Do Recovering Addicts Make Good Therapists?

4 min readSep 30, 2021


Getting clean and sober is very hard for those who have been abusing substances, but just as rewarding. There is nothing as satisfying, gratifying and joyful as leading a clean, normal life.

What is perhaps even more gratifying is giving back to society — helping other addicted persons toward an alcohol and drug-free life.

In fact, the tenets of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) encourage its members to spread the message to still suffering alcoholics, to maintain and strengthen their own sobriety.

“You keep what you have by giving it away”, as often quoted in AA literature.

It is common for an individual in recovery to be trained to become a professional addiction counsellor.

They can be a good source for the addiction treatment industry, as well as help the person in avoiding getting back into the problem they returned from.

Each time they are helping another person, they are inevitably reminded of where they’re coming from. This keeps them grounded and sober.

In some states of the USA, having recovering persons as part of their staff is a requirement to get federal support.

Becoming an addiction counsellor is not easy. It is not just a task of sharing and teaching what they learn during their own treatment or what they pick up at AA meetings.

Apart from a stable mental and spiritual condition, formal training in therapeutic tools is essential.

A broader knowledge base that includes related topics and developing skills in evidence-based methodologies enhances the effectiveness of therapy. Moreover, they need to get the appropriate licensing to practice.

In many ways, recovering persons (we prefer to say “recovering” instead of “recovered” since addiction is a chronic, relapse-prone disease) are perhaps best suited for this profession.

For those in recovery, it can transform from being a mere profession to the mission and can be the most rewarding life experience. It entails giving and helping, instead of taking and demanding, as normally practiced during active addiction.

But do they make effective, professional therapists?

Recovering Addicts as Addiction Therapists

Alcoholics and addicts who have managed to get into recovery have the first-hand experience of addiction, which gives them a unique insight into the way an addict thinks and behaves.

They are uniquely equipped to understand the pain, trauma, shame, guilt, low self-esteem, and denial patterns of the patient.

They have been there and done that. They truly understand the addict’s emotional and psychological state — they do not have to pretend.

They will also refrain from being judgemental as they have experienced the helplessness of the addict’s behaviour.

They know it is not just a matter of moral deficiency, faulty upbringing or influences. It’s more than that, including genetics and brain chemicals.

It’s not even matters of choice or will power after the addiction begins to take control. Who would consciously choose to become an addict or alcoholic?

Some reasons why recovering addicts make good therapists:

  • Recovering addicts (or alcoholics) are equipped with empathy and understanding that is unmatched in those who have never been drug addicts or alcoholics
  • They can establish a positive counsellor-client relationship because addiction counselling is more about a comfortable two-way relationship of trust and identification Counselling then becomes significantly more effective
  • It is not easy to mislead a recovering addict — he is (or she) is familiar with the manipulative ways of addicts. The recovered addict knows the common ploys and manipulations of the addict. He (or she) has played the same games and cannot be outwitted by manipulations of addicts. This helps in breaking through the wall of denial

On the downside, there is always a possibility of transference and countertransference. The therapist may start identifying strongly with the client, and his empathy may turn into sympathy.

Such a situation will jeopardise the therapeutic process. This is where professional training, along with peer review, helps.

Addictions UK and its associates have a substantial number of recovering addicts/ alcoholics in its services team, including therapists.

This lends it a unique, profound, and genuine perspective of service that goes beyond economics.

Addictions UK has developed professional training programs that equip recovering addicts to become effective counsellors in the growing field of addiction treatment.

These courses are designed by an experienced and certified faculty, in collaboration with our overseas partner: Hope Trust India.

For more details on our training programs, telephone Freephone 0800 140 4044, or e-mail

Post navigation




We specialise in Detox at Home and Addiction Treatments. We use medically qualified staff located throughout the UK who are supported by accredited councillors.