How to Find a Good Addiction Therapist

You deserve a pat on the back, a big thumbs up, and a hearty “Congratulations!” if you’ve made the decision to ask for help. It’s one of the best decisions you can make. It doesn’t matter if you’ve decided to get help to control your use of substances or to become entirely abstinent. Perhaps you are interested in examining addiction’s role in an underlying condition such as depression, stress, anxiety, or other mental health disorders. Our therapy services in Northern Illinois can help you today – whether you are dealing with addiction, mental health issues, or both.

What Type of Therapist Do You Need?

how to find a good addiction therapistBefore you determine if the therapist is expert enough, you must decide what treatment provider you’d like to consult. Treatment for addiction usually requires working with a combination of professionals. However, the best place to start would be to meet with an addiction psychologist for an evaluation.

Often, people begin their search for addiction treatment by talking to an “addiction psychologist” or “addiction psychiatrist.” These are actually very different kinds of professionals and knowing the difference is a necessity. Likewise, the professions of psychotherapist, social worker, and counselor all have different specialties. Their focus and extent of treatment can vary significantly.

Building a Relationship

Most of the time, their credentials are less important compared to their experience and whether you can build a connection with them. The majority of therapists would probably agree that the most beneficial factor in the psychotherapeutic relationship is the compatibility that develops between the therapist and the person in therapy. To this extent, while you’re looking for someone you can afford, you’re also looking for someone you can connect to.

What is an Addiction Psychiatrist?

An addiction psychiatrist is a medical doctor whose specialty is treating people with mental health and addictive issues. They mainly treat these issues with medications such as:

  • Antidepressants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Medications that treat underlying mental health problems

Although there are many psychiatrists that don’t prescribe medications much and mainly focus on therapy, most will manage medications and work with psychologists and other therapists who provide talk therapy treatment. Follow-up psychiatric appointments after an evaluation are usually short. These consist of about 20 to 25-minute consultations to check the effect of your medication. They are mainly concerned with how you’re adjusting to the drugs, reducing side effects, and evaluating the effectiveness.

The important fact to remember is that an addiction psychiatrist has special training in prescribing medications to help people who are struggling with substance abuse. You will need to work with an addiction psychiatrist, not just a general psychiatrist.

This is essential when you’re trying to figure out the features of your relationship with drugs and alcohol and consider making changes in your behavior. An addiction psychiatrist can prescribe medications to help you detox from substance abuse and overcome cravings which could lead to relapse.

What is an Addiction Psychologist?

alcohol psychologistAn addiction psychologist is also a doctor, but not a medical doctor. They are trained mental health professionals who help you examine the role that addiction has in your life. An addiction psychologist can help you become more conscious of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

They will teach you different ways of handling your problems through therapeutic methods such as:

In addition, addiction psychologists help you to talk your way through a problem and get to the source of the problem so you can make the necessary changes. This helps you improve your life over the long term instead of just putting a band-aid on a bullet hole.

Who Else Can Help?

There are also other types of addiction therapists who can be helpful including licensed professional counselors and social workers. They are both trained in mental health issues though the extent of their training may vary.

Social workers may have their master’s or doctorate degrees. They are trained in acquiring the best social agency support services for you and tend to use a social and networking approach to the treatment of mental health issues. Licensed counselors may only have a master’s-level degree.

Psychotherapists may have the previously mentioned degrees or they might not have any at all.A psychologist or psychiatrist might describe themselves as a psychotherapist, but, so can a recovery coach or anyone who feels they have the “gift of gab.” Still, many psychotherapists do have extensive training, but it’s important to check their experience, training, and credentials the same as any other therapist.

Certified alcohol and drug counselors and certified addiction counselors are professionals who are counselors but not at the educational level of psychiatrists, psychologists, or social workers.  They might be no less qualified, but it’s important to go to someone who is licensed in their professional field.

How to Find the Right Addiction Therapist for You

There are two common ways to find the right therapist:

  • Research addiction professionals in your area online.
  • Find an addiction therapist who has been recommended to you by a friend, family member, or another professional.

When you think you have found someone, use these steps to decide if they’re credible, competent, and the right match for you.

Find out if they are who they say they are. Check to see if they have the level of the professional specialty you’re looking for. The person you choose should be licensed, and the license should  be up-to-date and clearly recorded on their profile listing or website.

This can be difficult because there is no standard way of determining a person’s expertise in addiction.  Although a psychiatrist can be board certified in addiction medicine, addiction psychologists might get their expertise by having additional certification as a certified drug and alcohol counselor, being a member of the American Psychological Association Division 50 Society of Addiction Psychology, or having done research and published articles on addiction.

In addition, addiction counselors may have a certification through a state board but still not have the background and training that a psychologist receives in mental health matters. This is an important point because 50% of all people who are diagnosed with addiction will also be diagnosed with another co-occurring mental health condition.

Similarly,  you might not want to see a psychiatrist who specializes in medication management but doesn’t have as much experience and training in the assorted treatments that involve talk therapy.

Possibly because they haven’t had an online presence, or because it’s not ethical to ask for reviews,  there are very fine therapists who don’t have reviews online yet. Frequently, a psychotherapist will have colleagues write reviews for them. To be fair, look carefully at the reviews. One bad review can significantly affect someone’s listing.

Find out if they offer “evidence-based” or “best practices” treatment. You need to be sure that they know about the most up-to-date evidence-based treatment methods. Ask them what treatment they use that is evidence-based, or ask for an opinion on something you’ve become aware of like 12-step facilitation, motivational interviewing, or relapse prevention skills.

Talk on the phone to find out if you feel some type of connection to the therapist. You might have a feeling of confidence or an unexplainable bond of initial trust. In either case, it’s imperative that you feel secure with your addiction specialist. It’s okay to let them know that you’re shopping for a therapist and that you want to speak on the phone to ask some questions. This approach also allows the therapist to judge whether you’re a good fit for them. If not, they may offer you a referral to another therapist.

When you meet in person, you can decide if your initial gut feeling was correct.  You might even want to meet once or twice before you decide to commit to working with that person. While you develop a treatment plan, remember that you are looking for a therapist that you connect with.

What is an Alcohol Counselor?

One step in treating alcoholism, now commonly called alcohol use disorder (AUD), is alcohol counseling with an alcohol psychologist or professional alcohol counselor. An alcohol counselor is able to provide guidance and support along the journey to an alcohol-free life. Alcoholism counselors are people who have been trained to help people with alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse problems.

What Do They Do?

An alcohol counselor can help:

  • Educate you about AUD and discuss the process of recovery
  • Design a structured and realistic treatment and recovery plan based on your needs
  • Help you uncover any underlying issues that may trigger your drinking
  • Provide tips and teach skills for a successful long-term recovery
  • Give you regular assessments of your progress
  • Provide support and encouragement throughout your recovery

How Do You Choose an Alcohol Counselor?

Before you start alcohol counseling, you need to find a counselor that you can be comfortable with. Your recovery process will be helped immensely if you find a counselor you can open up to and be honest with. However, you should realize that your counselor can only guide you. It’s up to you to be an active participant in your treatment and recovery.

Take your time when researching alcohol psychologists or counselors. When you find two or three that seem to fit what you’re looking for, talk to them about any questions you may have. Keep these tips in mind while you’re looking:

Concentrate your research by looking for counselors who specialize in treating people with AUDs. Then you can further narrow your list based on years of experience, location, cost, and types of therapy offered.

A counselor may have a degree in psychology but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are properly licensed and/or certified in the field. You can research your state’s requirements for alcohol counselors and be sure they are credentialed. This is also a good time to see if any complaints have been brought against a counselor.

Counselors use different approaches based on the condition they’re treating. The most common therapy methods for alcoholism are:

Sometimes other therapies are used depending on existing co-occurring conditions (also known as a dual diagnosis).

Addiction Professionals in Northern Illinois

If you’re looking for help for an alcohol or drug addiction, you can find comprehensive treatment at Northern Illinois Recovery Center. We can provide you with professional, credentialed therapists and counselors so you receive the highest quality of care, no matter what substance you’re struggling with and any co-occurring disorders.

NIR also has several levels of care, from residential treatment to three levels of outpatient treatment. We make the transition to a drug and alcohol-free life as smooth as possible. Contact us today. Ask questions. Ask for help.