How To Choose A Counselor For Drug Addiction Treatment

Beginning therapy for drug addiction can be intimidating, but the right addiction counselor will help you feel comfortable and capable. They achieve this partly through education, training, and experience.

How To Choose A Counselor For Drug Addiction Treatment

Seeking help for an addiction is an act of courage, and finding a therapist or counselor to facilitate the healing process is an essential part of the recovery journey.

Although you don’t have to worry about picking the right therapist right off the bat, the following tips can help make the process easier from the start.

Factors To Consider When Choosing An Addiction Therapist

Asking for help can feel intimidating and overwhelming. Many of us don’t have much experience doing so or may have felt rejected when we did ask for help in the past.

The same goes for sharing our thoughts and feelings. However, the right addiction therapist will help you feel comfortable and at ease during the healing process.

Here are some factors to consider that will make finding a counselor for drug addiction treatment easier.

Consider The Type Of Addiction Therapy

To start, you may want to research different types of addiction therapy to find an approach that resonates with you. Therapists can offer expertise in specific therapies.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of many types of evidence-based addiction treatment, meaning that scientific research supports its effectiveness.

CBT focuses on stopping unwanted behavior by recognizing and changing the thoughts and beliefs that precede or influence them.

Motivational interviewing (MI) is another evidence-based treatment that’s effective when treating drug addiction.
Therapists use MI to help their clients find their own motivation for overcoming addiction and regaining their health.

If you’ve tried some of the above methods and haven’t found clinical behavioral therapies to be useful for your recovery, you may prefer to focus on holistic therapies.

Holistic approaches may include art therapy, yoga therapy, or equine therapy, which may be offered at many luxury rehab centers or pet-friendly addiction treatment programs.

Additionally, many of the above methods can also be used together with evidence-based practices like CBT and MI for a balanced approach to recovery.

Visualize Your Interactions

Visualizing your ideal addiction counselor can also be a good place to start. Athletes use visualization to hone their skills and doctors ask patients to visualize healing, with proven results.

If there were someone you’d feel comfortable talking to about your health, your challenges, and your life in general, what would that person be like?

You might discover that you would feel better talking with a person of a particular gender, race, or age because you can relate to them, or, perhaps, none of those factors matter to you.

Instead, you may find that you need a counselor who is gentle and understanding, or you may need someone who is more matter-of-fact to give you the support you need.

Remember that this is about your comfort and success, so there is no need to judge or analyze your preferences.

Search For In-Network Providers

If you have insurance, another factor to consider is your insurance provider’s website. A simple search can narrow down your choices to in-network therapists in your area.

You might have access to additional search criteria, such as years of experience, areas of focus, or client reviews. You can also match your search to the results from your visualization exercise.

In some cases, you may need to search for counselors who have experience with co-occurring disorder treatment if your substance use disorder is accompanied by a mental health condition.

If you’re looking for virtual appointments, keep in mind that many health professionals still want you to live nearby, though this isn’t always the case.

If you have any remaining questions, call the therapist’s office before setting an initial appointment.

Check Their Credentials

You can also use your insurance provider’s website to check a therapist’s credentials. If you don’t have insurance, you can find this information on the therapist’s website or call to ask.

Substance abuse counselors must meet both education and experience requirements to become certified in their field. These requirements vary from state to state.

Licensed counselors typically require a master’s degree and many hours of work experience.

There are also several credentialing bodies that help establish and ensure a high standard of quality for addiction counseling services.

The National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals (NCCAP) is one of the most well-known of these organizations.

Their credentials include:

  • National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level I (NCAC I)
  • National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level II (NCAC II)
  • Master Addiction Counselor (MAC)

Specialized NCCAP credentials include:

  • Nicotine Dependence Specialist (NDS)
  • National Certified Adolescent Addiction Counselor (NCAAC)
  • National Certified Peer Recovery Support Specialist (NCPRSS)

These are just some examples of typical credentials available beyond being certified or licensed.

Be Honest

Once you’ve picked a counselor who might be a good fit, it’s important to be yourself as much as possible when you first meet with them. Feelings of vulnerability are totally normal at this point.

You may experience a range of emotions, from anger to depression, and these feelings may change rapidly due to the impact of alcohol and drug addiction on the brain.

Fortunately, your therapist is trained to help you with the tumultuous emotions you’re feeling, and they can help you regulate your emotions as you work together.

As much as possible, you should be able to feel that you can be yourself, being open and honest about how you’re feeling and what you’re experiencing from day to day and moment to moment.

Ask If They Believe They Can Help You

It may seem silly to ask a trained, paid professional if they believe they can help you, but the question lets the therapist know that you want to find the best match possible.

After all, you want to have confidence in your therapist. Given their experience, they will know best if they can help you or if you would be better served by another therapist.

Rest assured that most likely they can help you and want to. However, if they waiver or say no, be sure to ask why not, so that you can better understand what to look for in a therapist.

Another good follow-up question would be to ask if they know someone who can help you. They may have a therapist in mind, especially if they specialize in a particular area.

After meeting, it’s also okay for you to decide that the therapist isn’t right for you. An ideal match should promote trust and faith in yourself, and that doesn’t always happen on the first try.

Know That You’re Not Alone

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that almost one out of five people in the U.S. received help for their mental health, including substance use disorders, in 2019.

You’re not alone in seeking help, and guidance from an educated, trained, experienced counselor can go a long way in making your recovery journey a meaningful experience.

A good therapist will help you access and strengthen inner resources you’ve had all along to overcome your personal challenges and live a sober life.

Get Started On The Path To Recovery

If you or a loved one is living with a substance use disorder, visit to find treatment today.

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This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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