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Treatment - Would you relate to a counselor that did not have an addiction problem??

Discussion in 'Opiate addiction' started by mybudjake, Apr 5, 2012.

  1. mybudjake

    mybudjake Silver Member

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    Hello everyone,

    I am a student taking addiction studies at a local university here in Ontario, Canada. I'm 47 years old so not exactly the new kid on the block. I hope to invite some discussion regarding past experiences with counselors, addiction workers etc....and if it does make a harder to open up to someone that seems to have no idea what you are going through??...I do think it obviously depends on each individual counselor, however, would love to hear some thoughts about this.

    I have experienced great loss,some real hardships, and through this journey have learned some real humility about life...my counselling philosophy is starting to take shape in my thoughts...the old cliche/saying..."hope springs eternal"...may be the foundation and the catalyst for change. I am a firm, firm, believer of seeing/meeting, and accepting a person for where they are right NOW. Whether, its abstinence based, or harm reduction based, treatment runs the gambit in many forms and specific for each person.

    Thanks much for taking the time to read this from a newbie,
    mybudjake
     
  2. aikidoka

    aikidoka

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    mybudjake you pose a good question. In my opinion, it is difficult enough finding someone to talk to regardless of what their life experiences are. The problem is you can talk to a lot of addicts, but you aren't an addict so cannot possibly understand them. Of course, us addicts are predictable in many respects and can be treated as such to the extent a simple 12-step system can help us get clean, however the intricacies of counselling an addict are legion and I think fraught with problems, not the least of which is the fact you simply cannot understand what it is to be an addict.

    In my own life I have been at the very depths of human existence, finally to the point of putting a gun to my head and pulling the trigger. If that's what it took, I would have cut my foot off to get drugs. I would have crawled through a mile of shit just to find my fix. When someone is that far down the rabbit hole, no light penetrates that space and there is absolutely no hope. Someone else might be able to understand that terrible desperation on some level, for example if they have known the grief of losing a loved one, but to be honest, as horrible as that feeling is, it doesn't even make the scale of the sheer desolation an opiate addict experiences when there is no money left, nothing left to sell, the landlord is kicking you out, people want to smash the crap out of you for stealing from them or you owe them money or your dealer has been picked up and you cannot score anything, anywhere, even if you have the ten bucks. Jesus, just writing this down is making me squirm.

    Junkies are a fickle bunch; for example in early recovery when we are sitting at meetings listening to someone talk about how they did 4 years for armed robbery in order to pay for their habits, we are thinking that 4 years is a fucking doddle compared to the 6 years I did! We cannot help but compare war stories and we slowly learn to deal with the fact that what really matters is not what we took or how much, or even what we had to do to get it, but why we took the shit in the first place. If you try to get involved in the process before an addict reaches that point of self-realisation, I think you're going to have on hell of an uphill battle gaining their trust and/or acceptance as someone who can possibly help them. That's not to say you won't be able to, or that you aren't a great person or your personal experiences won't stand you in good stead, or that you wouldn't make a top-notch counsellor, I'm just being pragmatic and saying that addicts generally respond better to someone they perceive is just like them. For example, the people that inspired me to be able to clean up weren't the teams of high-priced counsellors and psycho-babblists I saw in the years before I went to rehab, it was the calm and capable recovering addict facilitators and the damaged and humble people I met in rehab and at NA meetings who were previously as fucked up as I was (or more or less so) and were actually living through today without drugs, something at that stage I never thought possible. Now that's inspirational.

    Sorry if I've come across as negative, I didn't intend that. A counsellor would have to be pretty amazing to have gotten my attention when I was as crazy as a rattle-snake and as mad as a hatter. I literally couldn't listen to anyone until I was forced to by circumstance and the realisation that I just could not possibly survive the way I was going and that someone else was going to have to give me the road map; the people that had the map were the recovering addicts I met along the way, not the counsellors, many of who took the completely wrong approach and did me a lot more harm than good. Mind you, times have changed though I still read here about people being given what I would consider very inappropriate advice by so-called medical professionals, so I guess things haven't changed that much in some quarters; addicts are still viewed as inherently 'bad' people, or criminals who wilfully take drugs and damage ourselves, much in the same way that in many countries gay people are considered sick and perverted and authorities think that the right prison sentence and punishment will miraculously make them heterosexual.

    Of course, this is all just my 2 cents and the rantings of an addict.

    All the best and I wish you well on your journey.
     
  3. Relapse_Rollercoaster

    Relapse_Rollercoaster Silver Member

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    I am a student in a psych tech, and will achieve an AAS with L V/P N, while taking these wonderful courses online, it is a distance learning and in the field work combined to get you licensed or certified counselor in most states. I think the combo of drug counselor and nurse gives a new element to treatment from home to facility. Not only can I be there for the person, I can also administer stabalizing meds as ordered by doctor. A real plus,will be that I am an addict. I will relate. It could be a very valuble thing to someone when I can learn to get myself in check.

    I started out on this lofty goal while newly clean, and executed over half before a relapse 2 yrs into my education. That didn't stop me, I kept moving even though I new sooner or later it may come crashing down. I just recently decided to really go for it so keep fingers crossed. I am having one heck of a spring break. I just wabna,go back to school the person that started this goal. Just gonna have to lead by example as it goes, I hope soon. Im taking it one day at a time, and yes I know what its like to be addicted.

    So what? If I can't get it together then thays a soul gone to waste who truly wanted to help. Just like if you don't face your problem head on and gain confidence.

    Point is everyone has something to work on or they want to change, that others find an asset. I value your commitment, study ethic, and interest in this subject. Whether you become an addict to relate, or I get 10 years clean and achieve my goals......ultimately someone will bebefit from our training/experience.
     
  4. ex-junkie

    ex-junkie

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    It doesn't matter if a person has been through it or not themselves. The counsellor just needs to build a therapeutic relationship with their client, make them feel comfortable, be non-judgemental and empathetic, while respecting that it is the choice of their client whether they want to use drugs or not.

    Ideologies are best left at home in this field of work. Ex-addicts are like ex-smokers, and therefore their experiences may form unnecessary biases or stereotypes.
     
  5. Black Transit Blues

    Black Transit Blues Silver Member

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    Does someone have to have suffered ocd to work with a compulsive handwashwer?
    Does someone need to have been hospitalised for depression to work with a patient with clinical depression?
    Does someone have to have been raped, or have been to war to work with someone who has post traumatic stress sydrome?

    I have read about addicts that have had their lives turned around by boxing trainers, priests, NA sponsors, all sorts of different people - not all of them ex addicts or trained counsellors.I think at the end of the day you have to find someone who you respect.

    For some addicts maybe that does need to be a fellow addict, for others it may well be better if they were not an ex user.We are all individuals there are a lot of different variables involved.

    From my own perspective If I was going down the path of one to one therapy sessions I think I would prefer a counsellor who had never used.I already have an NA sponsor to help with things directly related to Heroin addiction, a therapist could maybe help me more with some of the issues that drove me to Heroin addiction in a way the quasi evangelical Christian steps can't.
     
  6. missparkles

    missparkles Platinum Member & Advisor

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    ^^^I totally agree with the above poster. Whilst I was in rehab we got a new counselor who had no experience of addiction at all. The other recovering addicts that were in my group questioned her and asked how she could possibly help them, after all, she'd never "been through it." She sat there for a minute and then said "I've known what it feels like to be depressed, I know how it feels to be frustrated. I've felt desolate and despairing and I've also felt helpless, hopeless and powerless. Now if you consider that you're all here to discuss the feelings that you've experienced as a result of the issues in your life, not just sit here and swap war stories I'd say that I'm fully qualified to understand and relate to each and every one of you."

    Not a bad answer huh?

    Sparkles.:vibes:
     
  7. betwixt

    betwixt

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    I guess it would depend on what kind of rapport you have with the counselor. I remember my last stint in rehab talking with one of my drug counsellors. She was around 10 years younger than me. Very beautifully manicured with shiney hair and flawess makeup. As she was diagnosing me (borderline personality disroder) and explaining to me why I do the things I do to myself. I remember thinking ' Lady you can textbook analyze me all you like but you will never know the confusion, physical pain and downright suicidal tendencies I've been living with for years now'
     
  8. Chipmunk

    Chipmunk Silver Member

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    I agree with this post. While some people may not need a counselor with experience with addiction most people do not want someone who is going to sit and judge them and place them in a stereotype or try to tel them why they do the thing they do. If I had someone telling me I use because I had a mental disorder all respect would be lost. The same thing with people thinking that well this person is an addict so they are a bad person. Or going in thinking you know stuff about a person you haven't even met yet.

    Paper work may say that a person is an addict and they stole or were a felon and I know a lot of people that just by seeing that would put up pretenses that they are a bad person. Everyone has their demons and their mistakes. But society today has so many stereotypes and pretenses that people judge too soon.

    An addict may get inspiration and help from a fellow recovering addict. But that addict had to get help somewhere too. I may get inspired from everyone's stories of their journey. But I need the tools and support to do it myself as well.
     
  9. missparkles

    missparkles Platinum Member & Advisor

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    There seems to be some confusion here. A counselor is not someone who sits and listens to your problems and then tells you what to do about them, a counselor is someone who, after hearing what you have to say, guides and enables you to find an answer to your own problems. If they do it for you then you learn nothing...do you? Of course, when it comes to practical problems, such as how you get help with rent payments, get a referal to a psychologist/psychiatrist, or even where the nearest meeting might be, then they can tell you what you need to know, but surely the mark of a good counselor is one who feeds back to you what you've just told them, perhaps in another way that allows you to identify just what your options are? And as much as it's important that a counselor can relate to a client about their past, surely it's equally as important (if not more so) to be able to relate to them about the successful future that they'd like to have, isn't it? I also found it really helpful to have a positive, successful role model to relate to, cuz I didn't wanna go back and repeat the mistakes that I'd made in the past, I wanted the opposite. I wanted to succeed in whatever I chose to do in the future.

    But please, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that it's ever easy, it's always gonna be hard going to begin with. And I remember when I met my very first counselor I was still of the mindset that I couldn't possibly get straight and stay that way, so any reason I could find that proved that point, from the rules of the rehab I was in being too strict, or the fact that I didn't like the structure of the groups, even to the point that I felt my counselor was expecting far too much from me, were all good reasons (or so I thought at the time) for me to want to continue using. Basically I was looking for all of the difficulties (differences) I could find. At the end of the day it all came down to mindset (for me) and once I got my head around that it all seemed to progress a whole lot smoother. But we're all different I suppose and we all have our own opinions, which are as valid as anyone else's.:)

    Sparkles.:vibes:
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2012
  10. catseye

    catseye Gold Member

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    interesting thread starter, mybudjake :)

    I agree with most of the posts here and would go so far as to say that maintaining somebody has to have been an addict to counsel an addict almost smacks of a reverse snobbery, imo.

    As Sparkles illustrates with her quote from her rehab experience, the idea that we've all been through the feelings or experiences brought on by addiction is what helps us to relate, really...its the human condition. Not the addictive experience.
    Otherwise, to me, it runs the risk of becoming an 'us vs. them' thing...

    Aside from that, all addicts are not the same - alcohol, opiates, stims, gambling, whatever...male, female, old, young...everyone brings something different to the table, and to think that addiction is the only defining thing is too simplistic to me, and tries to shove everyone into a nice neat box with a label on.
    *shrugs*
    just the .02p of somebody who hasn't 'been an addict'...but still maintains that she 'gets it' ;)
     
  11. missparkles

    missparkles Platinum Member & Advisor

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    With so few people ever managing to quit their addictions (in comparison to the sheer number of people who continue using) it would make it near impossible for anyone to quit successfully if the only people who were allowed to treat people with addiction issues had to have "been there" before they were allowed to do so. I wonder what the percentages are? Just say that hypothetically the people who quit in one year, as opposed to those that don't, is 100/1, it means there will only be one person that is qualified to treat the other 100. Now factor in that there is only a ten percent (if that) success rate for those counselors that have "been there" then you're talking an incredibly small number aren't you? That would suggest that there are a helluva lot of counselors with no real life addiction experience that would have had to be involved in the successful treatment of the client wouldn't it?

    Sparkles.:vibes:

    (apologies for the hypothetical figures used (just some I pulled from out of the air) I never claimed to be a mathematician, just a successfully (to date) recovered addict.)
     
  12. mybudjake

    mybudjake Silver Member

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    Thank you so very much for your honesty and I do not think that you have been negative at all...validation is such an important need in ALL of us...the fact that I do not have addiction issues may provide obstacles to gaining the trust of future clients...I have worked at emergency shelters and have seen such idiotic, asshole workers that have no business working with the public, let alone with people in crisis...most of these professionals could not even spell the word "humility" let alone have some. Severe addiction must in some way gain root from severe pain, and emptiness. These feelings are universal and I guess it is up to each professional to be able to be truly empathetic to someone in pain. I have worked with counsellors who themselves are in recovery...some great...some not so great...the ones that were not effective just went on and on and on and on about their recovery and what worked for them. I understand that feeling of having gone through something and then wanting to impart well meaning advice to truly help. I do feel a calling for this work...not too too sure why?...maybe I have seen just too many douchebags treating clients like shit. I thank you so very much for taking the time to write...and hey..see ya in the funny pages!...cheers

    mybudjake added 10 Minutes and 43 Seconds later...

    Is it just me?...or does anyone else find "Dr. Drew" on Intervention utterly pretentious??...thank you all for your thoughts.
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2012
  13. Eeeee Dub!!!

    Eeeee Dub!!!

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    No. Its like getting a tattoo by an artist with no tattoos of their own. They might be the best ink slinger in the world but something just doesn't seem right about it to me. Sure they can say its not gonna hurt.... but do they really know? Or are they just going by what past customers have told them?