> Competency 1: Introduction to FASD > 12. Issues Related to Professional Values and Ethics: Counselor, Know Thyself
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.