Drug addiction counseling 03

Principles In Drug Addiction Counseling

Similar to HIV services, the success of drug addiction services in the community relies very much on the number of clients who utilize the service. Bearing that in mind, there are certain principles that drug addiction counseling needs to adhere to so as to promote quality services. These are:

  • Voluntary
  • Confidential
  • Reliable
  • Non-judgmental
  • Respectful
  • Safe
  • Linked with other services

We will discuss each of these principles in detail.


When something is voluntary, it means that the person does it of their own free will.

Counselors help clients to identify sound solutions, but they have no right to force clients to do anything. “Voluntary” is a critical principle in counseling.

Let’s take an example of a male client who comes talk to a counselor. The counselor explains the purpose of counseling and asks questions to assess the severity of his drug use and talks about drug addiction treatment options. Let’s say the client does not want to commit to any plans. The counselor has to respect this decision. The counselor can encourage, but not force the client to enter the treatment program.


Counseling services must also be confidential. Confidentiality is one of the most important factors in the relationship between counselor and client.

Confidentiality is critical when working with drug-using clients. It is important that confidentiality is assured at all times. Counselors need to remember that a client’s personal information must be kept confidential and they cannot share it with anyone else outside of the professional relationship. Confidentiality prevents reference to, or discussion about a client, except in situations where professionally appropriate. Then it must be done with the knowledge and consent of the client.

In some cases, confidentiality will need to be breached if the counselor finds that the client is knowingly placing him/herself or others at risk. One such example might be if the client informs the counselor that he/she is considering suicide. In such

circumstances, counselors should advise their supervisors of the risk and determine what course of action should be undertaken.


Clients will view counselors who are reliable as sincere. Reliable counselors are also punctual, predictable and caring. Clients of reliable counselors feel they are being listened to and cared for by their counselors. Counselors who provide accurate information, clear explanations and appropriate referrals will be viewed as more reliable than those who do not.

A reliable counselor will also keep clients’ personal information confidential.


Always stay neutral; try not to judge or react strongly to your clients’ issues. This lets you keep in control and remain open to change.

Counselors will be able to counsel successfully when they learn from their clients’ experiences. Use the information to guide the discussion.

Having a good understanding of your clients’ perception of norms is very important. It helps you relate their beliefs to the range of possible options you will help them consider.


No principle of good counseling can stand alone. Each supports the other. We have discussed the need for services to be voluntary, confidential, and non-judgmental. Services must also be respectful, safe, and link to other services.

Having respect for your clients means that you treat every client the same. Your attitude towards them should be consistent, regardless of their age, gender, appearance, social position, or financial status. Respect your clients as you would expect others to respect you.

Mutual respect ensures effective communication and counselor-client exchange. With mutual respect, clients will become more cooperative, open and comfortable to share with you their “real problems”, which enables you and your clients to identify sound solutions.


Safety is crucial for both counselors and clients.

Safety includes the safety of the client and their information, site/clinic property and the broader physical environment.


Participation in drug addiction counseling brings stability to many clients. This stability allows them to deal with a variety of other related issues that may be beyond the skills and expertise of the drug addiction counseling service. In particular, problems such as housing, employment, health-related issues such as HIV and legal problems are more likely to be managed in an effective way when the person is in drug addiction counseling. Linking counseling services to those other services is an important component of effective drug addiction counseling.


  • A good understanding of and adherence to the seven principles will enhance the client-counselor relationship.
  • The seven principles are interlinked and are supportive of each other to ensure the success of counseling.

Compiled by : Dr. Valsalan Nair


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