If you’re passionate about helping others improve their quality of life, addictions counselling is one of the most meaningful career paths you can take. The skilled support and compassion you’ll learn to provide can help members of your community turn their lives around. Among the most vulnerable clients you’ll encounter are young people with substance abuse problems. You may be familiar with the cycle of substance abuse, or even have personal experience dealing with addiction in your own family. The right training program can help you turn this knowledge and passion into an effective addictions counselling career.
If this speaks to you, read on for more information about youth substance abuse and how you can empower young people to overcome addiction.
Understanding the Pathology Behind Youth with Substance Addictions
Most Canadians first encounter addictive substances like alcohol, cigarettes, and other drugs when they are in adolescence. While single-use experimentation has no lasting impact for some, for others addictive substances can offer an instant sense of fulfillment of a much larger unmet need – planting the seeds for substance misuse. Experts cite a range of potential unmet needs that lead youth to abuse addictive substances, but chief among them is damage caused by growing up in an environment where substance abuse is the norm. “Children who grow up in a family with substance abuse become pseudo-adults, learning how to take care of their parents,” explains Robert Neri, a certified addictions counsellor who spoke at the National Council Mental Health and Addictions Conference. He says this can lead children to feel deeply unfulfilled, and mimic substance abuse patterns they learned from their parents as coping mechanisms of their own. This cycle is what counsellors like Neri call the “intergenerational cycle of substance abuse.”
Early Intervention: Taking Action with Addictions Counsellor Training
When you graduate from addictions counsellor courses, you will work to break this cycle within acommunity health clinic, wellness centre, or as an independent/self-employed addictions counsellor. More and more young people are being referred to these specialized counsellors by the Canadian justice system for “early intervention counselling” – treatment designed to stop substance misuse before it becomes substance abuse in youth at risk of developing addiction. Effective early intervention can help youth feel understood, promote a sense of connection and encourage them to take responsibility for themselves and their futures. For example, experts cite motivational interviewing and the development of a counsellor-client bond as great ways to get young clients invested in their long-term health and wellbeing.
Connecting Young People with the Support Services they Need
Graduates of addictions counselling training become trusted professionals in their community’s broader web of support services. When you become an addictions counsellor, you’ll be responsible for guiding your clients through customized counselling sessions as well as leading them and their families toward any additional health and safety supports. For example, you may need to refer young clients experiencing withdrawal to specialized detoxification treatment services or hospital day treatment programs. You could be the link that saves a life, connecting youth and their families to the particular services they need, and providing them with meaningful and compassionate follow-up care. With your professional support and genuine care, you’ll help young clients break the cycle of intergenerational substance abuse. You’ll help them see themselves not as victims, but as leaders of their own lives, free to choose what their futures will hold. In Neri’s words, “…this gives them a model of empowerment, so they can take control and change the script.”