Addictions counsellors are trained to help those people whose habits or use of certain substances have gone beyond recreational activities. The counsellors understand that there could be both psychological and physical reasons for addictive behaviour. Instead of making their clients feel ashamed or weak, addictions counsellors address each person’s addictive personality, and try to help them recognize and deal with their addictions, so that they can get their habits under control.
Gambling, for example, can be very exciting. The thrilling expectation of winning, the risk, the odds, the overwhelming sense of control and satisfaction experienced when you do win! Even ‘two-rand’ raffles at social events such as fetes or charity bazaars, are exciting for these reasons. And, if such a raffle is thrilling for participants, imagine the rush of excitement if winning thousands of rands from a casino slot machine
Often, people develop cravings for those things that make them feel good. People become addicted to gambling, shopping, as well as alcohol and other drugs, both physically and psychologically. The blissful feeling that comes when you win at the slot machines, the emotion-dulling effects of consuming alcohol, etc., can easily become a necessity in your daily life. People can become totally dependent on these addictions, making it impossible for them to lead their lives without gambling or drugs. Some people will shop or gamble their way into serious debt, or kill themselves by an excess of drug use.
Addictions counsellors work with government agencies, private companies and non-profit organisations who work to promote health, prevent addiction, and who intervene and where necessary, initiate treatment. Their work includes counselling in addiction programmes, women’s and men’s shelters, correctional facilities, health services, schools and community centres. After identifying the issue at hand, a counsellor focuses on the client’s strengths and weaknesses and meets regularly to advise, support and encourage the recovery process. Often this includes getting their clients into an appropriate step-by-step support programme, such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
Along with regular sessions with their clients, addictions counsellors prepare reports on each client’s progress, consult other social and health care workers about clients, and keep up to date with developments in treatment techniques. It may be necessary to work evenings, weekend or holiday shifts.