What to Look for in a Substance Abuse Counselor

Drug addiction and alcoholism are both devastating diseases affecting every facet of an individual’s life. However, finding the right substance abuse counselor allows individuals struggling with addiction to recover. Acknowledging that you need help is never easy, but it might save your life. Finding a substance abuse counselor that is well-suited to your individual needs is just as important as admitting you have a problem.

When looking for a substance abuse counselor, you should first consider the specifics of your substance abuse. Do suffer from trauma or co-occurring mental health conditions? If so, you should always opt for a trauma-informed, dual-diagnosis counselor. Additionally, you should be comfortable with sharing personal information with your counselor that you may be otherwise uncomfortable disclosing to friends, family, or coworkers. After all, substance abuse counselors can only treat the issues they are aware of. Here are a few things to consider to help you choose the right drug and alcohol counselor.

Training, Credentials, and Experience

Everyone has to start somewhere but finding a drug and alcohol counselor with training, credentials, and experience is very important. If you find a counselor that you like with little experience, they should have an experienced counselor working with them for any help they may need. With that being said, most counselors work in a facility with a large support group of other counselors to refer to.

Let’s take a look at the basic training, credentials, and experience you should expect when looking for an addictions counselor:

  • Credentials- Substance abuse counseling does not require a professional license to begin counseling. Most counselors attain state certifications while working under an experienced counselor. If they fill all criteria, they can apply for licensing. However, licensing takes years of working in the field. With that being said, make sure your counselor is certified with the state or is working under a licensed counselor that they refer to for help.
  • Training- While counselor training does not result in a degree, certification, or license, substance abuse counselors are required to complete continuing education. Ensure that your counselor has completed some training to obtain their position as a substance abuse counselor.
  • Experience- Drug and alcohol counselors should be familiar with the 12-step model, disease of addiction, and have three years of experience in addiction counseling. This experience is obtained through training and completing supervisory hours.

Proof of Higher Education

Most addiction counselors have some form of higher education. This typically comes in the form of a Bachelor’s degree in psychology or a human services field. The most seasoned counselors have Master’s degrees in any field related to human services, but counselors with Bachelor’s degrees are still great options. Oftentimes, substance abuse counselors have their degrees and proof of higher education hung up in their offices to make inquiring patients feel comfortable.

Helpful and Supportive Behavior

The right substance abuse counselor will always be looking for appropriate ways to help their clients. With that being said, your counselor should have a helpful and supportive manner while working with you. You should never feel as if you are burdening your counselor with questions regarding your treatment, substance abuse, or mental health. The most successful and reliable substance abuse counselors are the ones who make it clear that they support and advocate for their patients, without crossing any limits of professional guidelines.

Caring for the Patient, Rather than the Paycheck

If you feel as if your counselor cares more about their paycheck than actually helping you recover, it’s time to find a new one. You are a person, not a number, a paycheck, or a statistic. Your counselor should make you feel cared for, reinforce your self-esteem, and help you build a positive self-image. If all they care about is the money, their counsel will not be helpful.

Counselors Should Have Zero-Tolerance for Judgement

When it comes to recovering from substance abuse, people need counselors who have zero-tolerance for judgment. Recovering addicts and alcoholics deal with enough stigma on a daily basis. Therefore, you should feel welcomed and relaxed when entering your counselor’s office. You should never feel as if you’re being judged, condemned, or pressured in a negative manner. Your time is valuable and your feelings are valid. Your substance abuse counselor should mirror that.

Questions to Ask When Choosing a Substance Abuse Counselor

While counselors and patients should have a friendly, supportive relationship, you are still paying for a service. As a result, you must ask some hard-hitting questions while shopping for a new counselor to ensure that the service you are paying for will fit your needs. Additionally, never shy away from explaining the issues you suffer with. Substance abuse counselors have heard it all and will never judge you. In fact, their reactions to these questions will most likely contribute to gauging the factors listed above.

Questions to ask a facility when looking for a substance abuse counselor:

  • Which addiction treatment options do you offer that applies to my situation, and will you explain them to me?
  • Are your services accredited by the state, and can you show me proof?
  • Do you offer individual therapy, group sessions, family therapy, or a combination?
  • What training, experience, and credentials do you and your counselors have?
  • Are any of your counselors recovering addicts or alcoholics? Are they in recovery?
  • Do you believe addiction is a choice or a disease?
  • Are you comfortable incorporating my spiritual and/or religious beliefs into counseling?
  • Will I be judged for my sexuality, gender orientation, religion, race, ethnicity, etc?
  • Will I be judged for my past, or can I speak about it freely?
  • If I have questions about my treatment, how will they be addressed?
  • If you think I’m engaging in detrimental actions, will you tell me?
  • Will you be tough but tactful and respectful?
  • Will you listen to me and really respond?
  • If I talk about dark things that are uncomfortable, like my depression or thoughts of death, will you change the subject or address these topics?
  • How will my privacy be respected and upheld?
  • Will you work with my care team, which may include other doctors or psychological specialists?

Begin Substance Abuse Counseling Today!

Dealing with the effects of substance abuse is difficult, especially when done alone. Whether you need help with substance abuse, finding substance abuse counseling, or locating a rehab facility near you, our dedicated substance abuse specialists are here to take your call. Contact us today to find the support you need.

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