Principles of Drug Counseling

Drug addiction is a complicated disease that affects both behavior and a person's brain functioning. The good news is that drug addicts can be helped through drug counseling and various methods of treatment, including outpatient or residential programs. The first principle of drug counseling is detoxification in a long-term treatment process. Often people with drug addictions also suffer from mental health disorders that need to be treated as well.

  1. Behavioral Therapy

    • Drug counseling involves behavioral therapy. This approach consists of dealing with the client's motivation to change, helping the client to see the benefits in abstinence from substance use and assisting him in developing healthy substitute behaviors. Counselors also help the client to strengthen his coping skills so he can resist the urge to do drugs, increase their problem-solving abilities and assist them in developing good relationship skills.

    A Holistic Approach

    • Drug counseling needs to focus on the needs of the individual from a holistic perspective. The actual substance abuse needs to be be dealt with; however, the client may have multiple needs that involve psychological issues, medical problems, employment needs and social and legal issues. Drug addiction treatment should also be individualized according to the person's gender, age, culture and ethnicity.


    • Doctors and psychiatrists who treat patients with drug addictions may combine drug counseling with medication. Heroin addicts may benefit from taking methadone and buprenorphine. People addicted to opiods may be prescribed Naltrexone. Alcohol is considered a drug, and alcohol addiction may be treated with acamprosate, topiramate or disulfiram.

    Group Counseling Principles and Peer Support

    • Drug addiction treatment programs typically include group therapy and/or peer support groups. Groups led by professional counselors may use an educational approach to teach those struggling with addiction how to develop new, healthy lifestyles and avoid triggers to drug use. Peer support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous help people with drug addictions on a long-term basis by providing support and accountability.

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