Most addiction counselors have specialized training to help patients make long lasting behavioral changes. Training focuses on using motivation, encouragement and skills enhancement for clients. When working with an addict it is important to realize that there are no medications that can bring about long lasting improvements. Clients who are addicted to cocaine, methamphetamines and prescription opiates need counseling and behavioral therapies for successful treatment. The goal is to change behaviors to produce healthy and productive lives.
The first goal in counseling or talk therapy is to determine the underlying cause of an addiction, discuss addiction, provide motivation to quit the addictive behavior and give praise and encouragement for milestones. When considering counseling techniques for addictive behavior there are several steps to consider.
- Most addicted clients do not want to enter addiction treatment. They are afraid that stopping alcohol and drug use will cause pain both emotionally and physically. Motivational enhancement therapy is one technique that shows addicted patients the damage that substance abuse is causing in their lives. Encouragements are used to help control using. Positive steps are praised and rewards should be given.
- Skills must be taught to help addicts refrain from using and relapsing. It is very difficult to stop “cold turkey” or know how to stop abusing once you are addicted. CGT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy teaches addicts why they crave and how to cope with craving. The best methods include avoiding the people, places and things connected to drug and alcohol abuse and managing stresses and emotions that trigger drinking and using.
- Counseling uses positive reinforcement to encourage treatment and reward progress. Recovery takes time, it is painful, and can be demeaning. Be a “cheerleader”, give small physical rewards for progress, determine with the addict which qualifies as a reward. Most of all be understanding. Addiction is a disease and must be treated like any other health problem.
- If possible use family members to augment counseling and treatments. Keep family members well informed about what the addiction is and how to be a cheering section. If addicts have family support, changing behavioral patterns has a higher success rate.
- Support groups are very important in addiction recovery. Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step groups can provide addicts with the stories they need to hear to provide motivation to stop using. Meeting with other addicts in a group situation to discuss recovery and using can only bring positive results. Encourage meeting attendance and use it with counseling. The more reinforcement and education given to the addict, the better success rate.
- Keep on top of the situation. As busy as a counselor is, it is very important to keep in contact with the addict; do not let down and when you have cause to contact a recovering addict, be positive and supportive.
There are medications that can help with alcohol and drug dependence. However it has been proven that these only cause different addictions; the addict needs to change their behavior and the more support and counseling they can receive the higher the retention rate.