There are many different forms of counseling techniques that clinicians will learn throughout their training and years of experience. Whether a therapist will choose to implement one technique over another is based on that person’s comfort level, experience, and preference. The question that counselors often ask themselves is whether a particular therapeutic approach meets the individual needs of the person in therapy.
A technique that is occasionally implemented with people recovering from substance abuse is confrontational counseling. In this approach, the therapist confronts a person on his or her behavior, attitude, and beliefs. The purpose of this technique is to the person take ownership for their behavior, and it urges them to be honest with themselves and their environment. This approach may be seen as being unfair and overly abrupt. At times, this technique works for people who need someone to make them personally responsible for their lies or other detrimental behavior. This is especially beneficial for people who are lying and trying to justify their behavior (i.e., usually it is their substance use they are trying to justify).
At times, this approach can be brutally honest, which can cause people to feel defensive and believe they are being judged. If the confrontational approach is not used in the context of a soft tone, it can come across as being biased. When dealing with substance abuse, the ultimate question for the therapist is what method of counseling will best meet the needs of the client. If a person is relapsing and using illicit substances, he or she will need to be confronted about the negative behavior. These people need to comprehend that their behavior can cause harm to them and that they are hurting the people around them. But does that mean they should not figure this out on their own? Should the therapist guide them through the path of self-realization?
Often in counseling programs, we therapists are taught to be sympathetic and understanding and nurture people toward the goal of self-realization of their mental health issues. The confrontational method is really the opposite of what many therapists are taught. The confrontational approach usually results in instructing people about what they are doing, telling them how they should be acting to correct the negative behavior, and making judgments about them. It leaves no room for softness, empathy, and understanding. Sometimes people may become confused because they do not understand the point of confrontation, while other times they may be appreciative.
This is not to say that the confrontational method is not an effective method to use for individuals who are struggling with substance abuse. This method is useful for people who want someone to be honest with them and tell them about their behavior and show them that they are not being truthful. This method seems to work with individuals who are looking to be confronted so that they can come to terms with the reality of their substance use. The confrontational method is not good for individuals who are looking to work through their issues and wanting to come to the conclusion of substance use on their own. The individual who is looking for an unbiased method and softer tone also would not seek this type of therapy. Whatever method is implemented, it is strongly recommended that therapists recognize the strengths of their training and carefully consider what method a person will respond to positively.
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