance abuse counseling may be needed. For example, someone who binges on alcohol may be able to take it or leave it depending on the circumstances. While a person with a dependence may not need it physiologically, but needs to be weaned from it physically in order to feel normal after having abused a substance. In other words, dependence usually suggests abuse, while abuse can easily occur without dependence.

Additionally, abuse and dependence can be distinguished from addiction in that an addict has a compulsion; whereas an abuser or dependent may not have a compulsion. For the addict, over use of drugs sparks changes in how the brain operates. For the majority of people, drug use was initially recreational in nature. But, because drugs have the ability to chemically alter a person's brain, repeated drug abuse can impact an individual's ability to exercise self-control and good judgment. The chemicals tap into the person's brains communication system and muddle the signals that send, receive, and process information. This ailment usually compels people to act in ways that are socially unacceptable. The individual will often make repeated excuses for their inability to keep their word. Most are preoccupied and easily distracted. The person exhibits behaviors that seems reckless and irresponsible. These behaviors will, in fact, damage work, family, and school relationships. Most of the time, if left unbridled, legal issues are also bound to ensue. Despite the dire and grave consequences, an addict will continue to use very hazardous chemicals, even when cautioned that death may be approaching. In order for an addict to begin recovery, they must personally experience a wake-up call. Because of the complexities of the psychological aspects of addiction, substance abuse counseling is usually only a portion of the treatment necessary to break the addiction and resume a "normal" life. For a lot of addicts, there will never be such thing as a "normal" life. Though it has been seen and done by millions, there is still a great number of people, who continue to feel the compulsion to use year after year, month after month, and day after day.

Along with substance abuse counseling, groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) exists to help people stay on track. There are confidential meeting places and scheduled activities that become part of the weekly calendar for recovering addicts. There are people who start off strong, and fall back into their addictive lifestyle; only to return to the program months, or years later. Both of these programs have tremendous success rates. Recovering addicts coach and counsel other recoveries. One foundational principle is that recovery itself is a lifestyle. Therefore, there will always be a meeting to go to, as there will always be a group of people who will not be judgmental of the person's lifestyle choices. They will, in fact, be supportive, ongoing associates and friends who provide substance abuse counseling on a very personal level.

Other than AA and NA, the primary objectives of substance abuse counseling are to amplify and maintain a person's motivation for change. Because the brain has been chemically altered, cognitive work is necessary to correct behavior and provide insight to motivation. This is done by helping the person to abstain from taking any and all psychoactive drugs; first and foremost. A high level of support is needed during recovery. Successful substance abuse counseling models seek to work with and through the abuser's issues to help the person deal with them more effectively. This is often possible when the counselor has been through a recovery process of their own. Drug testing on a regular and spontaneous basis will help to identify relapses. The individual is also trained to develop a new set of coping mechanisms which might include impulse control and problem solving skills.

Substance Abuse Counselor

A substance abuse counselor is an intimate part of addiction treatment, whether it is drug or alcohol therapy. In many cases, the relationship between client and counselor is the most important bond that the abuser will have during the recovery period. Most days, a substance abuse counselor will provide support, resources, advice and even confrontation when needed to a number of clients who are attempting to break the addiction bond. Counselors must face the fact that despite their efforts, many of their clients, after weeks or months of sobriety, may fall right back into a period of chemical or substance abuse again. It is called recidivism, and it can actually bring counselors into depression themselves.

There are two main things that an abuse advisor will do each day that he or she is on the job. The first is the business of constant referrals. Throughout their day, these counselors will spend a great deal of their time sending addicts on to those who can provide a family agency, a food pantry, a psychotherapist, lawyer, welfare agent or many other resources that a substance abuser might need. Often times the counselor will spend time "putting out fires" in the addict's life, everyday crises that might be called crisis intervention, but when the addict has no place to go for advice, the substance abuse counselor will be there to help lend a hand to get the addict through to the next day. It requires someone who has a nonjudgmental attitude and deeply caring heart. The counselor is certainly not in the profession for the money; most only make between twenty five and thirty thousand dollars a year.

There is no doubt that many people who seek this kind of career are driven by a higher purpose. Many of the people who become addiction advisors are people who believe in giving back to the community or to mankind. They are often motivated by a commitment to God or to a service mentality. The people who do this kind of work are front and center to the death of many of their clients. There is a strong tie between homelessness, AIDS, mental illness and addiction. As a result, these particular demographics, which are much more susceptible to early death, expose the substance abuse counselor to a regular stream of bad news when it comes to the life expectancy of his or her clients.

Becoming a substance abuse counselor is a matter of deciding that you want to make little money, deal with some of the most desperate as well as despondent people on the country and put up with lots of lies directly to your face each day. There are not many states that actually require certification but they do offer it for this vocation. The actual qualifications are a Bachelor of Arts degree and several years of experiencing in counseling, volunteer work, or even being an addict in the past. The burnout rate for this kind of counselor is very high. For the stress and the demands put on this abuse professional, the Christian counselor has a special place to get strength. "I will love thee O Lord my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength in whom will I trust, my buckler and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower." (Psalm 18: 1, 2)

States that offer certification for this type of counseling will usually require that the person have specialized education in substance abuse and training in counseling theories and techniques to treat substance abuse. This specific training will allow a certified substance abuse counselor to do patient screening, assessment, treatment planning, group and family counseling, referral, record keeping, and may also include case management. This training may allow a counselor who does suffer burnout to move more easily into other types of counseling. The certification will require various amounts of training, depending on the state, but on average, the training may be over three hundred classroom hours. There are professional organizations that a substance abuse counselor can belong to in order to give extra support and resources for the position.

Should a person desire to be a substance abuse counselor in an educational setting, it will require a Masters degree in counseling. Larger school districts may hire at least one of these types of counselors to handle very specific issues that some students may be facing. Counseling adolescents who are abusing drugs and alcohol need a different kind of approach than adults and so require a different skill set for the counselor. Teens are often unmotivated to cooperate with adults who are trying to help them and may not respond well to a confrontational and directive type of counseling approach. Many adolescents are desirous of being on their own and react very provocatively towards those they perceive are asserting power or authority over them.

Not everyone can or should be a counselor of any kind, but particularly a substance abuse advisor. The person that finds him or her getting too personally involved in other's problems probably should not be an abuse advisor. This is a position where far too many disappointments in how people respond occur, and if twenty percent of the clientele are clean for a year, that could be considered a victory. It truly is three steps forward and two back day in and day out. Yet the need is great in this dog eat dog world for people to rise above mediocrity and the status quo and give of themselves for the betterment of humanity. An abuse advisor is certainly on the front line of that dream to make the world a better place.

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