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An Individual Drug Counseling Approach to Treat Cocaine Addiction

Chapter 12 - Counselor Characteristics and Trainig

Ideal Personal Characteristics of the Counselor


Addiction counselors must exhibit good professional judgment, be able to establish rapport with most patients, be good listeners, be accepting of the patients (i.e., not have a negative attitude toward working with addicts), and use confrontation in a helpful rather than an inappropriate or overly punitive manner. Competent addiction counselors also must be personally well organized enough to be prompt for all sessions and to maintain adequate and appropriate documentation.

For clinical purposes, the model presented here can be used easily by skilled counselors in the field. It is not intended to serve as an alternative to a formal educational experience. Rather, it is intended for use by counselors who already have gained some experience in the area of addiction treatment. To prepare for the original research study, counselors participated in several 2-day training workshops that they typically enjoyed and found helpful. Therefore, we would recommend a formal training experience, if possible. When such an experience is not possible, reviewing the manual carefully and participating in ongoing supervision still can be helpful.

For research purposes, formal training and certification by recognized experts from the Training Unit at the University of Pennsylvania/Veterans Affairs Medical Center is necessary. In addition, ongoing supervision based on the adherence scale is required to ensure consistency in this particular model as well as high quality patient care.

Educational Requirements

In the field of drug counseling, experience is viewed as at least as valuable as formal education, so the range of formal education is broader than in clinical psychology, for example. Generally the range of education is high school graduate to doctorate, with the majority of counselors having a bachelor's or master's degree in social work, counseling psychology, or other human services field.

Credentials and Experience Required

Counselors are required to have a minimum of 3 years of experience in addiction counseling and be knowledgeable of and use the 12-step model. Professional certification for addiction counselors is available from different State organizations as well as from a national organization. For example, in Pennsylvania one can be credentialed as an Associate Addiction Counselor (AAC) or a Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC) through the Pennsylvania Chemical Addiction Certification Board (PCACB). Professional certification and affiliations are encouraged but not mandatory. Since extensive experience is a requirement for certification, many counselors work in the field for a while and then become certified.

Counselors in Recovery Themselves

Many counselors in this field are either in recovery themselves or have a family member who was addicted. Our view is that an indepth knowledge of addiction and the tools for recovery and an ability to empathize with the patient are essential attributes of an effective addiction counselor. One way, but not the only way, to acquire this knowledge and ability is to be in recovery oneself. If a counselor is in recovery, he or she should be relatively emotionally healthy and stable. In practice, a minimum of 5 years in recovery should be required. In a setting that employs multiple counselors, the optimal situation is to have recovering and non-formerly addicted counselors, because this mix tends to foster the greatest amount of learning from one another.


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Therapy Manuals for Drug Abuse:
Manual 3




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