Believe it or not, addiction counseling services have established guidelines to follow. It’s easy to track them down, if you’re so inclined. The National Institute for Drug Abuse has them posted on their website. But they’re not guidelines, not really. They’re called “principles of effective treatment.” And Recreate Life’s addiction counseling team thinks this is a happy thing.
We think it’s a happy thing because principles are fluid. Principles allow room to maneuver, even as they keep addiction therapy grounded in what’s good for the client. Healing, true healing, can flow from principles. Principles give clients and addiction conselors a place to start without being oppressive. Guidelines and rules? Not so much.
One of the principles on NIDA’s list says treatment should address all of a client’s needs, not just their drug use. Notice how it doesn’t say anything about what sort of techniques the therapist should use. And it doesn’t say what these needs are either. It just says that treatment should address them. Addiction counseling can only address these needs by listening to the client and taking what they hear seriously.
Bending the Rules to Get Results
Now this doesn’t mean anything goes in addiction therapy. Effective treatment provides structure and guidance for struggling addicts. But therapists are human too. Sometimes, they’re going to default back to techniques that have worked in the past, whether they fit perfectly now or not. But by staying vigilant and responsive, a good addiction counselor always returns to listening mode pretty quick.
Every therapist and treatment has these default modes. They’re like unstated guidelines for their practice, rules if you will. This is just human nature. But effective treatment (and counselors) have fluidity preinstalled. They’re designed in a way to respond constantly to the client’s changing needs. They’re designed in a way that allows for bending the rules, or breaking them if need be. Their principles demand it.
What emerges under these conditions is a collaboration. This is where change and healing begin. When there’s an active give and take between treatment and client, anything is possible. Addiction counseling should never be in the business of imposing values. Addicts already have values, even if they’re buried under a ton of pain and confusion. It’s a treatment’s job to start hauling off the wreckage, so clients can start to dig however they see fit.