addictions counselling and employment counselling

i am currently taking a course on “core addictions practice”, a soon-to-be required course for people wanting to practice in the addictions field in our health authority. since i also work in the field of employment counselling, i thought it would be interesting to think about how ideas from addictions counselling can be applied to the work of a career practitioner. here is an example:

one “checkpoint” in addictions counselling is to consider “set, setting, dose”. “set” refers to mindset, “setting” refers to the physical and social setting, and “dose” refers to the type and amount of a substance used or behaviour practiced, and considerations of how set and setting affect dose. for example, if sue, who just had a fight with her parents and is upset over it (“set”), is going to a party with her friends where there is much drinking (“setting”), then before going to the party, she could think about setting a limit on how much she is going to smoke and drink (“dose”), because she knows that alcohol has a stronger effect on her when she is upset.

an interesting question here is, what is the equivalent of drinking in job search? excessive drinking is harmful. what are harmful/unhelpful behaviours in job search? possible candidates:

  • using only the computer for job search
  • doing many non-job search related activities on the computer during the job search
  • avoidance: excessive TV watching, eating, sleeping, etc.
  • distraction: cleaning, shopping, etc.

examples of helpful behaviours:

  • knocking on doors
  • staying in regular contact with networks
  • actively limiting non-job related internet use
  • learning about writing effective cover letters

mindsets – examples:

  • happy, serene, hopeful, positive, etc.
  • neutral, realistic, up-and-down, etc.
  • negative, depressed, hopeless, angry

settings – examples:

  • home (bedroom? office?)
  • knocking on doors
  • employment resource centre
  • coffee shop

an example might be: joe is sitting in a coffee shop where he reads that job openings in his industry are rising and feels hopeful. this prompts him to phone up an ex co-worker and invite him to have coffee.

questions for career practitioners:

  • would it be helpful for clients to know about set, setting, dose and how they influence each other?
  • we do a lot of work around positive behaviour, a little less about positive mindset, and very little about setting. what would it look like if we turned that on its head?
  • how about an exercise where we ask clients to physically visit a place that makes them feel happy?
  • at the most, our clients’ lives are 12% about job search (if they spend 20 hours a week on it); the rest is other things (at least overtly; they may spend quite a bit more time thinking about it). how are the remaining 88% influencing them? what would it be like if we thought about helping there in addition to with their job search, just like sue might be helped with her drinking if she had a better handle on how to approach conflicts with her parents?


  1. Hi Isabella
    In my opinion ….and currently working in the field of addictions I would say that awareness re: set, setting ,dose could be very beneficial. In general I find that many of my clients are very impulsive. Any awareness and ability to step back and think about things would be helpful. Many folks feel they have no control over their negative feelings…..feelings come and drugs will take them away. Mindfulness and awareness of when, where and how much we are using can give them an opportunity be aware of the “clues” long before the drug use starts.

    Positive mindset and setting….again having some control over your thoughts and feelings. Being able to direct them could be so beneficial. Many feel “victim” to their drug use.
    Visiting a place or doing an activity which makes you happy……..great idea. Again the control factor. We do have some control.

  2. Hey ya..counselling is good for ya ina way of expressing your feeling to another sole.. so they don’t seem as big,, but I hope your a recovering addict, cause would you ask a man what it’s like to give birth to a child.. or would you ask another woman who has had a child what it is like, untill you have walked in the our shoes you really have no idea what it’s like to recover, short of reading it in a book..JJ

  3. thanks for your comments, jj and michele.

    the question of whether a person who helps someone else with addiction should be someone with lived experience is an interesting one. it certainly can be helpful. is it necessary, though? if we took this to the extreme, then murderers would never be able to get good counselling because the majority of counsellors probably have never killed anyone. for sure, though, the counsellor who DOES not have personal experience with addiction would have to have an extra load of empathy as well as a good imagination.

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