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  • Writer's pictureKevin Phillips

Person-Centered Treatment

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

Dixie Brown is a practitioner in Integrative Medicine -- the application of multiple disciplines in the work of healing. Following a conversation about what we do, she sent me her perspective on what it means to have a person-centered approach to Substance Use Disorder treatment. She has identified twelve themes that a provider should keep in mind when working with other others.

1. Establish a Therapeutic Rela1onship

Create a warm, empathetic, and non-judgmental relationship with the individual seeking substance use treatment. It is important to foster an atmosphere of trust and what Carl Rogers described as unconditional positive regard. Unconditional positive regard means that you are okay. You may face some challenges, but fundamentally you are person of genuine value today, right now, and just the way you are.

2. Focus on the Individual's Perspective

Place emphasis on understanding the individual's unique experiences, thoughts, feelings, and goals. What matters most is on what you want from yourself. We will address your substance use disorder from the perspective of what matters to you.

3. Active Listening & Reflection:

Practice active listening by openly hearing and reflecting back what the other person is saying. When I hear you tell me what I just told you, I have confidence that you really heard me. When I do this for you, by careful listening you discover insights into their own thoughts, values, and emotions.

4.Provide Empathy & Validation:

Show genuine empathy towards the individual's challenges. Validate feelings, experiences, and challenges without judgment. This creates a safe space where you experience the freedom to explore what is going on with you, without me getting in the way.

5.Collaborative Goal Setting:

This means that you the client, tell me the provider, what you want to accomplish while in treatment. You establish treatment goals that are meaningful to you, the person seeking help. Collaboration with the provider assure that these goals align with your values, aspirations, and

desires beyond substance use.

6. Encouraging Self-Exploration & Awareness:

Facilitate self-exploration by asking open-ended questions that encourage reflection on motivations for using substances, underlying stressors, challenge relationships, triggers etc. When I demonstrate genuine curiosity about what you are about, you can learn what you are about as well.

7.Facilitating Personal Growth & Autonomy:

Support the recognition of other people’s own capacity for personal growth and change. Recovery is a profoundly personal journey. It is something that you do, with my support. It is not something I do for you. You get to take ownership of your own recovery, otherwise, what’s the point in treatment?

8.Respecting Autonomy & Choices:

Respecting autonomy in decision-making regarding the recovery process empowers the embrace of your personal agency. When I impose my own agenda or beliefs on you, it says that I don’t really have confidence in your ability to heal.

9.Strengths-Based Approach:

Identify strengths, resources, skills, or coping mechanisms. You come to treatment with genuine insight, genuine abilities. My job may be simply to help you to identify the strengths that you may be overlooking and maybe that you have forgotten that you already possess. My job is not to give you something you don’t have. It is to help you recognize and bring to the surface gifts and talents that may have been buried by the substance use. Highlighting these strengths fosters empowerment.

10.Supporting Self-Efficacy:

Promote self-efficacy by acknowledging and reinforcing efforts, progress, and successes. Confidence is sometimes a feeling we see reflect on the eyes of others. When you have confidence in me, I begin to have confidence in myself. It is a two-way street. When I believe you can, you believe it too.

11.Addressing Ambivalence:

Recognize and explore ambivalence. Recovery from Substance Use Disorder involves an approach avoidance dynamic. It just does. I want it. (After all there is a reason I keep doing it.) I want it out of my life. (It creates more problems than it’s worth). This is simply true. Recovery is a complex process that involves processing lots of conflicting feelings. We might as well just admit it and not pretend it isn’t there. Only then can we begin to heal.

12.Ongoing Support & Reflection:

Provide ongoing support through regular counseling sessions and group work. Recovery takes time. You need the opportunity to reflect on their progress, tackle challenges, address setbacks, and nurture your own recovery-wisdom.

A Person-Centered approach to Substance Use Disorder puts the individual who has come to us for health at the center of the process. The counselor's role is to provide a supportive environment that promotes self-exploration, personal growth, and empowerment. By fostering a non-judgmental environment where individuals feel heard and understood, they gain insight into themselves and make choices align with their own values for recovery. They discover the simple truth that they really can build a more hopeful future.

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