Magazine article Addiction Professional

Counselors Process REALITY OF RELAPSE

Magazine article Addiction Professional

Counselors Process REALITY OF RELAPSE

Article excerpt

The threat of patient relapse never disappears from the psyche of the counseling professional, but its presence doesn't automatically destroy the spirit. Several of the respondents to Addiction Professional's Quality of Life Survey convey an outlook of celebrating victories while preparing for setbacks in the treatment of this complex disease, though some didn't arrive at that attitude easily.

"Early on, I had not practiced up very well on countertransference," says J.C. Shiver, who works on the counseling staff at the Cumberland Heights residential program in Nashville, Tenn. "I would certainly be worried about people who I felt hadn't had their teeth fully sunk in recovery. Now what I feel is best to leave them with is acceptance and letting them know that there is no shame in coming back."

The online survey, conducted last October and receiving 550 overall responses (see the Fall 2015 issue of Addiction Professional), asked two questions about clinicians' observations of patient relapse. Responses clearly pointed to the critical nature of the first year post-treatment, although maintaining one year in recovery certainly doesn't guarantee longer-term success either.

Asked to estimate what percentage of individuals treated in their community will relapse in less than a year, based on their observations, nearly six in 10 respondents gave an answer somewhere in the 50% to 70% range. Fewer than one in 10 cited a figure of 20% or lower (see "Patient Relapse In Less Than 1 Year" graphic, page 16).

The numbers were somewhat more encouraging on the question of how many treated individuals relapse after a year of sobriety. Only about three in 10 respondents cited a percentage of 50% or higher, with 30% and 40% being the general range cited most by respondents (see "Relapse After 1 Year" graphic, page 16).

Anna Wheelock, a counselor in North Central Health Care's outpatient substance use treatment services in Antigo, Wis., received her first lesson in odds as a patient herself, when a therapist flatly told her and fellow clients in a group, "One out of seven of you will make it." Her thought at the time: "That one is gonna be me."

This February marks 29 years in recovery for Wheelock, now 67. Seeing someone in early recovery turn the corner now gets her through the week, she says, particularly at a time when she has been coping with loss and serious illness in her family life. She sees a lack of support as an obvious stumbling block to long-term recovery for many.

"You need people to understand you so you don't feel different," Wheelock says. …

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