"Day-to-Day, It's a Roller Coaster. It's Frustrating. It's Rewarding. It's Maddening and It's Enjoyable": A Qualitative Investigation of the Lived Experiences of Addiction Counselors

David E. Oberleitner, Ruthanne Marcus, Mark Beitel, Dharushana Muthulingam, Lindsay M.S. Oberleitner, Lynn M. Madden, Anthony Eller, Declan T. Barry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Psychologists in medication for addiction treatment (MAT) settings routinely oversee the work of addiction counselors as supervisors, administrators, and human resource specialists. Limited research has explored the lived experiences of counselors who work in programs that have scaled-up MAT in response to the opioid crisis in the U.S. Thirty-one addiction counselors who worked in MAT programs that had scaled-up treatment capacity were interviewed about 3 facets of their lived experiences: work roles, work motivation, and perceived responses of others to their work. Interviews were taped and transcribed. An interdisciplinary team reviewed and coded the transcripts using grounded theory analysis. The main work roles that emerged were counselor, educator, and advocate. Counselors described multiple factors related to intrinsic motivation for their work: family and personal history, altruism, enjoyment of challenges and client complexity, and witnessing and facilitating change. Factors related to extrinsic motivation were workplace opportunities and positive feedback. The main themes concerning responses of nonclients were positive feedback; others' narratives; negative feedback focused on the stigma associated with the treatment, the clients who receive it, and the counselors who provide it; and responses to anticipated negative feedback. Responses from clients were largely positive and focused on appreciation and respect. Psychologists in MAT settings can enhance the lived experiences of addiction counselors by helping them to savor positive feedback from clients and others, to recognize and appreciate their unique skillsets, and to recognize and address (not internalize) the multiple sources of stigma they encounter as addiction counselors.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Services
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019

Keywords

  • Counselor
  • Life experiences
  • Medication assisted treatment
  • Opioid-related disorder
  • Stigma

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