If you or a loved one had a heart condition, would you want to be treated by a general physician or by a cardiologist? You would choose a cardiologist because he or she has the specialized training needed to provide the best treatment for a heart condition. The same thinking should apply when you seek out addiction treatment for yourself or your loved one. When you or your loved one is experiencing addiction, working with a licensed or certified addiction professional, along with others in the continuum of care, is your best choice for achieving long-term recovery.
Addiction is a complex disease that involves all parts of the person whose brain has been hijacked by a substance. The brain is changed; therefore, a person’s thought processes and behaviors change. A person with an addiction is focused on two things: protecting the supply of his or her substance of choice and finding ways to “cover” the disease. Denial of the substance use, including the depth of, frequency of, and means of use, is just a part of the progression of substance-use disorders. To properly recognize and treat the complexity of addiction and any potential co-occurring disorders, the treating counselor, social worker, psychologist or other mental health professional must be a licensed or credentialed addiction professional.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has laid out the required competencies, knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to be an addiction professional. A licensed or credentialed addiction professional has specialized training in understanding addiction, treatment knowledge, application to practice and professional readiness, and will have demonstrated by education, experience and examination the requisite knowledge and skills to provide prevention, screening, intervention and treatment for substance misuse and addiction. Addiction professionals can distinguish between the presenting problem (addiction) and any corollary issues. Failing to properly identify, diagnose and treat an addiction can be fatal.
A licensed or certified addiction professional is the best first choice for an at-risk person with a substance-use disorder. Addiction-specific education, training and clinical supervision matters. It can make the difference in creating successful pathways to recovery for those affected by substance-use disorder. It can be the difference between life and death.
Cynthia Moreno Tuohy, NCAC II, CDC III, SAP, Executive Director, NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, [email protected]