SURVIVAL SKILLS Training the addiction counsellors of tomorrow

When 526 British Columbians died of illicit drug overdoses in 2015, the Provincial Health Officer declared a public health emergency. By 2017, that number had more than doubled and continues to add to the opioid crisis being felt around the world.

While we in B.C. often hear about first responders and volunteers saving lives in tent cities and back alleys, less known, perhaps, is that the majority of overdoses (72 per cent) happen inside the home.

"Problematic substance use affects a wide range of people,” says VCC addiction counselling instructor Andrew Stone. "It is very common to see clients with homes, careers, and families seeking support."

VCC has been training professional addiction counsellors since 1980. Over the years, the curriculum has evolved with advancements in harm reduction strategies, pharmacological treatments, and client-centred recovery. “We now focus more on what our client’s version of what recovery looks like instead of us telling them,” says Andrew.

VCC’s unique counselling practicums offer experience in real-world settings like drop-in facilities and substance-use treatment centres.

Andrew Stone posing outside VCC downtown campus

The next update to VCC’s addiction counselling program will be in Fall 2019. Alongside the latest practices and treatments, the revised program will include new, higher-level career pathways through an Addiction Counselling Advanced Certificate, partnerships with professional counselling associations, and a future diploma.

As opioid-related deaths continue to devastate B.C. communities, addictions counsellors are more in-demand than ever. According to Andrew, a public drop-in client today often waits two to three weeks for follow-up counselling – all the while in serious danger of overdosing.

"We need more resources out there," says Andrew, who is eager to see future VCC grads at work. "Our students are learning from folks who are working in the field. They're really seeing what’s needed in the community right now."

GOOD
REASONS TO
HELP