How To Find A Good Addiction Therapist: 9 Things To Look For

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Recovery from addiction can involve several different treatment approaches, including therapy. Finding a good therapist is often essential when addressing addiction at the outpatient level.

How To Find A Good Addiction Therapist: 9 Things To Look For

If you need addiction treatment but don’t want to go to a rehab center, you may want to get started by finding a therapist or addiction counselor.

Therapists and counselors are employed at inpatient treatment centers but also work at the outpatient level and can help you develop a treatment plan for addiction recovery.

The terms “therapist” and “counselor” are often used interchangeably. However, counselors usually offer short-term treatment for one issue while a therapist offers long-term treatment that addresses a variety of issues.

Below, find nine things to look for in an addiction counselor or therapist to help ensure their effectiveness and ability to meet your needs.

Education And Licensing

Becoming an addiction therapist or counselor requires a lot of education. Licensed professional counselors or therapists must first get a bachelor’s degree, usually in psychology.

But to be a licensed counselor or therapist, they must also get a master’s degree or even a doctorate. Licensing also requires a certain number of hours practicing under supervision.


Look for a counselor or therapist who has experience in substance abuse care. Experience in this case comes in two categories to consider.

The first category is clinical experience addressing substance use disorders. Providers with several years of experience under their belts are likely to offer more effective treatment.

The second category is personal experience with drug or alcohol addiction. Some people assert that the best drug and alcohol therapists are those who have experienced a substance use disorder themselves.

A therapist with personal experience with addiction may be more likely to be:

  • patient
  • empathetic
  • compassionate
  • understanding of issues like relapse

Good Listener

Whether or not you go with someone who has had personal experience with recovery, all therapists and counselors must have certain qualities and good listening is one of them.

This may seem like an obvious trait, but not all addiction treatment specialists have it. Some may have compassion fatigue and others may simply be bad listeners.

One way to tell if a therapist is a good listener is that they let you do most of the talking. Follow-up questions that are pertinent to your situation are another way to tell they’re listening.


Therapy sessions should challenge you, yes, but they should also be a safe place where the therapist’s empathy encourages you to share what you are going through.

When empathy is present, you feel safe sharing about things you may feel shame or guilt over, such as alcohol or opioid cravings or mental health issues.

Excellent Communicator

A mental health professional should be an excellent communicator. Cravings, behavioral changes, and mental health conditions may make it hard for clients to concentrate in a counseling session.

Being able to communicate difficult concepts clearly the first time can help these concepts stay with clients through ups and downs on the recovery journey.

Flexible Treatment Approaches

The most effective addiction therapists often don’t rely on just one type of therapy. Helping people facing alcohol and drug addiction means being able to adapt to different situations and take approaches to treatment that address individual needs.

Therapy treatment types include but aren’t limited to:

Referrals For Other Services

A therapist who is connected to a larger community of treatment providers will be able to make referrals when necessary.

Other aspects of treatment may include:

  • case management
  • medication management
  • psychiatry
  • inpatient program
  • addiction medicine services such as medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • healthcare services
  • Having a therapist who can make recommendations for a social worker, clinical social worker, addiction psychiatrist, or a treatment center can make all the difference for your recovery.


There are a couple of practical considerations to keep in mind. For example, you may find the perfect therapist, but if he or she is booked out for two months, you will want to look for someone else.

Part of availability may include setting. Having a therapist who can offer online therapy sessions as well as in-person sessions can make a difference if transportation is an issue.

Insurance And Cost

Having a therapist who is in-network with your insurance may be critical. You can call your insurance provider or access the website to find in-network therapists in your area.

You may still have a copay, so be sure to find out about all costs involved. If you’re not planning on using insurance, ask the therapist about costs upfront, including whether they offer payment assistance if needed.

Find Addiction Treatment Today

If you are living with drug or alcohol abuse, call us today. We have more information for you on your treatment options, the recovery process, and how to get started.

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