Addiction refers to a difficulty in controlling certain repetitive behaviours to the extent that they have harmful consequences. They are the result of powerful compulsions to use and do certain things excessively, often out of a need to escape from upsetting emotions/situations. These compulsions can trigger a self-perpetuating process, which can cause pain and suffering not only for those addicted, but also for their friends and family.

Addiction CounsellingAddictions can develop from many activities, including drinking alcohol, taking drugs, eating, gambling, having sex and using the Internet. Often addictions begin as a result of how these activities make people feel emotionally and physically. These feelings can be pleasurable – triggering a powerful urge to carry out the activity again to recreate this ‘high’. This can develop into a repetitive cycle that becomes very hard to break.

In many cases people who are addicted are not aware of their addiction and the impact it may be having on their work, relationships and health. As a result many are unable to quit on their own and treatment is required. Addiction treatment such as counselling is crucial for helping sufferers to recognise their condition and how their emotional needs are affecting their behaviour. This can be an important step on the road to recovery and, eventually abstinence.

What is the difference between habit and addiction?

Generally an addiction is defined as a habit that has become out of control to the extent that the sufferer is dependent on it for coping with daily life. It can also have negative repercussions on a person’s emotional well-being and physical health. The psychological link in particular is what separates an addiction from a simple activity that someone does on a regular basis. A standard habit is something that people can choose to stop, and will subsequently be able to do so successfully. Put simply, with a habit a person is in control of their choices, but with an addiction they are not.

Common addictions that people can develop include:

  • drugs
  • gambling
  • sex
  • alcohol
  • Internet
  • smoking
  • solvent abuse
  • food

What is Addiction Counselling and how does it help?

Addiction Counselling can take place in different forms, most often in one-on-one fashion but is also available in a couple, family and group format. In whatever modality is taken, it provides the client with a confidential opportunity to discuss their relationship with the problem substance or behaviour and its impact on their life and the life of others they care about.

Addiction Counselling is a highly specialised form of counselling that views serious and problematic use of a substance or behaviour as far more serious as it being simply a symptom of underlying issues – although inevitably such underlying issues are present. The problematic and addictive elements of one’s life are assessed first and foremost. It is only after an appropriate evaluation of what is underway can a specialised treatment plan be developed that is intended to assist the individual in difficulty to achieve their goals for a better life.

Addiction Counselling is a facilitative process which helps individuals overcome any personal fears and anxiety which they may be experiencing. The primary benefit is that it will help someone in difficulty in their efforts to address and take action as to what needs to be done. It allows an intensive exploration of the sources of the addictive behaviour and enables the person to reach a level of self- understanding that’s essential to a good recovery. It aims to assist in the following ways:

  •  To strengthen self-worth.
  •  To find positive ways to manage stressful events and emotions.
  •  To learn how to react to common substance and behavioural triggers.
  •  To develop practical skills for dealing with cravings.
  •  To assist the individual with rebuilding trusting relationships with others.
  •  To become responsible and compliant with other treatment plans.

The counsellor role is to facilitate the client’s growth in ways which respect the person’s values, personal resources and capacity for self-determination, leading to lifelong recovery.

The role of the counselor in addiction treatment is to provide support, education, and nonjudgmental confrontation. The counselor must establish good rapport with the patient. The patient recovering from chemical addiction deserves to feel understood and that he or she has an ally. The counselor wants to convey to the patient that he or she appreciates the difficulty of this struggle and the need for support through the recovery process.

The metaphor of the hiker and the guide is useful for conceptualizing the counselor-patient relationship. The counselor guides the patient through at least the early stages of recovery, but the recovery process ultimately belongs to the patient. It is the patient alone who is responsible and accountable for his or her recovery. The counselor must emphasize this point to facilitate personal responsibility. Confronting the patient may be useful to emphasize personal responsibility. However, when confrontation is necessary, the counselor should convey a supportive rather than a punitive attitude.

When treating an addict, it is important to realize that the addiction is never the root of the problem, rather, it is the wrong solution to a problem.  Most often, the real problem is  unresolved trauma, low self-esteem, or the tendency to suppress emotions. Therefore, in addition to helping the addict deal with the new problem, the addiction, the counselling will also have to  focus on these underlying problems. It is only by recognizing and treating these issues that an addict can truly be considered a recovering addict.

Addicts tend to feel very isolated.You feel isolated from your family and friends and even from other addicts. The power of the group can help you realize that you are not alone in your struggles and that your issues are not unique. Those that have been through similar situations can help you through the dark times. The opportunity to listen to the hopes and fears of others who have been down the same path has been found to be very rewarding. Clients can identify with what another addict is talking about, and you can then use what they’ve heard in group therapy to help yourself in your own healing process.

Group therapy offers the client a chance to receive and provide feedback to others. This type of feedback, client to client, is very enlightening and often plays a major role in the client’s recovery.

Group therapy also gives you the opportunity to develop your social and interpersonal skills. These skills were most likely lacking during your addiction and learning how to communicate respectfully and effectively with the greater community is crucial for maintaining sobriety.