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Addiction Counselling: Does It Work?

Addiction Counselling: Does It Work?

Drug Counselling

Addiction counselling is something many people view as being “extra” when it comes to the recovery process. However, in successfully getting rid of an addiction, regardless of whether it is to alcohol, prescription meds, or illicit drugs, it will be a difficult road ahead.

For those suffering of opioid addiction, it can be even more challenging as the detox process is just the beginning of fighting the long-term battle of cravings and the possibility of a relapse. This is where addiction counselling can be invaluable.

The fact is that addiction counselling is a vital part of any drug abuse recovery and treatment program for many people. Family counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy and even other types of therapy can provide assistance to those who are suffering from drug addiction and ensure they remain clean.

Additionally, some are even using psychotherapy as part of addiction counselling to help with the mental health conditions that can contribute to the use of prescription drugs and other substances.

What is Addiction Counselling?

There are many forms of addiction counselling. The most common one is individual counselling. The recovering person may also participate in family and group counselling sessions.

Regardless of the type of counselling, these sessions can provide the individual with the opportunity to talk about their challenges when it comes to their drug addiction and recovery among other things.

Addiction counselling is a type of counselling which is highly specialized. This is because it views addiction seriously as a disease and not just a symptom of another underlying issue. Of course, it doesn’t remove the fact that those underlying issues have created an impact on the person’s behaviour toward alcohol or illicit drugs.

During counselling sessions, the problems and challenges of the person that led them to use drugs are assessed. After a thorough evaluation of it, the therapist or counsellor can then plan for specialized treatment. This treatment will then help the recovering person in their challenges so that they will be able to attain the goals that they have set for themselves.

The process of addiction counselling is facilitative. This means that it helps the individual to overcome the things they are afraid of or are causing them stress and anxiety. One of its many benefits is that it greatly helps the person in difficult times so that they can address the situation and take the necessary action to deal with it.

Addiction counselling sessions can explore the reasons why the addiction happened such as the behaviour and the motivations of the person. This then helps the individual to become more aware of their actions and understand themselves better. This is very important in the process of recovery. Here are the ways that addiction counselling can help a recovering addict.

  • It can strengthen a person’s self-worth.
  • Help in developing healthier ways to manage stress.
  • Teach how to properly react to triggers.
  • Strengthen skills to deal with cravings
  • Assist in mending broken relationships because of addiction.
  • Encourage the person to become more responsible and committed to the treatment programs.

The role of the addiction counsellor is to guide the recovering person and help them to grow according to the capacity and values, allowing them to have the resources that they need to live a drug-free or alcohol-free life.

Who Benefits from Addiction Counselling?

The people who will be able to benefit from addiction counselling are those that are trying to recover from drug addiction as well as the people who have been affected by their behaviour. This can be their spouse, parents, siblings, friends, and other loved ones. That is why it is also beneficial if the loved ones can attend the counselling sessions.

The fact is that when someone is addicted, it is much more than just a physical dependency on the drug of choice. Even after they have gone through the detox process and the physical dependence has been resolved, a recovering addict is at a very high risk of relapse.

With addiction counselling, the social and psychological factors that often cause relapse can be addressed and the person who is recovering can learn how to cope with these issues without resorting to the use of a drug or alcohol.

Even when a person has been clean for many years, they may still be suffering from the consequences of their actions in the past. This is where counselling comes in. During the sessions, they can confide to the counsellor the things that are bothering them. It may be guilt, shame, anger, and other strong emotions that still linger even after they have physically recovered from drug or alcohol addiction.

Family counselling Therapy

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Addiction Counselling for the Family

If you are someone who is recovering from drug addiction and you want your family to join the counselling session or you have a loved one in recovery and want to show your support, there are addiction counsellors that specialize in addiction counselling for the family. One has to recognize that in these situations, it is not only the addict who is affected but the people who care and love them as well.

Many members of families dealing with addiction often try to carry on even if they are being plagued by stress, worry, and fear. These family members eventually find that they eventually become frustrated and angry toward their loved with addiction problems. At some point, they become exhausted and just indifferent.

Addiction damages both the well-being of the person with addiction as well as their families. With the help of addiction counsellors who have the training, skill, and compassion, the family members can be assisted so that they can release the negative emotions in a healthy and proper way while also providing an avenue to heal as a family.

What are the Types of Addiction Counselling?

There are more than a few options when it comes to addiction counselling. Currently, there is no scientific proof that one of the counselling methods is better than the other. Additionally, there is no one approach that is right for everyone that is suffering from an addiction. In fact, the right addiction counselling option is going to be determined by looking at the person’s individual needs.

While any type of addiction counselling for drug addiction is going to be better than none at all, in most cases, group sessions are going to be the preferred option over individual therapy sessions. During group addiction counselling sessions, the person is going to receive support, but also be challenged by the other people who are going through the recovery process. This will make sure they remain accountable and it will reduce the likelihood of relapse in the future.

The good news is that the majority of recovery programs today offer some type of addiction counselling as part of the comprehensive treatment. This will help ensure that everyone going through the recovery process gets the individual treatment they need to remain clean and avoid a relapse in the future. An individual can speak with their addiction recovery specialist to learn more about the type of addiction counselling available to them.

What is common in these types of addiction counselling is that addiction is viewed as a problem which is multifaceted. Nevertheless, it can be effectively treated. The treatment during these counselling sessions is directed to the person in recovery and not to the drugs.

Even if the person doesn’t go to the treatment willingly, it can still be helpful. However, the willingness of the individual will be influential in his or her recovery. The patient may be given medications so that the drug abuse problems may be addressed. Also, if there are any mental health issues present, these can be addressed by medications as well.

There is no doubt that addiction counselling, regardless of the type, is helpful and effective as a treatment for drug addiction. What can be challenging though is that there are a number of options available so choosing one or differentiating them from each other may be confusing for the recovering person and their families. In this section, we will learn about the various types of addiction counselling.

Behavioural Therapy

With behavioural therapy, the focus is to obtain goals for the individual’s present life. This type of counselling for addiction examines undesirable and unhealthy behaviours while also identifying the factors present that support such behaviours.

With drug addiction, behaviours relating to it continue to persist since the drugs make the person feel calm, euphoric, or relieves them of pain. And because these are the effects of the drug, the use of it is being reinforced.

Even if the person is already experiencing negative consequences because of their drug addiction, what he or she only see are the benefits of using the drug and how good it makes them feel when they’re high.

In behavioural therapy, the therapist will be using specific interventions so that the unwanted behaviours can be addressed. Here are some examples of these intervention techniques.

Planning and Psychoeducation

This is a chance for the person in recovery to learn about the behaviours that maintain their addiction as well as the consequences of such behaviours. Both the individual and the therapist collaborate in developing a plan to better promote changes in behaviour.

Assertiveness Training

With this intervention technique, the person in recovery can improve his or her way of communicating. This is to practice avoiding aggressive or passive communicating and do assertive communication. With assertive communication, they will be able to express themselves in a more honest and respectful way.

Relaxation Training

Relaxation training helps the person to find ways to be calm and at peace both mentally and physically. The individual can also learn ways on how to handle stressful situations and build tolerance for such circumstances.

Functional Analysis

With this intervention, the undesirable behaviours are analyzed so as to understand how such behaviours are being maintained or reinforced. In understanding this, the individual can start learning and modifying their motivation in the event that there is something to trigger unwanted behaviour.


Eventually, the recovering person will be exposed to the stimulus which is their drug of choice. This is to practice their new behaviour which is abstaining from using the substance. When this skill is practiced, it is more likely that the habitual and automatic reaction to using the drug will diminish.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Also called CBT, this type of counselling focuses on thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Its belief is that the negative patterns of thinking lead to unwanted behaviours and feelings. These, turn, produces negative thinking. The interconnections of feelings, thoughts, and behaviours are the core of cognitive behavioural therapy.

During CBT sessions, the therapist acts as the patients’ coach as well as their teammate, helping them in assessing and understanding the systems that are in place that leads to the feelings, behaviours, and thoughts that the patients want to address.

When it comes to drug addiction problems, the therapist can also go beyond the principles of CBT to try to understand why the behaviours of the patient are being reinforced. This is to understand the feelings and thoughts that lead a person to use drugs as well as to get insights on the person’s feelings and thoughts after they’ve used their drug of choice.

In CBT, the therapist looks for what is called cognitive distortions that are feeding into the person’s behaviours. These cognitive distortions are ways of thinking that are flawed. They may seem rational to the person when in fact, they are illogical and irrational.

Contingency Management

This type of counselling is another behavioural therapy which is used specifically for treating drug addiction. This treatment may be utilized for addiction on alcohol, marijuana, nicotine, opioids, prescription meds, and illicit drugs.

For this kind of counselling, the person in recovery is provided with a tangible reward which they can enjoy whenever they accomplish the desired behaviours. Of course, in drug addiction treatment, the behaviour which is being desired is abstinence from drugs. Rewarding this behaviour reinforces the development of other new behaviours. Here are some examples of rewards in contingency management counselling.

Voucher-based Rewards

Whenever a drug test turns out negative, the patient is rewarded with a voucher. These vouchers are then collected by the individual. He or she can then trade them for the items that they desire. It is made sure that the rewarded items will be useful for supporting their recovery. In the beginning, the vouchers’ value will be a bit low but it will grow over time whenever the patient can remain drug-free for longer periods.

Prize Incentives

In the same way in the previous example, the patient can have a prize when the drug test turns out negative. There may even be prizes for simply attending the treatment. The prize incentives will vary because it will be played in a lottery-type system.

Natural Rewards

Often, reinforcements don’t have to be through incentives or rewards. There is a feeling of fulfillment and success when one remains drug-free for the intended period or when they reach their goal to be clean for a month, for example.

The patients feel proud of themselves and are happier. They can see that their relationships with their loved ones are being rebuilt and that is the reward in itself. This kind of reward is very powerful in motivating and maintaining sobriety.

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy

Also called  REBT, this type of counselling for drug addiction is similar to CBT. With REBT, the focus is not so much on the behaviours of the individual but on what he or she thinks and believes in. REBT sees the patient’s flawed and unrealistic beliefs to be the focal point of their psychological problems. Here are some common examples of irrational beliefs.

  • The patients believe that they ought to be loved and treated fairly by their family.
  • That they ought to be perfect in everything they do.
  • That they should avoid difficult situations at all cost.

In dealing with such faulty beliefs, the counsellor or therapist in REBT will use a system called the ABC Model. With this type of system, what is being communicated to the patient is that it isn’t his or her situation creating the consequences. Rather, it is their belief about such situation which creates those.

In the context of drug addiction, there may be some patients who believe that they use drugs since it is only being given or offered to them. In the counselling session using the ABC model, A would be the situation where the drug was offered to the person that leads to B which is the belief that using the drug will resolve their problems and finally, C which is the belief that this will ultimately make them end their drug use.

With the ABC model, the challenges of the patient will be identified and their faulty beliefs will be challenged. When this has been accomplished, then the new beliefs that are logical and grounded in reality will be introduced.

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy

DBT is highly influenced by CBT. It was developed to address the limitations of cognitive behavioural therapy. This may be treating people with mental health issues such as borderline personality disorder or have behaviours that are harmful to themselves such as suicidal ideations and self-harm. Here are other mental health problems that DBT tries to address.

With DBT, the belief is that these issues on mental health emerge because the person is emotionally vulnerable and that they are in environments that invalidate them. What happens in the session in DBT is that the individual receives both acceptance and validation. They are also encouraged to proceed toward directions that will be beneficial for them. In achieving these results, there are specialized treatments being used. Here are some of them.

  • Building skills through group therapy
  • Individual therapy to address current stressors and past traumas
  • Phone coaching in between sessions

These treatment methods allow the client to go through skill-building systems. Each of these systems may last up to six weeks. The patient may go through it again if needed. Here are the skills that the patient will learn in these systems.

  • Mindfulness or being aware as well as engaged at present and in the current situation.
  • Distress tolerance or the capacity for acceptance that there will be distressing situations and that extreme measures are not necessary to resolve them.
  • Interpersonal effectiveness or the capability to communicate in a clear and concise manner while at the same time building better listening skills.
  • Emotional regulation or being able to identify issues that produce undesirable feelings and thoughts, and effectively working toward reducing them using positive coping mechanisms.

Person-centred Therapy

This kind of counselling is also called Humanistic Therapy. It emerged as an opposition to the psychoanalytic perspective that all of us humans find motivation in aggression, sex, greed, and power.

With the person-centred therapy, the belief is that we have good in us and that is what has to emerge more dominantly. This type of counselling also believes that we have the capacity to resolve our own problems if we are provided with support, acceptance, and understanding.

Individual Counselling

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing falls under the umbrella of person-centred therapy. It is more specialized and was designed to treat drug addiction. The goal of this kind of counselling is to enable the person in recovery to find what they desire and what drives them. It also helps the individual in making healthier decisions and not merely being coerced into doing them through guilt or shaming.

During the sessions for motivational interviewing, the treatment will be more effective if the following are met.

  • If the person in recovery works to collaborate with the therapist, and the therapist also works on understanding their perception rather than challenging them.
  • If the patient can find it within himself or herself to set goals and commitments toward his or her treatment for the long-term.
  • If the patients can become responsible for themselves and be able to make decisions on their own.

The task of the therapist is to help build the patient’s desire to really bring some changes to their life. Throughout the process, the therapist is empathetic in managing any resistance from the patient. The counsellor will also help the patient realize the differences of what they desire and what they have been doing so that they can achieve it. So, for example, if the patient wants to have a happier life, the therapist will ask them if using drugs is aiding them to reach that goal or is it a hindrance?

Community or Family-Based Treatments

The types of counselling for drug addiction that have been mentioned were focused on creating and developing change through working one on one with the patient. This kind of focus on the person in recovery is vital in working on an enduring success. However, it may also have some limitations. The reality is that the individual doesn’t exist within a vacuum but are part of a bigger community or group of people.

With the individual therapies, there are plenty of benefits but when it is the only kind of therapy that the patient participates in, then they’ll be limited by the communication styles, reinforcements, and routines of those types of counselling. It is with this that the family and the community becomes crucial in ensuring the success of the patient’s recovery from drug addiction.

The styles of treatment that acknowledges the huge role of the patient’s environment and the group is called community-based or family-based therapies. These treatments focus on the forces that influenced the person’s drug addiction. Here are some of the examples of such forces.

  • The need to feel one’s individuality.
  • The need to be accepted in a group.
  • Influences of the person’s relationships with others.
  • History of drug use or mental health issues in the patient’s family.

These pieces of information greatly aid the development of a thorough and specialized treatment plan for the patient. Under the umbrella of community-based or family-based treatments are the following counselling styles.

Community Reinforcement Approach

Also called CRA, this style has a broader focus than just the patient. It also looks into the patient’s environment and how it affects the individual. The CRA bases its principles from those of CBT, including behavioural skills training and functional analysis. But it also adds that relationship counselling, social and recreational counselling and job training are important.

CRA believes that there is a higher chance for success if the different parts of the individual’s life are satisfying and stable. This treatment is suitable for both young people who are most likely have strong influences from their peer groups.

Multidimensional Family Therapy

This approach is very helpful for young people who are suffering from drug addiction. MDFT is focused on recognizing the many influences of the patient’s life and how those affected their drug use. The patient may have been influenced by an individual, the family, their group of friends, the community they are in, and others.

When the influences are determined, then MDFT will work on addressing and modifying each of these factors individually. In MDFT sessions, there will be time for the therapist and patient to talk as well as the therapist and the parent. There will also be opportunities for the therapist and the whole family to meet. Here are some of the goals of these sessions.

  • Develop and improve the patient’s decision-making skills so that there are fewer chances for irrational and impulsive choices to take over.
  • Improve skills for negotiating with other people like parents, teachers, and peers to find compromises that are beneficial for all.
  • Build problem-solving skills to be able to develop a wider range of responses to questions or situations.
  • Develop vocational skills to have a direction and focus for the future.
  • Improve communication and self-monitoring skills to have better insight into other people’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviours.

Integrative Approach

With this approach, several facets of the various styles are used in therapy. This is to ensure that the treatment for drug addiction through counselling will be more successful. Integrative therapy combines the best elements of different types of addiction counselling to treat the patient and help in maintaining their sobriety. It is a very well-rounded kind of treatment.

The Matrix Model

This kind of treatment is recommended for people with problems on drugs, specifically, stimulants such as ADHD meds, crystal meth, and cocaine. The way that the matrix model works is that it includes a variety of features so that all of the factors that contribute to drug addiction can be accounted for.

This treatment style makes use of other counselling types such as CBT, behavioural therapy, community/family-based therapies as well as others. This is to further provide benefits to the patient and the family during the treatment of drug addiction.

As an outpatient program, this kind of therapy is highly structured. There are a number of treatment manuals filled with both useful information and also homework sheets for the patients so that they can be guided throughout the treatment.

What are the Benefits of Addiction Counselling?

When the problems that have led the person to drug addiction have been identified through counselling, then there is a bigger chance for a successful recovery. Some factors that push a person to use drugs can be life stressors, emotional traumas, bad influences, and others.

With the help of therapists specializing in addiction, the causal events can be dealt with and the patient can be guided in becoming more aware of his or her decisions. Here are some of the ways that addiction counselling can be beneficial for a person trying to recover from drug addiction.

Treating Attachment Disorders

When we are young, we start to form lifelong security and trust in relationships within the first five years of our lives. Whenever we experience deficits on these relationships such as being neglected or abused, then we begin adopting coping mechanisms so that we can regain that feeling of security again.

During adulthood, some people with attachment disorders may turn to alcohol or drugs to find the attachment that they are craving for. With counselling, these childhood insecurities can be understood so that the patient can confront it and realize its impacts on their behaviours and drug use.

Changing Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms to Stress

Counselling can aid a person to change the way that they respond to the stresses of life. Through the sessions, the patient can identify their self-destructive and misguided responses toward other people or situations which then leads them to drug use.

When the person in recovery can learn about new and healthier ways to cope with stress, then the behaviours on drug use can also be changed. This greatly helps in assisting them when it comes to triggers and cravings to use drugs or alcohol.

Improving Family Relationships

Counselling is not just for the person who is trying to recover from drug addiction; it is for their family and loved ones as well. Family counselling is a very good way to ensure that the recovery will be effective and successful. When the family is dysfunctional, then it may have an impact on the patient’s recovery.

When loved ones attend family counselling sessions, they can learn more about better ways to communicate so that they can better express their thoughts on important issues such as drug use. With more open communication, the family can heal and the members of the family may start rebuilding trust on one another.

Providing a Safe Environment

Counselling such as in group therapy is vital in the recovery process. In it, the patients can share their experiences, fears, and frustrations with one another. The setting is safe, controlled, and guided by the counsellor.

The participants can support each other during discussions while also learning from one another on better ways to abstain from using illicit substances and stay sober. Group therapies are good for the individual because it encourages connection and companionship.

Helps in Treating Dual Diagnosis

Oftentimes, a person with an alcohol or drug addiction also has a mental health issue. This may be bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and others. If the mental health condition is not treated, then it is possible that the recovery will be much more difficult.

Counselling can help patients who have addiction problems and mental health conditions because they will be provided with the therapy sessions for the destructive behaviours as well as medications for the mental conditions.


So, does addiction counselling work? Yes. It is a very useful and effective way to treat drug addictions. Now that you’ve learned that there are many types of counselling for addiction, you can talk to your doctor about what’s the best one for you or your loved one’s situation. There are many advantages if the person in drug addiction recovery attends and participates in the counselling sessions. There, they can learn many things about themselves and how they can deal with their drug use problems.

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