My Approach to Counselling

Written by Steve Rose

Steve Rose, PhD, is an addiction counsellor and former academic researcher, committed to conveying complex topics in simple language.

Living with addiction can feel like a constant battle where you’re always on the losing side. You may have tried to gain control over your addiction, only to find yourself slipping back into old patterns and habits. The experience can leave you feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, and alone, particularly if you’ve reached out for support in the past and it hasn’t worked out as you’d hoped. You might be asking yourself if things will ever change or if you are destined to remain trapped in this cycle.

These feelings and concerns are not uncommon. In fact, as an addiction counselor, I’ve heard them time and time again from individuals seeking help. It’s important to know that you’re not alone in your struggles, and there is hope for a brighter future. This article aims to answer some of the most common questions and concerns I get from potential clients about my approach to counselling. By addressing these issues, I hope to provide you with the information and reassurance you need to take the first step towards healing and recovery.

My Background and Approach

My passion for addiction counseling is rooted in my academic background and professional experiences. I obtained my PhD in Sociology in 2015, which allowed me to delve deeper into the complex interplay of social factors and individual behaviors. In 2016, I began working in the problem gambling field, which opened my eyes to the devastating impact of addiction on individuals, families, and communities. This experience fueled my passion for helping people break free from the cycle of addiction and led me to specialize in this field, obtaining a Chemical Dependency Certificate from St. Clair College and also qualifying to become a Certified Gambling Counsellor.

Over the years, I have worked in various settings, including withdrawal management and residential treatment. These experiences have provided me with invaluable insights into the different stages of recovery and the unique challenges that individuals face along the way. My diverse professional background has equipped me with the knowledge and skills required to support clients as they navigate their recovery journey, and has allowed me to develop a well-rounded and holistic approach to addiction counseling.

I understand that addiction is a multifaceted problem that affects the mind, body, and spirit of the person grappling with it. To provide comprehensive and effective support, I use a combination of psychological tools and evidence-based strategies, including acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and motivational interviewing (MI). These methods help me address the unique needs and circumstances of each individual, as there is no one-size-fits-all solution for addiction.

Acceptance and commitment therapy is a powerful psychotherapeutic approach that seeks to improve psychological flexibility, allowing individuals to develop a healthier relationship with their thoughts, emotions, and actions. ACT operates under the premise that attempting to suppress or control distressing experiences can actually exacerbate them. Instead, it focuses on helping people accept their emotions and thoughts, allowing them to commit to actions that align with their values and goals. By employing this method, I help clients break free from the vicious cycle of addiction and develop more adaptive coping strategies.

Motivational interviewing, on the other hand, is a client-centered approach designed to elicit and strengthen a person’s intrinsic motivation to change. This method involves empathic listening, open-ended questioning, and collaboration between the counselor and the client. By using MI, I help clients explore their ambivalence about change, address their fears and concerns, and strengthen their commitment to recovery. This collaborative approach enables individuals to take ownership of their recovery process and empowers them to make lasting changes in their lives.

I firmly believe that to effectively help someone overcome addiction, it is crucial to meet them where they are at and come up with personalized, action-oriented solutions. In my practice, I take the time to understand each client’s unique background, experiences, and challenges. This helps me create a tailored recovery plan that addresses their specific needs, taking into consideration their strengths, weaknesses, and personal goals. By doing so, I increase the likelihood of sustainable recovery and provide clients with the tools and resources they need to maintain their progress long-term.

To ensure that I provide the most effective and up-to-date support to my clients, I am committed to staying informed about the latest research and developments in the field of addiction. I believe that a strong foundation in evidence-based practice is essential for providing the best possible care to my clients and fostering their long-term recovery.

In addition to my clinical work, I am passionate about knowledge translation – the process of converting complex concepts into simple, easy-to-understand language that is accessible to everyone. Through my website, I share evidence-based information and resources on addiction and recovery, helping to bridge the gap between scientific research and the general public. My goal is to empower individuals, families, and communities with the knowledge and tools they need to make informed decisions about their mental health and well-being. By demystifying addiction and breaking down the barriers surrounding it, I strive to create a more compassionate and supportive environment for those seeking help.

You can find all of my articles here.

Another essential aspect of my approach to addiction counseling is fostering a strong therapeutic alliance with my clients. I believe that a trusting and respectful relationship between counselor and client is the cornerstone of successful therapy. By creating a safe and non-judgmental space, I encourage clients to openly discuss their thoughts, feelings, and experiences without fear of stigma or judgment. This open and honest communication allows me to better understand their needs and tailor my interventions accordingly.

An integral part of my practice is also incorporating relapse prevention strategies into the treatment process. I work closely with clients to identify their triggers and high-risk situations, helping them develop effective coping mechanisms and strategies to prevent relapse. This proactive approach not only supports clients in maintaining their recovery but also helps them build resilience and confidence in their ability to manage challenges in the future.

What to Expect in a Session

Sessions are designed to be a safe, supportive, and non-judgmental space where clients can openly explore their thoughts, feelings, and experiences related to addiction. My aim is to create an environment that fosters trust, understanding, and collaboration between the client and myself. While every session is tailored to the unique needs and circumstances of the individual, the following elements are typically included in a counseling session:

Building rapport: At the beginning of each session, I take the time to establish a connection with the client, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere. I inquire into how the client is doing and engage in active listening to set the tone for open communication and build a strong therapeutic alliance.

Assessing progress: I begin the session by reviewing the client’s progress since our last meeting. We discuss the goals and objectives that were set, any challenges faced, and any successes achieved. This helps me gauge the client’s current state and determine the focus of the session.

Identifying the focus: Based on the assessment of progress, I work with the client to identify the key areas to be addressed during the session. This may include exploring the client’s thoughts and feelings around their addiction, addressing specific challenges, or working on developing new coping strategies.

Active listening and empathy: Throughout the session, I use active listening skills and empathic responses to fully understand the client’s experiences and emotions. This helps the client feel heard, understood, and validated, fostering trust and openness in the therapeutic relationship.

Utilizing therapeutic techniques: Depending on the client’s needs and the focus of the session, I draw upon a range of therapeutic techniques, such as acceptance and commitment therapy, motivational interviewing, and cognitive-behavioral interventions. These evidence-based approaches help the client develop a deeper understanding of their addiction, build motivation for change, and learn new skills to cope with triggers and high-risk situations.

Goal-setting and action planning: Towards the end of the session, we collaboratively set specific, achievable goals for the client to work on before our next meeting. This may involve practicing new coping strategies, engaging in self-reflection, or experimenting with stopping or moderating their addiction in a particular way.

Closing the session: I close each session by summarizing the key points discussed and ensuring that the client feels supported and clear about their goals for the coming week. I also provide the client with the opportunity to ask questions, address any concerns, or provide feedback on the session.

Scheduling the next session: Finally, we schedule the next session, ensuring that the client has a clear plan for ongoing support and a structured timeline for working towards their recovery goals. In the beginning, sessions are usually conducted on a weekly basis, depending on the client’s needs, but as we gain momentum, sessions are usually spaced out to a bi-weekly frequency, or a monthly check-in.

Overall, a counseling session with me is a collaborative, empathic, and solution-focused process that seeks to empower clients in their journey towards recovery. By providing a supportive environment and utilizing evidence-based techniques, I help clients develop the skills, motivation, and resilience needed to overcome addiction and create lasting change in their lives.

A Positive Approach

Taking a positive approach to addiction counseling is an essential aspect of my practice. I firmly believe that focusing on building a life of meaning, purpose, and connection is a powerful way to foster sustainable recovery and personal growth.

This perspective helps shift the focus from merely eliminating addictive behaviors to creating a fulfilling and rewarding life that supports long-term well-being.

To cultivate a positive approach, I incorporate the following elements into my counseling sessions:

Strengths-based perspective: I emphasize clients’ strengths, resources, and resilience, helping them recognize their own abilities and potential. By focusing on what they are already doing well and building upon these strengths, clients can develop greater self-efficacy and confidence in their ability to overcome addiction.

Values clarification: An essential aspect of building a meaningful life is identifying and connecting with one’s core values. I work with clients to explore their personal values and determine what truly matters to them. This process helps them develop a clearer sense of purpose and guides their decision-making, ensuring that their actions align with their beliefs and goals.

Goal-setting and action planning: Once clients have identified their values, we collaboratively set realistic, achievable goals that align with their desired life direction. By breaking these goals down into smaller, manageable steps, clients can develop a clear action plan for moving forward. This process not only fosters a sense of accomplishment and motivation but also helps clients build a life that reflects their values and priorities.

Building connection: Social support and connection play a vital role in recovery and overall well-being. I encourage clients to cultivate and maintain healthy, supportive relationships with family, friends, and peers. This may involve joining support groups, participating in community activities, or engaging in hobbies and interests that facilitate connection and a sense of belonging.

Enhancing well-being: In addition to addressing addiction directly, I also work with clients to promote overall well-being and quality of life. This may involve exploring strategies for improving physical health, emotional regulation, stress management, and self-care. By nurturing all aspects of well-being, clients can create a more balanced, fulfilling life that supports their recovery.

Celebrating progress: Acknowledging and celebrating clients’ achievements, both big and small, is a crucial component of a positive approach. By recognizing and validating their efforts, clients are more likely to stay motivated, maintain a positive outlook, and continue working towards their goals.

Instilling hope: As an addiction counselor, I strive to instill hope in my clients by consistently demonstrating belief in their ability to change and grow. I emphasize that recovery is a journey, and setbacks are natural and expected. By providing ongoing support and encouragement, clients can develop a resilient mindset that allows them to persevere through challenges and maintain their commitment to recovery.

By focusing on building a life of meaning, purpose, and connection, I help clients create a strong foundation for sustainable recovery and personal growth. This positive approach not only empowers clients to overcome addiction but also enables them to develop the skills and resources needed to thrive in all areas of their lives.

An Invitation to Reach Out

If you are struggling with addiction, know that you are not alone. Addiction can be an incredibly isolating and disheartening experience, often leaving you feeling trapped, overwhelmed, and unsure of how to move forward. But reaching out for support is the first crucial step towards regaining control of your life and overcoming the challenges that addiction presents.

As you begin your journey towards recovery, the proper support can significantly increase the odds of success. It is important to be connected to someone who not only understands the complexities of addiction but also genuinely cares about helping you create a fulfilling, addiction-free life. As an addiction counselor, I am committed to providing personalized, evidence-based support tailored to your unique needs and circumstances.

Together, we will work to identify your strengths, clarify your values, and set achievable goals that align with your vision of a healthier, happier future. By focusing on building a life of meaning, purpose, and connection, you can develop the resilience, motivation, and skills needed to overcome addiction and maintain lasting change.

I invite you to reach out for support and take that first step towards a brighter tomorrow. Remember, recovery is not only possible but also within your reach. With the right guidance and encouragement, you have the power to transform your life and rediscover the joy, hope, and fulfillment that may have seemed out of reach for so long.

Please feel free to contact me here, and together, we will embark on this journey towards healing.

Fascinated by ideas? Check out my podcast:

Struggling with an addiction?

If you’re struggling with an addiction, it can be difficult to stop. Gaining short-term relief, at a long-term cost, you may start to wonder if it’s even worth it anymore. If you’re looking to make some changes, feel free to reach out. I offer individual addiction counselling to clients in the US and Canada. If you’re interested in learning more, you can send me a message here.

Other Mental Health Resources

If you are struggling with other mental health issues or are looking for a specialist near you, use the Psychology Today therapist directory here to find a practitioner who specializes in your area of concern.

If you require a lower-cost option, you can check out BetterHelp.com. It is one of the most flexible forms of online counseling. Their main benefit is lower costs, high accessibility through their mobile app, and the ability to switch counselors quickly and easily, until you find the right fit.

*As an affiliate partner with Better Help, I receive a referral fee if you purchase products or services through the links provided.

As always, it is important to be critical when seeking help, since the quality of counselors are not consistent. If you are not feeling supported, it may be helpful to seek out another practitioner. I wrote an article on things to consider here.


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