April is National Counseling Awareness Month. The month-long celebration was created by the American Counseling Association to bring awareness to the ways mental health counselors help keep individuals and communities healthy. The celebratory sense of the month is meant to help remove stigma around seeking help for mental health counseling and encourage people who may not be familiar with mental health counseling to learn more.
Our mission at IRETA is to respond effectively to substance use by “helping the helpers” do what they do better. Some of the most important helpers in the field of treating addiction are mental health counselors who specialize in treating substance use.
Amidst the ongoing crisis of substance use disorder and fatal overdose in the United States, we would like to specifically acknowledge the importance of mental health counselors working in the field of addiction treatment.
The Importance of Counseling in Substance Use Treatment and Recovery
Counseling is one of the most common forms of treatment sought by people with substance use disorders. However, there are many people that never receive any kind of treatment or counseling at all. Stigma often prevents people who use drugs and alcohol from seeking any type of help. For this reason, it’s important to raise awareness about the benefits of counseling and the different ways it can be accessed as part of treatment or recovery.
Counseling can be used in addition to many other forms of addiction treatment, such as medication therapy. Many people begin counseling in inpatient or outpatient treatment, but it can be continued after treatment ends. Counseling can also be a very important component of recovery for many people. Counseling offers a form of support for a person who is struggling with substance use disorder or in recovery. It may help uncover behavior patterns and identify new coping strategies rather than the use of substances.
Effective counseling can help reduce shame and treat co-occurring mental health conditions. If a person in recovery is working with a counselor, they will likely create a plan for relapse prevention, which will help decrease the likelihood of using substances again. In short, good mental health counseling can help reduce the use of substances and save lives.
Getting Substance Use Counseling for People Who Need It
Unfortunately, many people who have substance use disorder are never exposed to any type of counseling. This is partially due to the accessibility of mental health counseling in general. Thankfully, in past years, mental health counseling has become less stigmatized and more accessible with the emergence of telehealth. But cost and stigma still play a role in keeping people from getting the care they need.
Additionally, counseling that can be applied specifically to substance use can still be hard to come by. Many counselors don’t have training that deals directly with substance use disorder, and the ones that do aren’t easily accessible for folks who need it.
Enacting policy that makes mental health counseling more accessible, particularly counseling that focuses on addiction, is an important task for the United States in the future. It is also important that treatment programs across the country practices become streamlined in their therapeutic approaches.
Most importantly, we would like to thank the counselors doing the hard work to help people struggling with substance use and other mental health disorders. The hard work being done now is what will help make mental health counseling more accessible to those who need it in the future.