Person-Centred Care in Addiction Treatment

A person-centred approach to care in the addiction field can apply to two different areas: firstly to the overall care plan, and secondly to a type of counselling.

There were 275,896 adults in contact with drug and alcohol services between April 2020 and March 2021.

While this might seem a high number, it’s obvious that there are many more people living with problematic substance use who aren’t in contact with services or who are getting support in contexts that aren’t included in this statistic.

As such, there are many more people struggling with addiction than initially meets the eye.

Here we’ll look at what person-centred care and counselling are and what makes them so effective in treating addiction.

What Is Person-Centred Care?

Women talking 1-1

Person or patient-centred care is centred around the goals of the patient. A care plan is devised that empowers and enables the individual to reach these goals.

The team of professionals involved in a patient’s care use all the tools and resources at their disposal to facilitate the actions of the plan.

The plan will take into account the person that the patient wants to be.

It focuses on the patient’s strengths in order to facilitate growth. It gives the person at the centre a voice and an active role in their healing process.

Where a person suffers from problematic substance use, the person-centred care offered at rehab treatment facilities is instrumental in equipping people with the skills to recover and in planning to remain sober and have a meaningful life.

One study reported that this type of care “may strengthen the responsiveness of treatments for people with problematic substance use”.

What Is Trauma-Informed Care And Why Is It Relevant In Addiction Treatment?

Two men talking at a table

A trauma-informed practice and approach to clinical care is becoming more and more popular, especially in relation to substance-related disorders.

One of the most common factors that people with addictions have is experiences of trauma, whether it’s physical, sexual or emotional.

Staff who are trauma- informed understand the types of trauma that occur and their long-lasting effects.

A person experiences ongoing implications and mental, emotional and physical reactions to trauma in the present, even if the traumatic events occurred years before.

This can eventually lead to serious illnesses.

At treatment clinics, it is likely that trauma-linked triggers and effects will be identified during the assessment of clients.

If a person is suffering with extreme trauma (i.e. PTSD) then a dual diagnosis might be identified. Staff offer care for both addiction and mental health conditions.

This is why trauma-informed care is vital. It provides a more solid basis to heal from, and the treatment process itself has more long-lasting results.

1. Client And Family-Centred Care

Client and family-centred care is a wider approach. Not only are the client needs a focus, but the client’s family background is also considered.

This means that culture, heritage, family values, beliefs, etc. are all taken into account.

Regular communication with the family and family members are facilitated through various therapies.

This collaboration has a positive effect on the dynamics of the family and can make interactions and behaviours much healthier.

2. Person-Centred Therapy

A person-centred approach to therapy means the client is supported using a particular skill set in order to reach a particular place of healing.

Person-Centred Therapy (PCT) is also known as Rogerian therapy because it was developed by Carl Rogers.

It is a humanistic modality meaning that it puts the client and their abilities at the centre of the work. It assumes that clients are resourceful and capable.

Before this type of therapy was developed, counselling tended to be medically-based.

Psychoanalysis (where PCT evolved from), perhaps the ultimate of traditional approaches, assumed there was something “wrong” with the client.

The therapy is non-directive, meaning the counsellor doesn’t lead, guide, advise or make recommendations.

It is the counsellor’s job to facilitate the client’s growth and ability to change through effective questioning.

During sessions, the client identifies how they see themselves, rather than being subjected to the interpretation of the therapist. Through the therapeutic relationship, the client is also able to develop new feelings about themselves and come to clearer self-understanding, which brings them to a place of learning, discovery and change.

When Is PCT Effective With Clients?

A man sitting with a female therapist who is holding a clipboard

Person-Centred Therapy is truly beneficial for some clients, life-changing for many. However, it truly does require a person to be committed in order to be successful.

It’s used in the treatment of mental health (i.e. for anxiety, depression, trauma conditions), for people with problematic substance use, and where people seek it out who are experiencing issues with a particular event or thing (i.e. bereavement and grief, relationship problems etc.).

PCT is particularly beneficial when incorporated into the care for substance use. It’s been shown time and time again that holistic care – care that considers the individual as a whole – is the most effective.

When used alongside other treatments, groups and healthy activities such as motivational interviewing, the 12 Step treatment model, and art therapies, PCT becomes a powerful space within which one can heal.

It’s also a therapy that can work well together with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (an evidence-based practice) which is used widely in rehab clinics. The integration of care and therapy approaches increases the ability to change.

What person-centred therapy does really well is focus on the self. Many clients aren’t in touch with their authentic selves, suffering from internalised barriers that keep them from fully engaging with their deeper wants, needs and identities.

For the first time in their lives, they’ll start to develop deep self-awareness, self-confidence and compassion, alongside a far more thorough self-understanding.

The Goals Of Person-Centred Therapy

Adventure Therapy

The therapist or counsellor in person-centred treatment is trained in this modality.

There is a particular skill set to this approach and a set of strict guidelines, techniques, and core conditions that the professional will use and aim to facilitate within the therapeutic relationship.

In the UK, counsellors are overseen by governing bodies in order to ensure they’re working within ethical frameworks.

As part of this, they have to receive particular training and, while practicing, will be in counselling themselves and also have regular supervision.

Their own experience of undergoing therapeutic treatment across a length of time means they reach a point of deep self-awareness.

This, along with building an authentic relationship with healthy boundaries, enables them to view their client with one of the “core conditions” of PCT: unconditional positive regard.

There is no judgement and deep empathy is born, which is experienced by the client who starts to build self-esteem and confidence.

The therapeutic relationship supports the client to identify discrepancies between their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours and to develop the confidence to bring these into harmony so that the client achieves congruence, or inner harmony.

In theory, when the core conditions are achieved the client builds self-worth, confidence, and is empowered to self-actualise.

What Happens In A PCT Session


Person-centred therapy is used regularly in addiction treatment clinics. Quite often the counsellor will use an integrative approach, meaning they’ll use PCT techniques combined with others.

What needs to be pointed out is that PCT, like any therapy, only works if the client is honest, truly committed to the experience and does the necessary emotional work.

Full immersion brings the most successful results.

In PCT, talking is the basis of the work. Silences are very common and this can make some clients feel uncomfortable.

The space of silence, though, is key in supporting the client to continue to process thoughts and emotions and to reach new realisations.

The client will identify coping mechanisms and resources they already have and can use, and as they do so, this will increase their confidence.

What Makes Person-Centred Therapy Useful In The Treatment of Addiction?


PCT is a client-centred therapy.

The therapist and approach view the client through a lens which assumes they are resourceful and have the capacity to find their own answers and to identify how to change and grow.

It’s a therapy where the client finds a space of self-compassion and deep self-awareness.

Both of these qualities have value in healing and are huge themes for people in recovery.

The therapist-client contact and connection are instrumental in supporting the client to find a space of vulnerability.

This is usually discovered between the concept of self-image and a person’s reality.

When the core conditions are created, the client is given the prime conditions for change and growth to occur.

During the sessions, the client will truthfully see the difference between who they are and who they want to be. The client will start to discover their strengths and how to become the person that they want to be.

Another great aspect of person-centred therapy is that it takes the focus off the substance.

This is useful for all addictions, but especially where there is opioid use disorder and alcohol use disorders which obviously create deep physical dependence as well as psychological addiction.

In rehab clinics, the therapy is incorporated as part of a wider treatment package running alongside other treatments. This improves its effectiveness and increases the chances of a successful long-term recovery.

Rehab clinics and therapeutic approaches


There are many different therapeutic models (also known as counselling modalities) and when these (alongside PCT) are incorporated into a person-centred care plan, a person has the highest chances of recovery.

As a person looking for a rehab clinic, it’s beneficial to find out about the different models of counselling, what you’re more attracted to, and which clinics offer which model.

The more you’re interested in a particular type of counselling, the more likely it is to work successfully and  improve the quality of your care.

Final thoughts

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For people in active addiction, the best treatment care approach is a person-centred one. It makes their goals and desires the focus and relies on their strengths to facilitate success.

Overall, this improves patient outcome because the patient is motivated.

As well as a person-centred care plan, patients can receive person-centred therapy.

This is one of the most effective treatments for developing self-compassion and confidence, both of which are key to healing.

It’s important to find a clinic with approaches that suit you. The Rehab 4 Alcoholism team can help you if this is the step you’re on, so contact oyur expert team on 0800 111 4108 for more information.