Absolute Certainty: Be Cautious Around This Alluring Sensation

September 19th, 2010 | Posted by Michael Taleff in Addiction | Addiction Discussions

From an addiction counselor perspective, one would think that feeling absolutely certain about a giving a diagnosis to a client, or recommending a particular treatment approach would be viewed as a strength, something positive, something to strive for.

Experiencing absolute certainty about your treatment proposals makes you feel informed, intelligent, if not powerful. It just feels good.

Absolute certainty seemingly bestows a sense of stability to our work. It even makes us feel safe and assured. Recall the last time you felt certain about a clinical conclusion, I’ll bet it had a rather tasty satisfaction.

Yet, should striving for absolute certainty be an aspiration for addiction professionals?

No! It is not prudent ambition.


Absolute certainty comes with baggage. Bad baggage.

For one, it is a half step away from zealotry. Those who are zealots in their assessments and treatment recommendations have a total conviction that they are right. Zealots always are, and that is the bad baggage.

They believe they have a corner on truth. As such, no other views are permitted from colleague or client. And as you may well have experienced, this mind set comes with a distasteful air of smugness, superiority, if not a scornful view of other views.

This leads to the next difficulty, perhaps even more of a baggage problem than the ones just stated. If zealots believe that, they have corned truth, and refuse to allow other views entry in their mind. If you think about it, this kind of a mind set cannot permit empathy toward clients. For empathy takes in other views, nurtures other views, understands other views. And, zealots with have none of that.

Now comes the most objectionable component of all. Zealots, with all their with absolute certainty will impose their beliefs on clients. Imposition is not therapy, never was, never will be. To impose a treatment on clients is to encroach on their rights. That is unethical. Those who continue with such practices need to be called on this practice.

Try not to strive for absolute certainly. Quite frankly, you will never achieve it, and it leads to dreadful treatment conditions. It is suggested that counselors instead strive for confidence, sprinkled with a dab of doubt.

Confidence is assurance, not arrogance. It may even be equated with potency, something clients like to see. Makes them feel like they’re in the proverbial good hands

A dab of doubt keeps you on your toes. It impels you to re-evaluate your thinking, which assures that your assessments and treatment recommendations are the very finest possible. Doubt keeps you learning reading, and questioning. All things good.

Most of all doubt guards against absolute certainty.

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