Addiction is the process of becoming dependent on a substance or behavior to the point where one is unable to stop or limit their use despite recognizing it as problematic. Although one’s substance use or behavioural addiction may be leading to issues with their functioning, interpersonal relationships, and overall sense of well-being, giving up on these powerful and effective, albeit often dysfunctional, forms of coping can be very challenging. This is compounded with the fear of stigma from others when opening up about one’s struggles with addiction.

How can counselling help?

Addiction counsellors are understanding of the ambivalence that people may face about whether or not to quit a behaviour or substance that has become a problem, and often exploring this ambivalence is the first stage of treatment. Counsellors can work with clients to identify the needs that their addiction is filling and collaborate with them to develop other forms of coping that meet their needs with less destructive consequences. They take a non-blaming and compassionate stance of genuine curiosity in the client’s experience as a means of supporting them to make changes at their own pace, with the understanding that the process of recovery is often not linear.

Embarking on recovery can bring up a lot of challenging thoughts and emotions and having a safe space to process whatever comes up with a warm and non-judgmental counsellor can make the process much less overwhelming. Approaches to counselling such as Motivational Interviewing, CBT, and Mindfulness-based relapsed prevention aim to meet clients where they are at and support them with whatever their recovery goals may be.

Because addiction is influenced by many factors including social context, traumatic experiences, mental health issues, and genetics, the process of healing is typically very holistic. Counselling offers a space to explore all the factors in one’s life that contribute and maintain the addiction so that healing can take place.


Miller, G. (2015). Learning the language of addiction counseling [4th ed.]. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley

& Sons.

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