Drugs and alcohol can catch anyone off guard. Finding a substance abuse counselor is one of the most important steps to recovery. Your counselor will be your guide. They’ll be your cheerleader, coach, and referee. How do you choose the best?
Finding a Substance Abuse Counselor
Substance abuse isn’t just the Hollywood depiction of an addict on a self-destructive course. It’s the receptionist at your office who uses alcohol to combat social anxiety at company gatherings and finds herself drinking more and more to “fix” her anxiety. It’s the father and husband, so stressed over paying the rent with a minimum wage job, that beer becomes his constant coping companion until the day he can’t stop drinking.
Substance issues are rarely stereotypical. Anyone can struggle with one. Seeking qualified help in the form of a substance abuse counselor isn’t a sign of weakness. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. If anything, it shows there’s something right because you’re getting help. But how do you choose a substance abuse counselor or team? The shroud cloaking drug and alcohol addiction has made talk about this topic less than acceptable in most circles. So if you’re looking for a substance abuse counselor, you’re in luck. We’re here to share the five things you absolutely must look for.
#1: Zero Tolerance for Judgement
When it comes to kicking a substance issue to the curb, there is a zero tolerance for judgment from your counselor and their team. When visiting a prospective counselor’s office or contacting them for the very first time, you should feel welcomed and relaxed. You should never feel as if you’re being judged, condemned, or pressured in negative ways.
#2: People Not Numbers
You are a person, not a number. You’re not a payday. You’re not a statistic. You’re you, and you’re awesome. A counselor should reinfuse your self-esteem and help you re-build a positive self-image. Regaining self-confidence is important to recovery because you are your greatest ally.
#3: A Willingness to Help
Substance abuse counselors are always looking for appropriate ways to help their clients or patients. They live and breathe making a difference, and it all stems back to putting others before themselves. The most successful counselors are the ones who seem to always step up and help in any manner possible within the limits of professional guidelines.
#4: Proof of Higher Education
Most addiction counselors are recipients of higher education, usually in the form of a Bachelor’s degree in psychology or a human services field. Seasoned clinicians often hold a Master’s degree in a field related to human services. At the very least, a substance abuse counselor should be certified to counsel in the state or earning their state license. If the latter, they should be working with a supervisor to complete the required supervisory hours. Their supervisor should be the recipient of higher education that is related to substance abuse and addiction and the counseling field.
#5: Training, Credentials & Experience
Everyone has to start somewhere, and you just might run into a new substance abuse counselor. But they should never be working alone. A qualified counselor will have training, credentials, and experience. Any lax in these areas will be filled in by one of their colleagues. Most counselors work at a substance abuse facility, drawing support from the power of a counseling team made up of new and seasoned professionals.
What should you expect in these areas? Here are the basics:
- Credentials: Becoming a substance abuse counselor requires training, credentials, and experience. It doesn’t require a professional license to start counseling. Most attain a state certification while working, and if they fulfill all criteria, they can opt to become licensed. Licensing takes years of working in the field.
- Experience: A counselor must be familiar with the 12-step model and have three years of experience in addiction counseling. Experience can be attained while training and completing supervisory hours.
- Training: Counselor training doesn’t end with a degree, certification, or license. Substance abuse counselors are required to complete continuing education.
Interview Your Prospective Counselor
Regardless of whether you’re attending counseling due to a court order or the pursuit of real help, you are essentially hiring and paying for a service. By the time you need a substance abuse professional, chances are you won’t be in the greatest shape to shop for one. It can be frustrating, confusing, and discouraging. Don’t be afraid to say so.
You should interview a prospective counselor or substance abuse facility. Ask them hard-hitting questions, and don’t shy away from admitting where you’re struggling. Their reactions will largely contribute to gauging the five factors listed above. Bring a trusted friend or family member with you, and consult them for their input afterward.
Not sure what to ask? No sweat.
18 Questions You Can Take With You
- What types of treatment options do you offer that apply to my situation, and can you explain them to me?
- Are your services recognized by the state, and can you show me proof?
- How many counselors would I see?
- Do you offer individual or group sessions or a combination?
- What training, experience, and credentials do your counselors have?
- How do your counselors handle continuing education?
- Are any of your counselors recovering addicts or alcoholics? What is their recovery status?
- 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?
- Will I be judged for my past, or can I speak about it freely as able?
- If I have questions about my treatment, how will they be addressed?
- If you think I’m kidding myself or engaging in detrimental actions, will you tell me?
- Will you be tough but tactful and respectful?
- Will you listen to me and really respond? I don’t want to be humored with head nods, uh-huh’s, and hmm’s.
- If I talk about dark things that are uncomfortable, like my depression or thoughts of death, will you change the subject?
- How will my privacy be respected and upheld?
- Will you work with my care team, which may include other doctors or psychological specialists?