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How to Know if an Addiction Counsellor Career Might Be Right for You

Emotional and mental stability are essential to any addiction counsellor career

Addiction is a common and growing problem in Canada. According to recent figures, over a third of Canadians 12 years of age and older either smoke, use illegal drugs, or drink excessively (Statistics Canada, 2017). Even more worrying, every year approximately 47,000 die as a result of their addiction (Teen Challenge Canada, 2015).

Drug, tobacco, and alcohol addictions aren’t the only common problems. In fact, recent studies have determined that one in every 20 Canadians lives with a food addiction and that globally, approximately 6 percent of the population is addicted to the Internet (Postmedia News, 2013) (Cheng, C., Ph.D., & Li, A. Y., BA., 2014).

With addiction disorders affecting millions of Canadians, the need for trained counsellors is clear. However, how can students know if they are well suited to this role? Here are some qualities that demonstrate you would make an excellent addiction counsellor.

If You Have Emotional and Mental Stability, an Addiction Counsellor Career Could Be Right for You

Working as an addictions counsellor necessitates strong emotional and mental stability. For this reason, leading addiction counselling programs help students process their own experiences through hands-on classroom exercises in an approach known as experiential learning. Students can identify any triggers they may have, and thus avoid becoming reactive or emotional when a discussion reminds them of their past. This allows them, as addictions counsellors, to focus solely on their clients and not use sessions to process their own experiences (Miller, A., 2017).

However, it’s important to note that training is not a substitute for therapy. For those who have recently recovered from an addiction, there can be a strong urge to help others by becoming a counsellor, even if still processing their own recovery. In these instances, it’s important for students to take time for self-care and healing, even if it means delaying enrollment. Once a prospective student has healed from their own personal relationship with addiction, they can then bring their emotional strength and stability to addiction counselling training and work towards a career helping others achieve sobriety.

Consider Addiction Counselling Training if You Have Well-Formed Boundaries

Compassion is a key trait that often motivates students to pursue addictions counsellor training. However, another quality addictions counsellors need is the ability to form healthy boundaries between their personal and professional lives (Miller, A., 2017). Feeling guilty about taking time for your own needs instead of your clients’, or working outside of work hours can seem beneficial to your addiction counsellor career in the short term. However, these practices can lead to compassion fatigue and burnout (Babbel S., 2012).

For those who tend to put the needs of others before their own, it can be especially difficult to form strong boundaries between work and personal time. For these students, learning to prioritize their own needs will be an important step in their training. If you want to help others, you must be willing to develop excellent self-care.

The Ability to Ask for Help Is an Important Quality for Addiction Counsellors

Addiction counselling can often involve working with clients who have experienced a traumatic experience. Clients may have had a difficult family life, experienced sexual abuse, or regret things they did under the influence of their addiction.

For addictions counsellors, helping clients heal from these experiences can be especially rewarding. However, it’s important for counsellors to remain aware of their own mental health needs. Hearing about the traumas experienced by others can sometimes lead to vicarious trauma, where a counsellor experiences the symptoms of trauma even though they are only hearing about the events second-hand (GoodTherapy, 2016). Vicarious trauma can manifest itself through many symptoms including feelings of sadness, irritability, insomnia, and social isolation (GoodTherapy, 2016).

For many counsellors, speaking up about their symptoms can feel like an admission of weakness. However, this is far from the truth. Talking to a co-worker about your feelings, taking time for self-care, or even seeking counselling services yourself can help symptoms subside. For this reason, the ability to ask for help is also an important quality for the aspiring addiction counsellor. If you feel comfortable asking for help, your self-awareness could be a true asset throughout your career in addiction counselling.

Would you like to attend addiction counselling school in Vancouver?

Contact Rhodes Wellness College to learn more about our programs.



Babbel S. (2012, July 4). Compassion Fatigue. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/somatic-psychology/201207/compassion-fatigue

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (2012). Mental Illness and Addictions: Facts and Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/about_camh/newsroom/for_reporters/Pages/addictionmentalhealthstatistics.aspx

Cheng, C., PhD, & Li, A. Y., BA. (n.d.). Internet Addiction Prevalence and Quality of (Real) Life: A Meta-Analysis of 31 Nations Across Seven World Regions [Abstract]. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 17(12), 755-760. Retrieved from http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/cyber.2014.0317

GoodTherapy (2016, July 14). Vicarious Trauma. Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/vicarious-trauma

Miller, A. (2017). How to Be a Good AOD Counselor. Retrieved from http://work.chron.com/good-aod-counselor-19209.html

Postmedia News (2013, September 16). One in 20 Canadians is a food addict, Newfoundland researchers find. National Post. Retrieved from http://nationalpost.com/health/one-in-20-canadians-is-a-food-addict-newfoundland-researchers-find

Statistics Canada (2017, September 27). Canadian Community Health Survey, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/170927/dq170927a-eng.htm

Teen Challenge Canada (2015). Canadian Drug Crisis: Drug Abuse Is Closer To Home Then You Think! Retrieved from http://www.teenchallenge.ca/get-help/canadian-drug-crisis

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