By Katherine Jenkins, Head of the Centre for Addiction Treatment Studies, Action on
I've heard it said that addictions counselling is 'all about the 12 steps'.
The 12 step programme is a well-established and respected approach to supporting recovery
from addiction. It has been described by many people I have worked with as 'a life
However, in my experience it is also not the only way to treat addiction and support recovery
and it doesn't suit everyone. Addiction is a very complex issue, the consequences of which
are wide ranging.
It is non-discriminatory - it can and will affect people from every walk of life. Its reach
extends beyond that of the individual experiencing the devastating effects of their
addiction. It infiltrates their family members, friends, the communities in which they live
and society as a whole.
Therefore, given the multiplicity of factors associated with addiction, our addictions
counselling degree can't just focus on the 12 step programme. We should and do cover a
number of other core areas of counselling to enable students to develop the skills and
knowledge needed, to competently work with addiction and the many issues related to it. As
professionals we need to learn about a range of evidenced based interventions to address
this level of complexity.
For any individual working in a helping profession the ability to reflect on their own
practice, learn lessons from their experiences and understand how internal and external
factors influence their own decision making is absolutely crucial. Consequently, there is a
core requirement of personal and professional development for every student across the
degree programme, which is assessed in the form of a portfolio submitted at the end of each
Similarly, the development of a student's person-centred counselling skills is focused on as
soon as they start their first year of study which then leads in to the development of
motivational interviewing (MI) skills. This approach, first developed by William Miller and
Stephan Rollnick in the 1980s, is a directive, client-centred counselling style. It can be
applied to any presenting need which requires a change in behaviour by helping clients to
explore and resolve ambivalence. This includes addiction, but is also extremely relevant and
widely used in other areas such as obesity, phobias, making life decisions, managing medical
condition such as diabetes and more. In fact, it's quite hard to think of an area where the
use of MI would not be helpful.
Importantly, as part of the curriculum students develop their understanding and practical use
of cognitive behavioural interventions - how do our core beliefs about ourselves, our
relationships and beyond impact how we respond to the strains and stressors of life? What if
our responses create more problems for us, cause us more harm? How can we support people to
think about things in a different way to help change negative responses into more positive
We also explore the relevance and use of interpersonal group therapy in the context of
addiction treatment and students develop their understanding of the potential benefits as
well as the application of both 1:1 and group interventions in treating complex
The work based learning nature of our degree means students are required to apply what they
learn in the classroom to real life professional practice. Every student is required to be
in a suitable community or residential treatment placement, where they are supported to
practically develop their therapeutic skills. Our placement providers play an integral role
in shaping the professionals of the future and the unique relationship between the Centre
for Addiction Treatment Studies, the University of Bath and placement providers enhance the
learning opportunities and environment for all our brilliant students.
I have only touched upon some of the core elements of our degree – the threads which run
throughout each year, but we also cover many more related subjects such as:
- Assessment and treatment planning
- 12 steps and mutual aid
- Harm reduction
- Relapse prevention
- Family work
If you'd like to find out more about our addictions counselling degree then call us on 01985 843780 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.