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Counselling Skills for Persons with Co-Occurring Disorders I

Course Code: CODS 5122
Faculty: Child, Family & Community Studies
Department: Co-Occurring Disorders
Credits: 3.0
Semester: Flexible delivery ranging over 2 -15 weeks
Learning Format: Lecture
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This methods course examines the use of interviewing and counselling skills for working with people who have co-occurring disorders. Students will explore selected practice theories and methods for engaging and retaining this multi-barriered group in treatment and support programs.

Course Content

The following global ideas guide the design and delivery of this course:

  • Effective counsellors need to develop multi-cultural competence that enables them to understand their clients’ behaviour and worldview.  At the same time, they must understand their own cultural and worldview and how this influences their assumptions and responses.
  • Knowledge of the limits of one’s competence is fundamental to professional practice.
  • Self-awareness regarding one’s personal style, values, effect on others, skills, and the influence of experiences, are essential prerequisites for skilled communication and counselling.
  • Skill is necessary but insufficient for competent practice.  Technical proficiency must be balanced with a caring attitude, acceptance of a side range of behaviour and cultures, and respect for the rights of others, including their right to self-determination.
  • Effective counsellors are able to draw from a wide range of skills customized to fit the needs of individual clients and situations as opposed to a “one-size fits all” approach.
  • Effective counselling of clients with co-occurring disorders requires integration of psychiatric and substance abuse interventions rather than relying on the traditional approach of treating each disorder separately.
  • Problems for clients such as excessive anxiety or guilt can arise from faulty thinking (cognitive distortions) or negative interpretation.  Moreover, people may pay too much attention to anxiety provoking stimuli rather than neutral or positive stimuli.
  • Behaviour is learned and therefore it can be unlearned.
  • Counselling encounters are typically time-limited, often for a single session or a brief encounter.  Nevertheless, despite their brevity, these sessions can empower or support clients and lead them to problem management.

Methods of Instruction

  • Lecture
  • Group work
  • Student presentations
  • Guest speakers
  • Audio-visual presentation

Means of Assessment

This course will conform to Douglas College policy regarding the number and weighting of evaluations. Typical means of evaluation would include a combination of:

  • Written assignments
  • Group presentations
  • Exams
  • Class activity participation
  • Case study evaluation

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Understand professional behaviour
    • Demonstrate knowledge of professional ethics and values.
    • Describe the importance of self-awareness and self-care in working with persons who have co-occurring disorders.
    • Identify skill strengths and limitations.
  2. Demonstrate counselling/interviewing skills.
    • Demonstrate basic counselling and interviewing skills (active listening skills:  attending, summarizing, paraphrasing, silence, asking questions, empathy).
    • Demonstrate ability to form purposeful counselling relationships
      • core conditions of warmth, empathy, and genuiness
      • negotiating counselling contracts.
    • Demonstrate ability to problem solve relationship difficulties
      • immediacy skills
      • strategies for conflict resolution.
    • Demonstrate ability to selectively utilize skills based on purpose, client need, and phase of counselling.
  3. Demonstrate ability to use Motivational Interviewing
    • Demonstrate knowledge of the Stages of Change (Transtheoretical) Model
      • identify stages of change (precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance).
    • Describe goals for each of the stages.
    • Demonstrate strategies for working with clients at each of the stages.
    • Describe the fundamental principles and philosophy of Motivational Interviewing.
    • Demonstrate Motivational interviewing techniques (use of empathy, avoiding power struggles, working with resistance, working with ambivalence, eliciting change goals).
  4. Demonstrate ability to use Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
    • Describe basic principles of CBT.
    • Describe the use of CBT for persons with co-occurring disorders.
    • Identify maladaptive thinking patterns (perfectionism, splitting, magnification/catastrophizing, thought stopping, visualization, assertiveness training, problem solving techniques, relaxation training, systematic desensitization).
  5. Demonstrate ability to use Brief Counselling (Solution-Focused) techniques.  Describe the importance of the strengths approach
    • Demonstrate techniques for empowering clients using the strengths approach
    • Demonstrate the use of short-term counselling strategies (exceptions to the problem, miracle questions, focus on solution, use of change language, scaling techniques).
  6. Working with Difficult Clients
    • Identify strategies for conflict resolution.
    • Identify strategies for working with angry and potentially violent clients.

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.