Language difference between peer and professional drug and substance abuse counselors: What can it tell us?

Lizzeth C Jensen, University of Texas at El Paso


Language studies that explore the human mind are not new. In recent years new techniques have opened new areas of investigation. One such is whether different professional groups do not merely use language in different ways, but a) "think" differently, or b) may be professionally more effective. This is an exploratory study that uses secondary data analysis to see if difference in approach to providing help by Peer versus Professional substance use counselors, are reflected in differences of language use. For the purpose of this study Peer will stand for those counselors which, during the interview, stated they were ex-addicts at one point of their life regardless of education. Professionals will stand for those counselors that have never been an addict before. As such, sample size was small due to it being a qualitative study and originally a convenience sample. The results yielded, however, show that there is an interesting difference between Peer and Professional Substance Use Counselor's speech ranging from pronoun use to psychological process word use. Previous studies that have examined the psychology of pronouns point to personality differences that can be inferred. The findings of cognitive versus feeling word use is yet another notable difference found during this study. This study shows the importance of how two groups of people who come from different backgrounds, yet have been trained in the same field inevitably bring different elements into the therapeutic arena. Although both groups, Peer and Professional, achieve or want to achieve the same goal, their message was delivered differently, which according to supporting research is attributed to their proximity or attachment to the issue. This attachment is exemplified in their language use. This study hopes that it can serve as a jumping board for the emergence of further studies to continue to look into these "differences".

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Jensen, Lizzeth C, "Language difference between peer and professional drug and substance abuse counselors: What can it tell us?" (2014). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1583923.