Substance Abuse Counselors: Should They Disclose Personal Information to Patients?

Substance abuse counselors are expected to keep their patient’s records confidential at all times. This is part of the code of ethics that govern the practice of their profession. But what if we turn the tables and ask: Should substance abuse counselors disclose their personal information to their patients? Should their records be kept confidential?

The lives of substance abuse counselors

There are substance abuse counselors who have once used illegal substances in their lives. Well, this tags them as people who are recovering from alcohol abuse or drug abuse. When they know they once recovered from such a predicament in their lives, should they disclose the information to their patients? Or is this a very personal issue that they should not let anybody know about it?

What do substance abuse counselors think about disclosing their personal information to patients?

Some substance abuse counselors will think that this is a non-issue. This is as discussed by Brian Duffy in his article for the Vendome Group. This means that it really does not matter whether or not a counselor is in recovery or has recovered from substance abuse. Duffy says that some may even jokingly say that they are recovering from life.

Why do some substance abuse counselors disclose?

It is because of the belief that self-disclosure will mean a better bond with patients. Well, come to think of it, disclosure may create a comfortable atmosphere that will allow patients to disclose facts about their lives with the substance abuse professional.

These patients oftentimes conclude that counselors have to be in recovery to be able to deal with this very challenging problem that affects another person. Whether this is true or not, a counselor can use the logic to establish rapport with his client. In addition, this guides the patient to go on with the task of dealing with sober people no matter how intimidating it can be.

Are there pitfalls substance abuse counselors may encounter with disclosure?

Credibility may be questioned in cases when substance abuse counselors disclose their personal information to clients. This is because there are those who use personal disclosure to be able to let patients know that they are well-versed with everything when it comes to alcohol abuse, drug abuse and the like.

In addition to that, personal disclosure will sometimes make clients feel that the counselors may not understand their plight. What if the counselor says he has tried marijuana and the client says his case is different because he used cocaine instead. That can create a problem in that the client will feel that the counselor does not really empathize with his situation.

So, should substance abuse counselors disclose or not?

The answer will depend upon a couple of factors. For one, the counselor can consider the organizational set-up. There are hospitals that will restrict a counselor from disclosing about his past to his patients. You may ask why such restriction is being imposed in these organizations. Well, this is to avoid splitting up the staff. For instance, when one says he is in recovery to that of a patient, there is a tendency that the latter will choose to talk to him over other staff members or vice versa. This can cause conflict within the work environment.

Aside from work setting, the substance abuse counselor must also consider how his patients react to the scenario. In like manner, the expert must also know the reasons behind why he should make a personal disclosure.

This Article is written by Lena Butler, contributor of Health & Drug Testing Information Center.

Lena Butler

My name is Lena Butler. I live in San Diego, California. I work as a customer service representative for I attended the University of San Diego and majored in marketing. I enjoy spending time at home, working on my painting and playing with my two pet rabbits, Carl and Lenny, when I am not here sharing interesting posts :)

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