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Counselling Parents With an Addicted Child: A Guide for Students in Addictions Counselling Training

addictions counsellor training in Vancouver

According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) (2012), youth aged 15-24 have the highest rate of self-reported use of prohibited substances in comparison to other age groups. The Canadian Centre for Addictions (CCFA) (2018) further cites data compiled by Statistics Canada which demonstrates that this age group makes up 60% of illicit drug use in the country. These are unsettling findings as they suggest that this group is at higher risk of developing a drug addiction. Even more discomfiting is the fact that the average age when drug use begins is 15.7 (Teen Challenge Canada, n.d.).

If a child develops an addiction, it not only presents a significant challenge to the addicted individual but to their parents at well. Parents may experience a deep sense of responsibility for the situation as well as frustration with themselves (Wallace, 2014). All of this may lead to significant deterioration in their own wellbeing, which in turn has a negative effect on their child.

Counselling can help parents gain awareness about their child’s addiction. In addition, counselling can assist parents with strategies in approaching their child and encouraging them to seek or agree to treatment (AAC, n.d.b). Keep reading to find out how counselling professionals can assist parents in this manner.

Professionals With Addictions Counselling Training Can Help Parents Understand Addiction

Professionals with addictions counselling training can help parents view addiction as a disease which they themselves didn’t cause and cannot fix.(Wallace, 2014). It is important for parents to understand that “addiction ultimately occurs as a result of a complex interplay between genetic, environmental, and social factors” (AAC, n.d.a).

Prior to developing such an understanding, parents may commonly be disappointed in their addicted child and even angry with them (AAC, n.d.a). This is not helpful in assisting the child. Therefore, addictions counsellors play a pivotal role in helping parents adopt a supportive position in which they are ready to empathize with their child’s struggle.

Understanding the Condition Paves the Way for Positive Communication and Trust

Once parents are able to adopt an empathetic stance, they are better able to develop positive communication techniques that can help in numerous ways. For example, increased communication can help with building trust. Examples of such techniques include speaking compassionately instead of nagging, sharing observations instead of being accusatory, and calmly discussing the dangers of addiction instead of using scare tactics (AAC, n.d.b).

Adopting positive communication techniques will help build trust with an addicted child

Adopting positive communication techniques will help build trust with an addicted child

When communicating with their children, the best types of questions parents can ask are those that are open-ended (Patterson, n.d.). These allow for a productive conversation which can give both sides space to express their struggles and hopes, and it can also help parents identify where they may be enabling their child’s addiction and where they may need to set up boundaries.

Encouraging Parents to Establish Boundaries That Prevent Enabling Behavior

For many parents, adopting habits that are supportive but not enabling can be especially difficult. This is because “someone struggling with addiction will often use deceitful tactics to secure and use more of the substance” (Patterson, n.d.). Parents may often fall prey to such behaviours. By enabling their child’s addiction, parents interfere with the child’s sense of responsibility, thus making them less likely to wish to seek out treatment (Bernstein, 2014).

Addictions counsellors can assist in many ways. Through active listening as part of positive communication, parents may identify instances where they may be enabling their child. Not only does setting boundaries and consistently upholding them help encourage positive behaviour, but it also helps parents protect their own wellbeing.

Parents of an Addicted Child Need to Remember to Practice Self-Care

Oliver (2017) states that while helping a child overcome addiction is a priority, it should not supersede all the needs of a parent. Unfortunately, it often happens that parents of addicted children overlook their own needs. This leads to them feeling drained and emotionally depleted (Bernstein, 2014), which is harmful to their efforts at positive communication and maintaining healthy boundaries.

As graduates of addictions counsellor courses know, “to be strong caregivers, parents must be emotionally and physically healthy” (AAC, n.d.b). This is why, as a counselling professional, you should encourage or even help parents of addicted children develop a quality self-care regime. This should include a healthy diet, exercise, sleep, and other activities that help with managing stress and reducing emotional exhaustion.

It's important for parents of addicted children to take some time for their own self-care

It’s important for parents of addicted children to take some time for their own self-care

Are you interested in becoming an addictions counsellor?

Contact Rhodes Wellness College to inquire about our addictions counsellor training in Vancouver!



AAC (n.d.a). Intervening in a Child’s Substance Abuse. Retrieved March 20, 2018, from https://americanaddictioncenters.org/guide-for-parents-i/.

AAC (n.d.b). Intervening in a Child’s Substance Abuse. Retrieved March 20, 2018, from https://americanaddictioncenters.org/guide-for-parents-ii/.

Bernstein, J. (2014). Stop Enabling Your Addicted Adult Child. Retrieved March 20, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/liking-the-child-you-love/201411/stop-enabling-your-addicted-adult-child.

Canadian Centre for Addiction (2018). Teen Drug Abuse Facts & Their Implications. Retrieved March 20, 2018, from https://canadiancentreforaddictions.org/teen-drug-abuse-facts/.

CCSA (2012). Trends in Drug Use among Youth. Retrieved March 20, 2018, from http://www.ccdus.ca/Resource%20Library/CCSA-Trends-in-Drug-Use-Youth-2012-en.pdf.Oliver, B. (2017).

Dealing With A Son Or Daughter Addicted To Drugs: How To Sleep Again. Retrieved March 20, 2018, from https://sobercollege.com/addiction-blog/dealing-with-drug-addict-child/.

Patterson, E. (n.d.). Tips for Parents of Addicted Children. Retrieved March 20, 2018, from https://drugabuse.com/library/parents-of-addicted-children/.

Teen Challenge Canada (n.d.). Canadian Drug Crisis. Retrieved March 20, 2018, from http://www.teenchallenge.ca/get-help/canadian-drug-crisis.

Wallace, K. (2014). Being an addict’s mom: ‘It’s just a very, very sad place. Retrieved March 20, 2018, from https://www.cnn.com/2014/08/26/living/addiction-parents/index.html.

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