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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Counsellors' attitudes towards working with clients with substance use disorders Cornfield, Zachary Alexander Denney


Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) are a significant and growing problem for Canadians; low rates of SUD treatment entry and retention suggest that our SUD treatment system requires improvement. Fear of being stigmatized by healthcare professionals is a barrier for treatment-seeking and, despite recent changes in societal attitudes towards substance use, individuals with SUDs continue to be stigmatized. Most counsellors are likely to see clients with SUDs during their careers and their attitudes towards these clients will strongly influence the therapeutic value of these encounters, which can range from helpful to harmful. Little is known about counsellors’ attitudes towards working with clients with SUDs and even less is known about the factors that contribute to them, thus providing a rationale for the current study. Counsellors were recruited from an online Canadian directory (n = 263) and data were collected using an online survey. To measure attitudes, the Medical Condition Regard Scale, modified for use with counsellors, was completed twice: once for clients with SUDs and once for clients with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). Attitudes were mostly positive towards clients with SUDs, although 11 participants reported negative attitudes. A one-way repeated measures ANOVA found that overall scores were significantly more positive for the MCRS-MDD. However, the items of the MCRS-MDD that yielded more positive responses were all related to the difficulty of treating the disorder. We used one-way between-groups ANOVAs as well as bivariate correlation coefficients to determine which factors had significant bivariate relationships with MCRS-SUD scores. A standard ordinary least squares multiple regression was run to determine which of these variables still had an effect in the presence of the other statistically significant variables. Frequency of contact with clients with SUDs, workplace situational constraints, feelings of anger towards people with SUDs, and age remained as significant variables. The implications of these findings for research and counselling training and practice are discussed.

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