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Counselors move into management without a road map

August 27, 2009
by Gary A. Enos
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A survey of managers highlights significant challenges in working with clinical staff

For many addiction counselors who are rapidly thrust into a management role in their organizations, any sense of satisfaction can soon diminish amid daunting challenges in the workplace. Managers of a San Jose, California addiction treatment center told attendees of this month’s NAADAC, The Association for Addiction Professionals conference that many clinicians who take on management duties express frustration over unclear responsibilities and difficult relations with staff.

The executive director and clinical director of Recovery Connections Treatment Services have now published a text based on numerous interviews with chemical dependency program managers. They found in their research that many clinicians were promoted into management positions less than two years after entering the addiction treatment field, and often were persuaded to apply rather than choosing to pursue a management track on their own.

“Those without management experience said they were recognized in their facilities for their writing, organizational and presentational skills,” said Mary Crocker Cook, Recovery Connections’ clinical director.

Once assuming a management role, the individuals surveyed by Cook and Recovery Connections executive director Ike Grozier reported that two of their most prominent challenges were overcoming unclear lines of responsibility and developing professionalism among clinical staff. Many of the interviewed managers reported the need to instill in some staff members the most basic of notions, such as needing to go to work even on days when they don’t feel like it. Others said that even after discussing proper boundaries between clinicians and clients, they would find counselors engaging in practices such as letting a client drive their personal vehicle.

Cook said the phenomenon of “oversharing” with clients appeared to pose a consistent challenge for managers as they supervised the work of staff clinicians. Yet she added, “At the same time, the managers remarked on their staff’s dedication and spirit of service. These individuals are clever, resourceful and hardworking.”

The Web site of the San Jose treatment center,, includes a description of the research project and the new guide for managers that is based on its results.