Course Introduction: Counseling People Who Use
Welcome to the Counseling People Who Use Substances course. In this
course you will learn about commonly used substances, how substances impact
people's physiology, how to assess, diagnose, and treat substance
use, and so much more. This information is designed for all counselors in
training, and all counselors will likely encounter clients who use
substances or clients who are in systems that are impacted by substances.
Recommended Readings & Resources
To get the most out of this unit, please review the following:
AA "is an international fellowship of men and
women who have had a drinking problem. It is nonprofessional,
self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost
everywhere. There are no age or education requirements. Membership
is open to anyone who wants to do something about his or her
drinking problem" (AA). AA uses a twelve step program, and they
believe that, for their "group purposes, there is but one ultimate
authority-a loving God as He may express Himself in our group
conscious" (The Twelve Traditions, p. 189). The organization has a
page targeted toward professionals, including counselors, here.
NA developed out of the 12 step tradition, with the
aim of helping people who use any drug, including alcohol. NA has a Resources for Professionals page.
Initial Exploration Questions
Everyone develops their own values, biases, and beliefs. Psychoactive
substances can be a particularly loaded topic, with some condemning all
people who use substances, while others advocate for complete
decriminalization and acceptance of substances. One of our aims in
developing this course is to structure activities that encourage you to
explore the ways in which your personal values, biases, beliefs, &
culture intersect with your identity as a counselor and your professional
work with people who use substances.
Before beginning this course, please reflect on the following:
What drew you to the counseling profession?
What do you think of when you think of drugs and
What type of person comes to mind when you think of
someone who uses substances?
What are you hoping to learn during this
What experiences and knowledge do you bring to this
Language & Perception
Research has demonstrated that language significantly impacts
one's perceptions and behaviors. Read through this article
before considering the following reflection prompts.
What are your values, biases, & beliefs regarding people who
Kelly, et al., 2015 cite research that
found that when mental health professionals are told that a client
is a "substance abuser" they are more likely to respond
punitively than when they are told the client has a "substance
use disorder". How does your language and the language of
others impact the way that you view clients who use
How can you become aware of when you are using stigmatizing
What are your views regarding the importance of
using culturally sensitive language?
What changes might you make in your language to
reduce stigma for people who use substances?