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Competency 1: Introduction to FASD

Issues Related to Professional Values and Ethics, Continued

Counselor, Know Thyself

Learning about FASD can raise many issues for the addiction professional. Addictions professionals have been socialized within a culture that judges and stigmatizes women who harm their children. This attitude is reflected in the punitive measures some states take against women who abuse alcohol during pregnancy.

Some professionals may, unconsciously or consciously, hold similar attitudes towards women who drink alcohol while they are pregnant. Even well trained professional can harbor preconceived notions about how pregnant women and mothers are supposed to act, feel, or think. They may have insufficient knowledge about alcohol abuse during pregnancy or lack the skills to build relationship that are respectful and safe and that allow the women to explore painful issues, such as having a child with an FASD.

Many addiction professionals are recovering from alcohol disorders. Others, who have no alcohol abuse history of their own, have been close to someone else’s active addiction. This firsthand experience can add to the counseling process. But sometimes it can complicate the process, especially if counselors recognize signs and symptoms of FASD in their own children. The experience of recognizing FASD in their own children can lead counselors to feelings of guilt and shame.

Counselors should be aware that their personal experiences with alcohol use disorders and their attitudes and values about motherhood and pregnancy influence the therapeutic relationship. A counselor’s self-assessment regarding his or her knowledge of women-specific alcohol use disorders and appropriate interventions for women, especially women of child bearing age and parenting women, can help establish a starting point and support strategies for building capacity and providing quality care. If a counselor is experiencing feelings of guilt and shame, it is important to seek help to resolve these feeling and to get help for one’s own children.

Recognizing these feelings and addressing them can help the counselor set limits, protect boundaries, and avoid transferring these feelings to the client. In addition, it can help the counselor avoid self-disclosure that might make clients uncomfortable or inappropriately shift the focus to the counselor.

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