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Eloquent Advice for a Counselor

July 28, 2011
by Gary Enos, Editor
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Today was one of those days when an item I read made me pause to say, “Gee, wish I had written that.”

Then again, as someone without a professional counseling background, I would have a hard time pulling it off in this case.

In our Addiction Professionals group on LinkedIn, a young counselor this week asked members for their best professional advice for new entrants to the profession. Group member Patrick Dieter, who has most recently worked as a group facilitator, urged the counselor to learn the evidence-based techniques of Motivational Interviewing. He then offered this perspective on MI approaches:

“It is tempting to want to confront addicts who are lost in lying and denial—to want to ‘snap them out of it’ because ‘anyone can see’ they need to change. This is probably the most damaging thing you can do to someone as a counselor.

“It doesn’t count until they can see it for themselves, and if you try to hurry that process, you will complicate things horribly. We are not in the advice business, nor the sponsoring business, we are in the counseling business. That means we listen more than we talk, and we do not pretend we know better than the client, mainly because we simply do NOT. Each person’s journey is different.”

Powerful words.



@Walter: You're generalizing. Patrick Dieter wasn't talking about "working with addicts" in general. Nor was he offering advice on how to best complete ("thorough") assessments or develop "efficient and effective" treatment plans. He was specifically talking about working with addicts who are in the pre-contemplation stage of change (i.e. "lost in lying and denial"). Big, big difference.

To "hurry the process" in working with addics has a negative connotation. It assumes the absence of a thorough assessment, effective treatment planning and the establishing of realistic goals. In developing an efficient and effective treatment plan, however, a skilled professional is far more essenial to the process than more time. We work with the time we have and if we're skilled we'll get the job done. More training might be necessary for those professionals who are challenged by the task at hand. No matter how much time is available, improved training methods and effective supervision is the key to producing efficient and effective counselors. This training should include good time management.

Gary Enos


Gary Enos


Gary A. Enos has been the editor of Addiction Professional since its inception. He also...

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