Techniques drug addiction counseling 05

Counseling Techniques

Sometimes a counselor might know the skills and techniques required for doing effective drug addiction counseling, but that does not necessarily mean that the person is an effective counselor. To be an effective counselor requires practice. Practice, practice, and more practice will help you build experience and allow you to identify opportunities for improving your counseling skills and techniques. In this unit, we will discuss specific counseling techniques that will be taught in this course.

As a counselor, you should utilize any or all of the following techniques, depending on your clients’ individual circumstances:

  • Problem solving
  • Goal setting
  • Time management
  • Stress management
  • Dealing with emotions
    • Anger etc.
  • Conflict resolution
  • Relapse prevention
    • Coping with cravings
    • Refusal skills

Think of these options as a menu from which to choose the appropriate technique, customized for each of your clients. It is important to understand that not all techniques are needed for every client.

We will discuss these techniques in detail later. The purpose of this unit is to orient you to the set of techniques in this training and to discuss likely scenarios for when they should be used.

These techniques also have utility and application for counseling staff in their personal lives.

In order for clients to achieve the goals established in your counseling session, they will most likely have to make substantial lifestyle changes and find solutions for a number of problems. Some clients may have so many problems that even minor problems seem overwhelming. For many clients, their drug use has resulted in avoidance of problems or impulsive decision making. Poor problem-solving techniques usually result in negative consequences that increase the severity of existing problems or create additional problems, including the risk of relapse. In counseling, you may need to teach clients how to solve problems identified as critical by both and your clients.

The use of a structured goal-setting technique can greatly increase clients’ chances of identifying and attaining their goals. By setting goals on a routine basis, clients can decide what they want to achieve, and then move step-by-step towards achieving these goals. The process of setting goals allows them to choose where they want to go in their lives. By setting clear goals, they can measure and take pride in the achievement of those goals. They will also raise their self-confidence, as they recognize their ability to achieve the goals they have set.

In order to conduct a problem-solving and goal-setting session, counselors should begin with an open discussion to ensure that their clients are prepared to face the major problems that they are experiencing. Goals can be set at the beginning of counseling, or when you discuss a plan of action with your clients.


If counseling is to be helpful, it really needs to be specific. If you are too vague or general, your clients may walk away from the counseling session without clarity on what they need to do. You should be able to give your clients choices so that they can choose which one best suits their needs.

Time management is a critical technique in preventing relapse. Clients will most likely have triggers in their lives that might put them at risk of relapse. They will need to learn how to manage time to avoid risky situations.

Counselors can discuss how to develop a daily schedule. This can help provide structure and prioritize activities for the day. A daily timetable needs to be busy enough to prevent clients from becoming bored or to start thinking about drugs. Boredom is a high-risk emotion for relapse. However, the timetable should not be so tight that there is no flexibility. Remember, there also needs to be time to relax and have fun. Families may also become more supportive when they see the recovered drug user settling into a daily routine that is consistent with a non-drug-using lifestyle.


Like everyone, drug users can get stressed. Excessive stress can increase the risk of relapse and reduce their motivation to apply the other techniques you teach them. Stress can also cause them physical or psychological problems. As a counselor, you need to identify and discuss issues that are the cause of stress for your clients. We will discuss specific stress management techniques, but you can also share stories from other people who have had similar problems and how they successfully managed their stress. Teach clients that they can avoid or manage stress bY thinking about good things, past, current and future sharing with others their concerns and worries

and learning from other people’s experiences seeking advice from trustworthy friends, family members, counselors, etc.


Anger, anxiety, and depression are common emotions that drug users experience. These emotions may also trigger relapse. Anger is often confused with aggression. We will discuss how clients can learn techniques for dealing with anger and how to avoid aggression.


While conflicts are unavoidable in human relations, not knowing how to handle them in a healthy way can cause major health and relationship problems. For drug users, conflict can result in violence, anger, and frustration. All this can result in relapse to drug use. We will cover conflict resolution to assist you to develop strategies with your clients to manage these kinds of problems.


Clients relapse due to a variety of thoughts or feelings, such as anger, or through external factors such as interpersonal conflict or peer pressure. While relapse is common, effective interventions can help clients to regain control and prevent further drug use. Together with the client you can identify high-risk situations and develop coping responses. Cravings are normal, but drug users often do not understand this. They think they are the only people who experience cravings and therefore something is wrong with them. They may also believe that when they experience cravings, there is nothing they can do to stop them other than returning to drug use.

While it is best to avoid high-risk situations completely, such as meeting drug-using friends or drug dealers, this is often not practical. For most, it is not a long-term solution. Drug refusal training is critical to help clients achieve a substantial period of abstinence and for maintaining abstinence. Counselors and clients can practice ways to refuse heroin or to refuse to go to places where heroin is available. The ability to say no effectively in these situations will help clients feel in control when faced with situations that are tempting.


Think of counseling techniques as set of options, like you might find on a restaurant’s menu. The counseling techniques that you choose to use will depend on the  individual needs for each client. It is important to recognize that not all techniques will be needed by every client. Also note that client needs may change over time.

Compiled by : Dr. Valsalan Nair


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