Magazine article Addiction Professional

Trends in Counseling Challenge Profession, but There Are Positives

Magazine article Addiction Professional

Trends in Counseling Challenge Profession, but There Are Positives

Article excerpt

The world is rapidly changing, from technology to terminology. What worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. Counselors in the alcohol and drug abuse field must adapt to this changing environment to survive and thrive in the future.

Some of us believe that the addiction field may have at most 20 years of life left before being absorbed into general health care or behavioral health, if we do not change soon. This article outlines trends in the field to which we must adapt.

The World Is Getting Older

If you were born between 1946 and 1964 you are a "senior boomer." You're now closer to being a senior than to being a baby. The largest age cohort in world history was born between these years. Here are some statistics:

* Today, there are more people in the United States over 65 than the entire population of Canada.

* The average American may spend more time taking care of their aging parents than they did raising their children.

* The average American has more parents alive than they do children. The U.S. birth rate is below two, and many have two surviving parents.

* The average American could spend 25 percent of his life in retirement. The average American is redefining retirement to what I term "refirement."

* The U.S. is increasingly becoming a female society. At 40, for every 100 women alive there are 100 men alive. By 60, for every 100 women there are 80 men. At 80, there are just 40 men still alive. And by 100, there are only 19 men alive. As America ages, it will become a female society.

So where are the jobs in the future? In dealing with an aging population, who will be you and me? It is also projected there will be jobs working with an adolescent population, as America remains a youth-focused nation. Also, jobs will likely be in the criminal justice and correctional systems, as America seeks to "build its way out" of its addiction problem. So if we are to survive, we need counselors skilled at dealing with these three populations: an aging America, adolescents and criminal justice clients.

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2. Whatever Worked Yesterday May Not Work Tomorrow

Technology will be a driving force in the behavioral health field, with systems already available for Internet counseling. Egetgoing.com was the first alcoholism and drug abuse online treatment service fully accredited by CARF and JCAHO. Clinical supervision services are now offered online in several states. It is predicted that by 2010, online treatment for mental health issues will be a major player in the treatment delivery system.

Online treatment will not replace traditional face-to-face therapy, but will be an important adjunct and entry portal for people to get help. In America today we are treating about 5 percent of those with a substance abuse problem. If through use of the Internet we can reach 1 to 2 percent more individuals who might not otherwise seek help, we are adding a valuable service to the field.

There are some new terms to learn. There is now such a thing as "virtual intimacy." What early research says is that people open up online more readily than they do face-to-face. The electronic shield allows people to be more vulnerable faster than with traditional face-to-face counseling.

People traditionally do not seek help because of geography and availability of services locally, as well as cost. Stigma is another factor. If the Internet can make services available to people at a lower cost than traditional care, if its availability and confidentiality can be ensured virtually anywhere in the world, online treatment can radically alter how we do business in the next decade.

Finally, the weakest link in most programs is aftercare. If, through the Internet, we can make services available to clients for continuing care, we add a valuable tool to our toolbox.

Counselors need to become familiar with the skills of the Internet to learn a new language and to develop the ability to listen without seeing a client (a skill that visually impaired counselors have long had). …

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