Should Addiction Therapists Disclose Their Recovering Status?

By October 31, 2018 No Comments

Classical theory arising from the tradition of Freudian psychoanalysis seeks to provide the patient with a sort of “blank slate”. The therapist wants to create a safe but empty space in which the client can explore their problems. They should be free to roam, without boundaries or guidance that arises from the therapist disclosing things about themselves. Personal disclosure by therapists or counsellor creates a risk. The client may start to think about what the therapist or counsellor wants to hear, rather than what they themselves need to say. But perhaps the context of addiction and recovery therapy provides a special case. There are other factors we must consider when we seek to answer the question: “Should addiction therapists disclose their recovering status”?

At Seasons Bali, all of our counsellors and therapists have lived experience that allows them to speak with authority on what it takes to recover from addiction successfully and live a happy, fulfilling life. This is just one component of the efficacy of our programs, which are based on an evidenced-based approach to treatment. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of therapist and counsellors disclosing their recovery status, and look at how we handle this delicate issue at Seasons Bali and why we do things the way we do.

man looking in broken mirror.

When clients understand their counsellor knows what it’s like, they trust more.

Pitfalls of Disclosing Recovering Status- Discounting Addicts, Over-Familiarity

First, let’s talk about the potential drawbacks of this approach. For one thing, addicts may be inclined to project their own shame and take the therapist or counsellor less seriously or have less respect for their authority if they know the therapist or counsellor has also suffered addiction. If the therapist makes a minimal disclosure and avoids going into details, maintains a professional attitude and delivers valuable insight, this risk is significantly reduced

If the therapist or counsellor tries too hard to ‘relate’ to the addict and ‘be one of the guys,’ they can undermine their own authority with over-familiarity, again losing the respect of the client. The therapist or counsellor can easily avoid this by making a simple, matter of fact disclosure, avoiding details and anecdotes, and once again, maintaining a professional attitude. Finally, a therapist or counsellor who relies on disclosing their recovering status to create a rapport with the client may fail to do the real work of creating a more substantial and appropriate alliance.

man silhoutted in front of sunset

Addiction is a lonely place. You need help to recover.

Benefits of Disclosing Recovering Status – Trust and Authority

Addicts tend not to trust other people, and they are not keen to obey orders or respect authority. While therapists should not be overly bossy, they do need to tell addicts what to think about and encourage them to focus and be honest. When an addict knows that a therapist or counsellor has been down in the same hole they have been digging for themselves and built a ladder to get out, they are more receptive to the authority of the therapist or counsellor. Addicts can feel quite alienated and tend to believe their situation is unique and beyond the understanding of other people. A therapist who tells them they understand and recognize these feelings and also had to work through them can reach an addict more effectively.

Therapist touching sad client on shoudler

Our therapists and counsellors can empathize deeply.

Benefits of Disclosing Recovering Status – Wise to the Ways of Addicts

Addicts learn to manipulate other people to get what they feel they need. With all that practice, it becomes a very natural instinct to avoid honesty and focus on telling a therapist or counsellor what the addict believes they want to hear or avoid admissions that they are uncomfortable with. But an honest self-examination and a fearless inventory are essential to successful recovery. When an addict realizes they are talking to someone who knows what it’s like, they will realize their therapist or counsellor is wise to their ways. Knowing the therapist or counsellor is able to spot manipulation reduces the addict’s interest in focusing on manipulation and brings the focus to the honest work that the addict needs to do.

What to Share and What Not to Share

In most cases, the therapist or counsellor can probably establish a better rapport with the client by disclosing their status as a fellow recovering addict. Therapists should not share details. This, after all, is about the addict, not the therapist or counsellor. War stories are inappropriate. The useful thing is for the therapist or counsellor to simply say they have been there. The therapist or counsellor may give some details about doing the work that can be helpful to show we all must go through the steps and do the work. Other ways of relating are inappropriate for therapist and counsellors. Sharing the details of personal struggles is important, but that role is for group members and sponsors.

Recognize You Have A Problem And Take A Step Towards Recovery Today

You know or someone you know has a problem. That is why you are here reading this. You know it will be hard to fix, but we are here to tell you: you can do it and we can show you how. Take the first step on the road to a better life. Learn more about our Rehab Program in Bali for recovering from addiction and make a plan.

If you or someone you care about has a problem with drugs or alcohol or any other form of addiction, call one of our experts today on (toll-free Australia) 1800 288 348 or +62 8124678 or email us at [email protected] and we will call you.


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