When deciding to enter the field of drug and alcohol treatment there are several things that a student must learn in order to be an effective drug and alcohol counselor. It is most important that they familiarerize themselves with the twelve most important elements of client care. These elements are listed as; 1) Screening, 2) Intake, 3) Orientation, 4), Assessment, 5) Treatment Planning, 6) Counseling, 7) Case Management, 8) Crisis Intervention, 9) Client Education, 10) Referral, 11) Report and Record Keeping, and 12) Consultation. Each of these elements must be understood and utilized in the field of counseling. Each of these elements posses their own qualities and meet specific functions this is why they are called the 12 core functions.
Screening is a time for the client and the counselor to meet together and gather information about the client’s specific problems and needs. This is done to insure the client is placed in a setting that will best meet those needs. Everyone that comes to treatment does not have the same problems or personal characteristics thus everyone that needs treatment will not be best suited to be treated in the same way. By gathering specific information about the client and their symptoms it allows the counselor or agency to utilize the best resources that they have at their disposal that will be the most effective towards positive treatment.
After proper screening is completed the client then enters into the next phase of treatment, which is called Intake. Intake as defined by the IC&RC is “ the administrative and initial assessment procedures for admission to a program” (Herdman 25). Quite frankly it’s the paperwork that is involved in the administrative process of initial treatment. In a way it is the final portion of the screening process. It is the bureaucracy of the Intake process that will determine a client’s destination in treatment or whether they will be accepted in to such treatment at all. Such paper work will include but not be limited to HIPPA forms, insurance documentation, financial agreement, consent forms and so on.
Once the tedious work of crossing T’s and dotting I’s is over the next phase of treatment will (if the client is eligible) begin. This function of treatment is called Orientation. Orientation is a time that is used to familiarize the client with the program that they have entered into. Just as if you were to try something new, like driving a car for the first time, you would want to know some of the rules of the road and the basic mechanics of the car before you just jump in and put your foot on what may be the gas pedal. So to is true for the Orientation process in that it give the client a chance to understand the rules and norms of the treatment program that they will soon be a part of. Having a basic knowledge about how things work eases the client’s anxieties and makes for a smother treatment process. If a client knows the rules it is hoped that they will be less likely to break them.
After said client become familiar with the way things work in their particular program they moves into the Assessment phase. This is the time that the counselor/ program makes choices based on the client’s personal features and personality. It is more about the person and less about the paperwork. No one person is perfect, although you may know someone who thinks they are, and it is because of this reason that counselors and or programs must weigh the strong points and the weaker elements of a client’s personality. By making these assessments it better helps the counselor/program to develop the next phase of treatment, the treatment plan.
Treatment planning is at the heart of an effective program. In this portion of treatment it is the collaboration of both the counselor/program and the client to make a game plan. They can evaluate, together, the elements of the client’s thoughts and behaviors that are causing the client for most dilemmas. In short it is a time for the clients and the counselor to figure out what issues need the most immediate attention before the smaller issues can be dealt with. For example it may be hard to counsel an individual about social relationships when they are going through sever alcohol withdrawal. It would be best to wait for the tremors to stop before further treatment is instilled. Treatment planning allows the clients to take things one-step at a time and to set obtainable goals for themselves during the treatment process.
After the counselor and the client set the stage for treatment they may then begin the very beneficial function of treatment, counseling. It’s a time for the counselor and the client to build on a therapeutic relationship. The “IC&RC define Counseling as the utilization of special skills to assist individuals, families, or groups in achieving objectives through exploration of a problem and it’s ramifications; examination of attitudes and feelings; consideration of alternative solutions; and decision making”(Herdman 55). In short: now that the stage is set its time for the client to learn the part. Counseling gives the client a chance to talk it out and get feedback so they may understand their position better and be more fit to deal with it.
A strong function of the treatment process is Case Management. Case Management is used in order to build a network of services; a structured, administrative system of care for the client and it provides them with resources in which he or she can reach out to for consultation. Case Management is the incorporation of all the aspects of the treatment services. It is made to keep the recovery process moving in a positive direction and to make sure that no-one client slips through the cracks of treatment. It is the glue that holds the functions together.
One aspect of treatment that a counselor or other program staff members would rather not see occur is the client who is in crisis. A client may experience crisis at any time and for the most part it is unpredictable but regardless of the fashion of the crisis all staff members must be prepared to deal with it properly. Crisis is typically the result of a drug and alcohol client’s moment of extreme physical and/or emotional torment. In this state a client should be considered as a threat to themselves and/or others around them; thus the word crisis. Most clients are usually in a state of emotional unrest but it is the acute distress that breaks the mold of concern too crisis. A skilled counselor must learn to recognize the distress that their client is experiencing, calm their client down and use the crisis experience as a therapeutic tool towards the clients recovery.
Client Education is also a very useful tool in the recovery process. Simply put; it is teaching the client about the specific nature and dangers of their addiction. A well formatted education session will not only include the dangers of the client’s drug problems but it should also include the further resources and services that the client may acquire to better treat their addiction to or abuse of drugs and/or alcohol.
A counselor should also be able to admit when a client’s problem is to big or specific for them to handle. It is in this situation that the referral process be utilized. If a counselor is not able to meet the needs of a client’s situation they are obligated to refer the client to someone who can. Just as important as recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of a client is the ability of a counselor to know their own.
One of the details of a client’s treatment that can’t be referred to another professional is the Reports and Record Keeping of the client’s progress. The client’s steps in recovery need to be recorded and charted throughout the treatment process. As soon as a client enters a program to the time they are discharged (and sometimes even after that) the client’s needs and behaviors must be documented through reports, progress notes, discharge summaries and so on. If you want to be a counselor you better get used to paperwork.
The final function of the treatment process is called Consultation. This is the ability to utilize and incorporate the other professionals around you to better help you help the client. Consultation insures that you don’t get stuck in your own ways of thinking. By consulting with other professionals you may find alternatives to treatment or diagnosis’s that you may not have considered otherwise. A single counselor should never need to carry a heavy load on his or her own. Just as a counselor encourages a client to network for the benefit of their recovery so to should the counselor.
If a counselor can utilize this skill and function along with the eleven others they should do just fine. This structures and process have been put in place to not only help the client but to also guide the counselor to be productive and rational. The twelve core functions are the base in which an effective counselor stands.
Herdman, John W. (2008) Global Criteria: The 12 Core Functions of the Substance Abuse Counselor. 5th Ed.