Choosing an Addiction Professional to Treat Your Substance Abuse

Deciding to take control over your life by seeking help for your alcohol or substance abuse is the first step to living a longer, healthier and happier life. There are a number of people out there, however, who claim to be alcohol and drug counselors; how can you choose the one who is right for you?

In choosing an addiction professional, it is important to find someone that can do a thorough assessment of your alcohol or substance abuse problem, offering clear direction and recommendations for treatment.  Always pick a licensed professional and look for someone with many years of experience specializing in substance abuse and addictions.

The Keys to Choosing the Right Alcohol and Drug Counselor for Your Needs

When you look for a drug counselor to help you, it’s very important that you choose someone who has the skills to do so. After all, you wouldn’t see a dentist if you needed glasses, right? The same goes for substance abuse treatment: you want an addiction specialist whose primary area of study and focus is addiction.

Some therapists will claim to have addiction experience but have not had specific training in the field at all.  Some have attended just a workshop or two.  Ideally, look for:

  • A licensed therapist. LCSW- Licensed Clinical Social Worker, or licensed psychologist. Just because someone has a sign that says “Alcohol and Drug Counselor” on the door doesn’t always make that person fully qualified to help you.
  • A professional with an ADDITIONAL license in the area of addictions (such as an LCADC- Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor).  Dual licensure means you are working with someone who has specific education, training and experience in mental health, and substance abuse specifically.  Without addiction licensure, you may be working with someone who knows very little about how to work with your addiction as the primary problem.

Interview the therapist on the phone by asking about his or her experience specifically with the drug you are concerned about.  You can ask “Do you routinely treat people with alcohol problems?” or “How often do you work with families that have a heroin addict they are concerned about?”  You may also ask “Do you know how to assess and treat mental health or family problems that go along with addictions?” You can also ask what kind of substance abuse treatment programs the doctor works with: does the doctor recommend 12 step programs or intensive in-patient therapy? Does this therapist work with certain rehab centers over and over again, or does he or she try to find a center that is best to suited to each individual client?

Also make sure to ask the therapist if he or she does drug testing or report writing for court, if that is necessary for you.

At the end of the day, you want a substance abuse counselor who truly understands the depths of your problem and the overall affect that therapy can have on your life. Make sure to speak to therapists who have “regular” methods of treatment as well as those who customize each substance abuse treatment to each individual patient. You want to get the full scope of who is available to help you, and what that help may entail, before you make your final choice.