Counseling and Support for Youth Term Paper

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Counselling

Marijuana, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy... these are just some of the drugs / inhaled and taken in by many making them almost totally addicted to it. These drugs are illegal. Government agencies and police officials are putting lots of their efforts and budgets on preventing people from using this. But in the latest survey, taken last 2002, almost 20 million Americans were regular users of these addictive drugs and other illicit drugs. Furthermore, six million more abused prescription drugs and according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 16 million abused alcohol (http://www3.ccps.virginia.edu/career_prospects/briefs/P-S/SubstanceAbuse.html.,2004).

It is in this regard that substance abuse counselors come in very handy. Substance abuse counselors are there, not just because of the salary they could get out of their professions, but because of their very significant roles to the society, particularly to the substance abuser.

Effects of Substance Abuse

There are a number of studies which revealed about the psychological effects of substance abuse, which is more prominent among adolescent user. Adolescents who engaged in some drug experimentation (primarily with marijuana or cocaine) were frequently maladjusted, showing distinct personality syndrome marked by interpersonal alienation, poor impulse control, and manifest emotional distress (Shedler et al. 1990).

Depression, anxiety, and personality disturbances have also been associated with substance abuse. Research clearly demonstrates these addictive substances have big potential to cause problems in daily life or make a person's existing problems worse. Because these substances compromise the ability to learn and remember information, the more a person uses such substance, the more he or she is likely to fall behind in accumulating intellectual, job, or social skills. Moreover, research has shown that these addictive substances have adverse impact on memory and learning which can last for days or weeks after the acute effects of the substance wear off (Block RI, 1993).

Grades and school related activities are also included in the psychological effects of addictive substance among users. Students who smoke marijuana get lower grades and are less likely to graduate from high school, compared with their non-smoking peers (Brook, 1999). A study of 129 college students found that, for heavy users of marijuana and cocaine (those who smoked the drug at least 27 of the preceding 30 days), critical skills related to attention, memory, and learning were significantly impaired even after they had not used the drug for at least 24 hours. The heavy marijuana users in the study had more trouble sustaining and shifting their attention and in registering, organizing, and using information than did the study participants who had used marijuana no more than 3 of the previous 30 days. As a result, someone who smokes marijuana every day may be functioning at a reduced intellectual level all of the time. The same research has also proven that that the ability of a group of long-term heavy marijuana users to recall words from a list remained impaired for a week after quitting, but returned to normal within 4 weeks (Pope, 1996).

On the other hand, workers who are into substance abuse are also heavily affected in a psychological manner. Workers who smoke marijuana and use cocaine are more likely than their coworkers to have problems on the job. Several studies associate workers' marijuana smoking with increased absences, tardiness, accidents, workers' compensation claims, and job turnover. A study of municipal workers found that those who used marijuana on or off the job reported more "withdrawal behaviors" such as leaving work without permission, daydreaming, spending work time on personal matters, and shirking tasks. This adversely affects productivity and morale of the company they are connected with (Lehman, 1992). In another study, addictive substance users reported that the use of such drug has impaired several important measures of life achievement including cognitive abilities, career status, social life, and physical and mental health (Gruber, 2003).

In a more general concept, substance abuse can cause permanent damage to thinking and reasoning ability. This may be seen through the user's acts of difficulty in sustaining attention and psychological addiction. Furthermore, marijuana users have an increasing tolerance, which make them crave or feel the need for increasing amounts of marijuana to feel its effects (http://www.intheknowzone.com/marijuana/lterm.htm,2001).

Substance Abuse Counselors - Who are they?

Substance abuse counselors are the professionals who work with the substance abusers to help them kick off their habit. Whatever the addiction a person has engaged in - may it be into drugs or alcohol - substance abuse counselors play the same role: they work with people to help them understand why they are compelled to abuse substances and to change that behavior. The substance abuse counselors' very end goal is for their clients to be "clean" and have a happy and productive lives, free from any form of addiction (http://www3.ccps.virginia.edu/career_prospects/briefs/P-S/SubstanceAbuse.html.,2004).

Sounds very easy right? But the responsibilities and the challenges attached to it are not. Removing an individual from his/her addiction presents a long and torturous process, coupled with numerous ups and downs. If it is hard from the substance abuser himself, the more it is on the substance abuse counselor's part.

Responsibilities of a Substance Abuse Counselor

The work of a substance abuse counselor has many frustrations and requires a great deal of patience and compassion. It is especially difficult because people who abuse drugs and alcohol usually have many other problems in their lives, and getting them to see this and address their problems can sometimes seem next to impossible (http://www3.ccps.virginia.edu/career_prospects/briefs/P-S/SubstanceAbuse.html.,2004). Aside from persistence to help their clients, substance abuse counselors are also compelled to use various strategic behaviors, which will help the client and the client's family as well as the whole society to understand what his client is undergoing through.

Counselors work with individuals or with groups. They also work with addicts' families. They allot most of their time talking with clients in crisis to help them understand destructive patterns in their lives. At the same time, substance abuse counselors also work with doctors, family members, police, and other counselors to determine the client's condition and situation. Together, they draw up a therapy plan for the client's recovery. Sometimes they send clients to other support services such as social or employment services so as to enhance the client's capabilities to accept responsibilities, and at the same time, make them sociable with other people. At other times, they provide most of the therapy themselves. They monitor the client's progress and modify the therapy as needed, and keep track of progress by writing reports and keeping case files about their clients. A big part of the counselor's job is making presentations to groups concerned with drug and alcohol abuse. They also prepare documents for presentation in court and go with clients to legal proceedings (http://www3.ccps.virginia.edu/career_prospects/briefs/P-S/SubstanceAbuse.html.,2004).

Other specific tasks of the substance abuse counselors include (http://www3.ccps.virginia.edu/career_prospects/briefs/P-S/SubstanceAbuse.html,2004).:

Conducting individual and group counseling sessions

Providing guidance and encouragement to clients

Assisting clients in finding jobs

Following-up on discharged clients to ensure that the treatment program is effective

Counseling and conducting educational classes for clients' families

In rehabilitation centers, conducting daily client counts

Scheduling clients' group therapy sessions

Participating in conferences and staff meetings

Writing progress reports on clients for courts, probation departments, and employers

Talking to community groups about substance abuse programs and rehabilitation centers

Presenting public service announcements and seminars on substance abuse

But the hardest part of this job is working with addicts who don't improve. That is really frustrating and heartbreaking on the counselor's part. Many clients under the substance abuse counselors have other problems, such as mental illness, or they are homeless. Some get diseases such as AIDS and some die. These kinds of losses can become overwhelming for substance abuse counselors, and in fact, many counselors become burned out of their jobs (http://www3.ccps.virginia.edu/career_prospects/briefs/P-S/SubstanceAbuse.html.,2004).

Can All Be Counselors?

It is clear. The responsibilities of a substance abuse counselor is not a joke. That is why, a substance abuse counselor must be very well trained in his/her very profession. he/she must be qualified with the most basic standards of a substance abuse counselor.

First, substance abuse counselors need to have a bachelor's degree and at least 400 hours of substance abuse education from a college, university, or alternate program approved by the licensing board. In addition, they must also have 2000 hours of supervised substance abuse counseling experience and pass the board exam.

Moreover, if one has the calling to be a substance abuse counselor, he/she must have these additional qualities (http://www3.ccps.virginia.edu/career_prospects/briefs/P-S/SubstanceAbuse.html.,2004):

Thorough knowledge of the causes of and treatments for addiction

Has deep interest on helping people with their personal problems

Patient and persistent

Able to make decisions based on professional standards and personal judgment

Adept in explaining to people what they need to do

Can work with minimal supervision

Able to listen carefully to what someone else is saying

Has the ability and credibility to provide encouragement and support to others

Can work well with medical personnel and administrators

Able to objectively write reports

Is observing the code of medical ethics

Conclusion

Substance abuse… [END OF PREVIEW]

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