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5 Tips to Survive Your First Year as a Substance Abuse Counselor

A substance abuse counselor has a lot on his or her plate, so it makes sense that he or she feels a little overwhelmed, especially the first year of working. These feelings are not uncommon, but there are a few tips that can help you overcome and survive your first year as a counselor.

1. Stay On Top of the Fundamentals

It is important to remember some of the basic approaches to your counseling to make this year go a little smoother. There is a lot of fundamental knowledge that might make it easier for you to feel comfortable with a patient and be successful with your evaluations. For one, be sure you understand your preference when it comes to screening.

Some experts argue that private screening where the abuser takes the screening questionnaire on his or her own will likely answer honestly, though there are some who say a face-to-face screening might be better. Of course, face-to-face screenings are more successful as long as you are comfortable with the patient. It is important to know this as well as other fundamental practices to feel comfortable when you start your job.

2. Familiarize Yourself With Your Therapy Theory

Treating a person dealing with substance abuse requires that you apply a specific therapy theory, but you should be aware of a few theories so that you can provide the best one for your patients. Take the Carl Roger’s person-centered therapy or PCT, which is based on the theory that every person is ready to empower and better themselves. It is your job, as a counselor, to help him or her find effective avenues that would help them help themselves.

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You can also employ the Gestalt Therapy, which focuses mostly on feelings of oneself. It would be your job to direct self-awareness that should lead the abuser to understand the damage his or her addiction is having.

3. Understand What You Teach

Some counselors have trouble getting a point across or dealing with a particular patient when they use a particular theory or idea that is unfamiliar to them. You should keep in mind that a patient might be able to tell that you do not believe in a particular technique or idea that you are using with them. This might make it hard for a patient to connect with you and might make you feel uncomfortable because you are not an expert. Keep in mind that patients could have a question, and it might look bad if you do not know the answer, so stick with what you know.

4. Follow the Rules of Your Place of Work

One of the most important tips that could help ensure that you have a good year is to make sure that you stick to the regulations or rules of your place of work. Some counselors believe that they can instruct a patient to simply do as he or she says without observing his or her own behavior. It is very ineffective to expect patients to simply do what you say without you being expected to carryout the same rules or regulations. This could be as simple as making sure that you do not answer your phone during a conference or meeting just as the patient is expected to do.

5. Know and Have Faith in Yourself

You need to make sure that you are comfortable with every patient that you meet. Knowledge to back up your claims as well as a clear understanding of the theories should go a long way into making you feel comfortable and giving you faith in yourself. Still, it is important to try to believe in yourself through other means. There are a few things that you can do, like asking for feedback so that you can improve what needs to be improved and learn the kind of impact that you are having on your patients.

Related Resource: The Top 10 Online Counseling Degree Programs

Hopefully these tips are helpful during your exciting and intense first year as a substance abuse counselor.