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Professionals in the Addiction Field

Lisa McNamara
| August 14, 2015

I’m sure there is a lot of controversy surrounding addiction professionals. As an addict myself, I always felt more comfortable talking with another addict. After all they “get it.” They lived it. You can’t pull anything over on them because they think like us!

If you are an addict in recovery and have gone on to work in the profession of counseling other addicts, would you tell them about your own struggles? Does that weaken you? Would it in any way jeopardize your own sobriety?

What about non-addicts working as counselors? I know they are extremely book smart about every aspect of addiction, but is this enough? You could say a doctor specializing in cancer doesn’t need to have had cancer to be able to help the cancer patient.

I contacted one of my Twitter friends to get his feelings on this subject. Dave M is a primary counselor at a recovery center and has been in recovery since January 7, 2005. He says:

      I’ve worked in three facilities that had no issues with me revealing that I am a recovered alcoholic/addict. At the treatment center where I got sober (and later did a student placement and worked), all the staff from counselors to cooks to maintenance people were all people in recovery. I find that it helps me establish a rapport with the person I’m working with for them to know that I’ve been through what they’ve been through.
      Saying that, one of the best counselors I’ve ever had the pleasure to know is a non-addict. She brings a different perspective to the table and helps her clients immensely. Not only has she helped the clients, but I’ve learned a lot from her as well which has helped me grow professionally and personally.
      The organizations that don’t allow staff to reveal themselves to be in recovery are coming from a total clinical view and, in my humble opinion, are doing an injustice to their residents. In my area these facilities are usually government run and promote harm reduction techniques.

It will be interesting to see how others feel about this subject. There are so many pros and cons on each side. My advice to anyone is to use your gut feelings and be sure that you feel comfortable enough to share your whole story.


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