Addiction Counselors Should Become Familiar with “Recovery”

What are some things an addiction professional can do to become familiar with “Recovery”? 

Suggestions include:

  • Attend open meetings (Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Smart Recovery, etc.)
  • Read the Alcoholics Anonymous “Big Book” and the Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text
  • Listen to recovery Speakers on online media
  • Read recovery memoirs
  • Sit in on a whole program length of a particular treatment modality
  • After study and consideration, tell their supervisor or fellow counselors what their personal strengths are, and how they apply to recovery
  • Become a “Recovery Carrier” – begin to develop a personal story of transformation, and foster awareness of that
  • Read the Alcoholics Anonymous “12 Steps and 12 Traditions”
  • Read Narcotics Anonymous “Living Clean”
  • Listen to narrations of the Big Book
  • Attend a recovery community conference
  • Identify something you overcame; go back and work the Steps on that; and then work them on the next thing.
  • Attend alumni meetings or gatherings and hear their stories
  • Read a daily meditation book for a sustained period (e.g. a year)
  • Read the Language of Letting Go
  • Gather, accumulate, study, and meditate on recovery slogans
  • Attend a Peer Support specialist training – acquire their energy and thought process
  • Take on the learner mindset and retain it
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously
  • Don’t be too perfect
  • Value shared experience
  • Listen for hope and value it; get in a place to witness it

The list goes on. What ideas or suggestions would you add? 

Given the level of seriousness connected with addiction illness, it would be generally beneficial for addiction counselors of all kinds to have more than just an intellectual familiarity with, or working knowledge of, Recovery. 

Of all kinds?  Who really needs this knowledge?  In my estimation, any addiction professional, including those with a remitted moderate to severe substance use disorder of their own.  Why would I also qualify them as needing that knowledge? In my decades of clinical work in addiction treatment modalities that by design neither encouraged, discouraged, nor required a personal “recovery identity” for their patients or staff, I personally saw the value of this knowledge when it was present, and know it should not be assumed to be present in anyone.  Who else needs this knowledge?  Those staff who have no personal addiction history, those that do have a family member in “Recovery”, or with a family member still in the active phase of addiction illness…really anyone and everyone in an addiction-related service role.  We would all benefit from this knowledge, and there are no short-cuts to obtaining it.

What kind of knowledge are we really talking about?  Informational and experiential.  We are talking about information obtained at the intellectual level, and experiential knowledge that is only gained by doing.  And all of it held and grown at a level and in a way where the recovery-oriented knowing and waiting and doing and listening and speaking become less stilted and more intuitive.

To the extent we are personally unfamiliar with, or personally disconnected from, “Recovery” we should expect our inclusion of it to be relatively vague and less attractive.  And to the extent we are in that condition should we especially expect our prescribing or our therapy to transfer, trigger or bring “Recovery” about if we hope for that to happen?

As it pertains to the action list above, I envision a passionately motivated work force of mutually interdependent professionals strongly networked while undertaking such learning for a year or two – and discussing the process, discoveries, and creations as they progress. 


The author would like to thank the following addiction professionals for their input in building the above list of suggestions:  Cori Raddigan, Caroline Cooley, Christy Hilling, Dennie Kuppinger, Anna Bracknell, Neil Sondov, Joey Porchetta, and Bob Hennen. 


I encourage everyone to read this related document: “Toward a Core Recovery-focused Knowledge Base for Addiction Professionals and Recovery Support Specialists”

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