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Treatment for substance abuse and addiction is an ongoing process that includes counseling and making lifestyle changes. Intensive outpatient programs for substance abuse can be just as effective as residential treatment, with the added benefit of being able to live in your own home and continue working or attending school.1 Unfortunately, some programs engage in outpatient treatment counselor bad practices that you should be aware of during your recovery process.

Outpatient Treatment Programs

When you enroll in an outpatient treatment program for addiction, you have the freedom to continue living at home as you work on your full recovery. You can still go to work or school and maintain the commitments you may have to your family and loved ones. You will go to your therapy sessions and then be able to return to the privacy of your own home.

Avoiding Outpatient Treatment Counselor Bad Practices

While undergoing therapy, you will begin to understand the causes and triggers associated with your addiction. You will likely undergo individual and group therapy in addition to educational programming as an outpatient. Self-discovery and self-awareness of your behaviors are what make these sessions such an important part of your recovery.

However, the success of your recovery is firmly associated with the strategies and techniques of the counselors who are treating you. It’s imperative that you avoid outpatient treatment counselor bad practices that can impede your recovery and threaten a lasting sobriety. Here are some of the most common bad practices.

Group Therapy Participants

When participating in group therapy, be sure that your counselor has placed you in a homogeneous group of people who are working toward goals that are similar to yours. Some outpatient treatment counselor bad practices include putting together groups for therapy that are inappropriate, such as mixing together relatives or neighbors who know one another. This can be fine for family therapy sessions, but it is not ideal for group therapy.

The sizes of groups in therapy matter, too. Some counselors may decide that larger groups will be more efficient for them, time-wise, when leading sessions. However, most inpatient therapy group sessions should not exceed 15 members, with eight being the optimal number.2

Individual Counseling

This treatment modality is an important component of therapy. Individual counseling is used to address the immediate problems associated with substance use disorders to achieve long-lasting sobriety.

One form of outpatient treatment counselor bad practices is meeting less than once a week for 30 to 50 minutes of individual therapy. An excellent counselor will meet with a patient once a week or more often, especially in the early stages of treatment.

Educational Programming

Treatment counselors need to be knowledgeable about the subject matter they include in their educational presentations. When a therapy leader does not know how to support their presentations with the appropriate materials or is unable to provide patients with the resources they need, the counselor is not acting in the best interests of patients. Outpatient treatment counselor bad practices such as this will not foster a meaningful discussion during the programming, which can lead to a conversation about personal experiences to help bring about personal change.

Ensure that the counselor leading your outpatient therapy sessions is qualified to do so. Be sure that you are getting the correct types of therapy you require for overcoming substance use and remaining sober.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4152944/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64094/
Outpatient Treatment Counselor Bad Practices To Watch For
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