Therapy FAQ

Your Guide to Finding and Choosing a Substance Abuse Counselor

Are you or someone you know battling with substance abuse? Acknowledging this struggle takes immense courage and marks the first step toward reclaiming a healthier life. The question is, where can you find help? Addiction is an isolating experience, leaving you feeling trapped and hopeless. It affects not only your physical health but also your […]

isbell oliva garcia grow therapy By Isbell Oliva-Garcia, LMHC

Updated on Jan 12, 2024

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Are you or someone you know battling with substance abuse? Acknowledging this struggle takes immense courage and marks the first step toward reclaiming a healthier life. The question is, where can you find help?

Addiction is an isolating experience, leaving you feeling trapped and hopeless. It affects not only your physical health but also your relationships, career, and overall life quality. But remember, recovery is possible, and seeking help from a professional substance abuse counselor can make all the difference in your recovery.

This guide aims to empower you with the tools to find the right substance abuse counselor. We’ll explore the signs and causes of substance abuse, the role of counselors in the recovery process, and the available treatment programs.

Our goal is to equip you with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions on your journey to recovery.

Identifying Signs of Substance Abuse

Substance abuse can cause significant changes in a person’s behavior and choices. Although the signs may start small, they may quickly become damaging and destructive. Common first signs are mood swings and sleeping or eating patterns changes. 

Gradually, other habits may also change. The individual may start to ignore their work, miss classes, or stop hanging out with their friends. They may begin using the substance in dangerous situations or keep using it even when they know it’s causing them problems.

Another key sign of substance abuse is if a person needs more substances to feel its effects. They may also get sick or feel uncomfortable when they stop using the substance, referred to as withdrawal symptoms. 

Understanding When To Seek Professional Help

Recognizing the need for professional help is vital. Often, individuals seek treatment when they fear they will become habitual users, have used a substance for extended periods, or feel a need to use it daily.

However, many people fail to seek assistance because they worry about disappointing people in their lives, being exposed, or being judged as a failure by society.

The Prevalence of Substance Abuse

It’s important to know that substance abuse is a disorder, not something a person can instantly stop doing. It’s a public health problem that affects a significant proportion of the population.

Approximately 8% to 10% of the general public have substance use disorders, with around 20% of primary health care clinic patients, 40% of general medical hospital patients, and over 70% of emergency or urgent care clinic patients struggling with addiction.

It’s important to know that substance abuse is a disorder, not something a person can instantly stop doing.

Several factors contribute to substance use disorders, including family history, predisposition, environmental stressors, trauma, and mental health issues like ADHD. Environmental stressors and traumatic experiences can cause genetic changes that may contribute to developing a mental or substance use disorder.

These individuals are more likely to turn to harmful behaviors as a form of self-medication to deal with their mental health.

Benefits of Finding a Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance abuse counselors are trained professionals who provide therapy, counseling, and support to individuals struggling with substance abuse.

They work with their clients to identify their addiction’s underlying causes, develop coping strategies to manage stress and anxiety that trigger cravings, and provide ongoing support and encouragement throughout recovery.

When an individual struggles with addiction, overcoming the problem alone is challenging. Professional substance abuse counselors are trained to provide specialized care tailored to meet each client’s needs and help them achieve long-term addiction recovery.

Additionally, working with an experienced and licensed drug counselor can reduce the risk of relapse. They can properly gauge whether a client is progressing and offer personalized ongoing guidance.

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Why Is It Important To Seek Help as Soon as Possible?

Generally, the earlier an individual seeks professional help, the greater the chances of success.

Each time an individual uses drugs or alcohol, the body and brain become more conditioned to addiction, strengthening the effects of addiction. Depending on the severity of the addiction, sometimes inpatient care rehab facilities with intensive treatment and medical treatment are necessary to safely break the cycle of addiction for those with a repeated history of abuse.

By getting help early from a qualified outpatient substance abuse counselor, individuals can begin to take control of their lives and break free from addictive behaviors.

8 Common Types of Therapy Programs

The path to recovery from substance abuse is not one-size-fits-all. There are numerous treatment plan options tailored to meet unique needs and circumstances. Here are ten common types of treatment options:

  1. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a form of psychological treatment proven effective for severe mental illnesses, anxiety, alcohol and drug use issues, marital problems, and behavioral disorders. It works by helping patients understand, avoid, and cope with the situations that trigger their urge to use.
  2. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT is often used to treat various addiction and mental health conditions. It teaches clients how to manage negative emotions and minimize relationship conflict using various strategies, such as practicing mindfulness and other healthy behaviors. This option has proven to be a successful alcohol treatment plan for those who want to escape painful experiences in life.
  3. Family Therapy for Addiction: Family therapy involves more than one family member within the therapeutic process. This group therapy aims to resolve family relationship conflicts among family members and the triggers that lead to substance abuse.
  4. Contingency Management for Addiction: Commonly used in rehabilitation facilities, contingency management involves rewarding individuals who achieve their treatment goals. Patients earn vouchers for negative drug tests to exchange for desirable goods or services.
  5. 12-Step Facilitation Therapy for Addiction: 12-Step Facilitation Therapy is based on the alcohol addiction principles of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Individuals work through the 12-step program during support group meetings under professional guidance. Unlike other options available at certain addiction detox centers, you can find this addiction therapy at many community centers and church groups.
  6. Person-Centered Therapy for Addiction: Person-Centered Therapy focuses on the individual’s needs and experiences — with the patient taking the lead while the therapist plays a supporting role. It involves working closely with a trained therapist to explore addiction-related thoughts and feelings and develop strategies for better behavioral health habits.
  7. Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy for Addiction: This evidence-based cognitive-behavioral therapy helps identify, challenge, and replace dysfunctional thoughts with healthier, adaptive thoughts. This method also teaches proactive relapse prevention techniques to help individuals fall back into their habits.
  8. Motivational Interviewing for Addiction: This is goal-oriented therapy aims to motivate individuals towards a specific goal by digging deep into their personal reasons for a better change. Individuals with opioid drug addiction often find success with this option.

Each therapy approach has its unique strengths. The key is finding the right balance of therapies to provide the best opportunity for your lasting recovery.

Factors To Consider When Looking for a Counselor

Finding a suitable substance abuse counseling professional plays a big role in your recovery journey. Here are crucial factors to remember while searching for a counselor:


An experienced counselor has a broad understanding of substance abuse and treatment, making it possible to tailor their approach to your unique circumstances. They should have a track record of working with individuals who share similar backgrounds and substance use issues as you.


Always ensure that your addiction counselor has the necessary licensure to practice. In the U.S., substance abuse counselors must hold at least a Master’s degree and be licensed by their state board. These credentials guarantee their education and training meet specific standards as medical professionals. If you’re booking a session through Grow Therapy, you can rest easy knowing all our providers have the required licensure and credentials.


Some therapy options work better for certain substance abuse disorders than others. Finding a counselor that aligns with your needs will maximize the opportunity for you to achieve your recovery goals.


Trust is essential for successful treatment. If you feel comfortable with your counselor during therapy sessions, you may be more open to their suggestions during treatment. Speak with different counselors and ask them about their approach to substance abuse counseling services.

You may also want to consider the therapist’s communication approach. Michelle Coleman, LPCC, a provider with Grow Therapy explains, “If a therapist doesn’t talk much or talks too much during counseling sessions, it can be invalidating. If you feel like your feelings are invalidated, you are more prone not to listen or accept help and continue the abuse.” She adds that a clinician may not be a good fit if you don’t feel heard or feel that you are constantly repeating yourself.

Resources To Help You Find a Substance Abuse Counselor

Coleman says that if a patient already has an established relationship with primary healthcare medical professionals, a referral from them is a great option. If not, a patient can contact their insurance provider and ask for a list of providers who offer substance use-specific treatment.

If you’re unhappy with the options, you can also turn to online directories and hotlines from organizations such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP), or online substance abuse counseling platforms. They simplify the process, making it more accessible for individuals to seek treatment for addiction from licensed mental health professionals.

Another great option is to book directly through Grow Therapy. We make it easy to find a substance abuse counselor who is in your area and accepts your insurance.

Find a Substance Abuse Counselor Near You

Recovery is a unique journey for each individual, and progress may take time. Be patient, commit to the process, and trust that your transformation and substance-free future are within reach.

At Grow Therapy, we celebrate your bravery in taking this vital step toward a healthier and happier life. We have a comprehensive list of mental health professionals who can help on your journey to recovery. They will provide the proper mental health diagnosis tests, develop a comprehensive individualized substance abuse treatment plan based on your needs, and foster a safe and nurturing environment for your healing journey.

Use our search tool to find an addiction therapist who is in your area and accepts your type of insurance. 


  • If you or your loved one is experiencing difficulties controlling substance use, it may indicate a substance use disorder. Seeking the guidance of a substance abuse counselor can provide a professional assessment and help determine the appropriate course of action.

  • Substance abuse counselors are trained professionals who specialize in addiction treatment. They provide a safe and supportive space for you to explore the underlying causes of your addiction, develop coping skills, and establish a personalized treatment plan. They offer evidence-based therapies, guidance, and support throughout your recovery journey.

  • When selecting addiction counselors, consider their qualifications, experience, and specialization in addiction treatment. It's important to find someone with whom you feel comfortable and can establish a trusting therapeutic relationship. Additionally, consider logistics such as location, availability, and whether they accept your insurance.

  • Yes, confidentiality is a vital component of the therapeutic process. Substance abuse counselors adhere to strict ethical guidelines and laws that protect the privacy of their clients. Your sessions and personal information will be kept confidential unless there is a legal obligation to disclose information, such as instances of harm to yourself or others.

About the author
isbell oliva garcia grow therapy Isbell Oliva-Garcia, LMHC

Isbell Oliva-Garcia is a licensed mental health counselor, bilingual in English and Spanish. Isbell specializes in women's issues during difficult times of transition and also works with front-line individuals struggling with PTSD or stressors created by the job.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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