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Why Many Drug Rehab Clinicians Are Also Recovering Addicts

When it comes to drug rehab programs there are so many misconceptions and myths that it’s difficult for some people to understand exactly what happens to addicts and alcoholics when they attend a treatment program. And while it makes perfect sense to most that a former cyclist might become a bike mechanic or a farmer a supermarket owner, it doesn’t occur to many that a former active drug addict might become a professional substance abuse treatment counselor. However, this is actually quite common in the industry and in reality is sometimes considered to be a primary reason that other addicts are ultimately successful at achieving sobriety.

For some addicts that began their recovery at a drug rehab center, a move into a career in the substance abuse treatment field is only natural because, in their case, addiction was literally all they knew. Scores of adults spend years – even decades – in active addiction or alcoholism, and by the time they finally clean up they realize that the subject they know the best is drug abuse. This can motivate such individuals to receive training to become a technician, an intake specialist or even a clinician.

A number of recovering addicts become involved in the substance abuse treatment field in an effort to stay connected to the recovery community. This follows the old adage of:

“We teach best what we most need to learn.”

Wisdom such as this is an integral part of recovery from addiction, and treatment communities are the best place to find like-minded individuals.

But for most recovering addicts that return to work in the substance abuse treatment field, it’s all about passion. Some people that today are powerhouses in the recovery community were at one time desperate addicts capable of anything in their quest for the drugs that gripped them. By the time they finally got help, most were near death. Most were lucky to survive.

After treatment and the move to a sober lifestyle, some of these people feel compelled to return to what they know by helping others fight the disease of addiction. In many recovery communities there are top-level clinicians, counselors and technicians that have a significant impact on the lives of the addicts and alcoholics they help.

However, whether these individuals are any more or less effective at their jobs is a question many have asked, including Dirk Hanson in his 2009 article The Changing Face of Addiction Counseling:

“For years, addiction therapists and counselors tended to be people who had been addicts themselves. These days, not so much. Drug and alcohol counselors who have experienced addiction firsthand represent a dwindling slice of the addiction therapy community. But does it matter?” (1)

According to some – including a reputable study mentioned in Hanson’s article – there is little difference in the effectiveness of former-addict versus non former addict treatment counselors.

For those interested in a career in substance abuse treatment, The Association for Addiction Professionals is a valuable resource. But if you’re struggling with a drug problem right now, the first step is to reach out for help. Widely considered one of the most successful drug addiction treatment centers in the country, we have addiction professionals waiting for your call 24 hours per day. We can help no matter where you are or how bad your problem is – but we can’t do anything if you don’t call.

(1) Hanson, Dirk The Changing Face of Addiction Counseling Addiction Inbox 07/19/2009
Accessed 02/21/2012

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