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Your Opiate Treatment Counselor Has a Plan For You

What's it like to attend an opiate treatment program?
What’s it like to attend an opiate treatment program?

If you’re considering whether to go into some kind of opiate treatment center for help with heroin or pain pill addiction, then you should give yourself a pat on the back. It takes a lot of guts and gumption to face your demons and admit that you need help. But the risks of dying from opiate addiction are too great. You can get tired and give up if you just keep using. The good news is that treatment is easily accessible, and the counselors at your local opiate treatment center will help you develop a recovery plan.

Treatment counselors are required by the agencies that regulate them to create treatment plans for their clients. The counselor can’t create the treatment plan without input from one very important person: You. The development of your treatment plan relies on your strengths, needs, abilities, and preferences, which substance abuse treatment professionals refer to as “SNAP.” So what is your SNAP and how can you use it to make recovery easier?

Deciding on Opiate Treatment Isn’t Easy

Before we even get to that part, let’s step back a minute to that word, easier. There are very few things about opiate treatment that are easy. The day that you phone your local methadone treatment program to ask about help is not an easy day. It’s not an easy decision! It would be so much easier to go on doing what you’ve been doing. There is some level of enjoyment from drugs that you have been using, at least in the past, or you wouldn’t have become addicted. For many people, the enjoyment of doing drugs is a long-ago memory. Today their addiction is just a horrible chase for a drug that does nothing but make the day bearable.

So don’t dwell on that word, easier. Even though there will be times when you hate yourself and everybody at the methadone treatment program, including the counselor that you will get to know so well, everyone there recognizes the effort it takes to stay clean. Your efforts are always respected.

The Treatment Plan

Substance abuse treatment professionals throw so many words and documents at you, and many of them contain phrases that you just don’t understand. You read that a treatment center provides person-centered care, and that treatment professionals utilize evidence-based practices, but what does all that mean?

It boils down to the fact that treatment planning depends upon what your individual needs are—person-centered care—and what kinds of treatment have worked for people in the past—evidence-based practices. Your individual needs plus the counselor’s knowledge of treatment are combined for a plan of treatment that is specific to your strengths, your needs, your abilities, and your preferences. Opiate treatment professionals have to consider all aspects of your personality combined with your lifestyle and life experiences in order to come up with your SNAP.

Strengths: Sometimes people who have become victims of addiction feel so beaten down by the world that they cannot recognize their own strengths. But you have them, both tangible and intangible:

What are your principles? There are lines of behavior that you would not cross, codes that you live by, that form your principles, and whatever your principles are, even if they seem abstract, they are your strengths.

Another intangible strength can be your religion or your spirituality. You don’t have to be a church-goer, but your belief in a higher power that keeps the universe running gives you strength to draw from.

Many people have supportive families, and many do not. If you are lucky enough to have family who have your back, then your family is a strength. If your family’s needs seem to drag you down—if you have a spouse who also uses, for example, or if you live with someone who wreaks some kind of abuse on you—then they become an issue that you can hopefully learn to deal with at some point down the road.

If you have the ability to work or go to school, then that is a strength. If you have good health, consider it as a strength. If you have children and you are able to feed and dress them every day, then you are doing that by drawing on your inner strengths.

Needs: What do you need to do in order to succeed as an individual, beyond stopping your use of drugs? Maybe you need to finish school. Maybe you need to get away from an abusive spouse. Maybe you need a lawyer to help you fight some legal problems. If you are simply lonely and you need companionship, your counselor wants to know that also. All of your needs become important in the formulation of your treatment plan.

Abilities: Consider yourself lucky or blessed if you can read, write, and add up numbers, because many people cannot. Whatever skills you have—typing, construction skills—they fall under your Abilities. If you learn from your errors, and you know how to ask for help, those are important abilities that you possess.

Preferences: These are the things that your counselor should consider when putting together your Plan of Treatment. Do you have some reason to prefer a male counselor over a female counselor? Truly, both male and female counselors acquire the ability to work with clients of all types, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, age, and so forth. However, if your lifestyle experiences mean that you will work better with a specific type of counselor, those preferences must be considered. Other preferences could be attending evening sessions versus morning sessions. Again, preferences should be based on your daily schedule or your responsibilities with your family and not just because you like to sleep in. But once you’ve identified your preferences, every effort will be made to meet them.

SNAP Leads to Goals

Once your strengths, needs, abilities, and preferences are identified, the opiate treatment counselor helps you to determine your goals. You may think as you go into treatment that you have no idea what your goals are—but consider this one question: What drove you into treatment? If you called the methadone treatment program because a judge ordered you to do so, then your goal is to stay out of jail. If you called for help because your best friend just overdosed and died from heroin, then your goal is to stay alive. And those are both pretty important goals.

Think about what your life would be like if you didn’t have an addiction to opiates. What kind of house would you have? Would you work or go to school? Do you wish you had better relationships with your family members? All of these questions plus many others can help you to use your SNAP to reach your goals. Your life can become what you always dreamed about.

But none of that will come true for you unless you take that first important step and call for help. Nobody at the treatment center will scoff at the things that got you into trouble or the drugs you’ve been using. They understand the compulsions of addiction and they are there to help you. But your life cannot change until you take the one, important, first step: Pick up the phone today, make the call, and ask when you can come in and talk to someone.


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