This posting relates to a previous one on how much recovery time an individual should have prior to becoming a counselor. As our profession moves towards using more medications to control addictive behaviors and substance abuse, we might find persons who are on those medications wishing to be certified as counselors. If the abstinence standard is applied, the decision must be made about the use of medications that aid recovery as well as those that are essential for health reasons. Is the person not abstinent when taking any medication? Is a person who chooses to continue counseling to work on personal issues still in treatment and thus not eligible for certification as an addiction counselor? A lively discussion on this topic occurred among counselors and in some addiction studies classes. Is a person taking a medication for depression as prescribed in treatment and then not eligible for certification? One example that made the discussion particularly lively was a case study in which someone abused opiate analgesics for 15 years, participated in methadone treatment for 3 years and continued on maintenance doses of methadone. Does methadone maintenance for 6 years mean the person is still in treatment and thus not eligible for certification? Another possible scenario is the addiction professional experiencing pain who elected to use medical marijuana and does so under the supervision of an MD, is that grounds for suspending the counselor’s certification?
The standard that might apply to these situations is found in Principle 4: Trustworthiness. “I understand the effect of impairment on professional performance and shall be willing to seek appropriate treatment for myself or for a colleague.” If the persons described in the previous paragraph are evaluated by an addiction professional/clinical supervisor found to be competent to practice as certified addiction professionals, can other persons object to certification on the basis of medication or continued counseling? The underlying question is “What constitutes treatment, when does it begin and when does it end?