Clinicians must be prepared to recognize that addiction is a disease and it’s a very serious and fatal disease, which is often written off as a weakness or poor moral character, or something like that. Only by recognizing it as a disease can they really help their patients through compassion, through empathy, but also through setting very strong boundaries.
One of the questions that we ask practitioners is to think about how past experiences with someone with a substance use disorder or addiction might affect their current feelings about the patient with addiction and how those feelings might then influence their treatment of the patient. Often the responses include things like feeling anger, disgust, frustration. And if someone is not self-aware of these feelings and their antecedents, it can tremendously affect the care they provide to these patients, and in turn, how the patients feel about themselves. Patients in the late stage of addiction are already feeling really bad about themselves and so the self-awareness is important in providing the best overall quality of care for patients with substance use disorders.