Is A Substance Abuse Counselor Right For Me?

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated May 8, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Please note that “substance abuse” and “substance dependence” are now referred to as “substance use disorder” per the DSM-5.

If you find yourself having trouble controlling your use of certain substances, then you may have a substance use disorder. This can be a serious disorder that may affect your life in negative ways. That's why it can be important for you to get the professional help you deserve in a timely manner from a substance abuse counselor. Without help, a substance use disorder can affect your relationships, your work, and your ability to achieve personal goals. Therapy or substance abuse counseling for substance use disorders can be completed in person or online with mental health counselors.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a licensed counselor needs a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree or higher, clinical experience, and continuing education to stay certified.  These mental health professionals will develop treatment plans designed to fit your needs. Counseling services and mental health centers may have many addiction counselors available for treatment planning. Addiction counselors work in a variety of environments including in private practice, schools, and correctional facilities, and have a special focus on addiction treatment plans and recovery.

Millions Of Americans Experience Substance Use Disorder

What Is Substance Use Disorder?

Substance use disorder is a mental health disorder and can be characterized by a dependence on any addictive substance, such as illegal drugs, prescription drugs, or alcohol. Disordered substance use generally means that you are using a substance in a way that it shouldn't be used. 

Do I Have Substance Use Disorder?

It can be difficult to admit that you have substance use disorder. In general, no one wants to think of themselves as having an addiction, mainly because of the bleak picture that mainstream media often depicts of people who live with addictions. In this light, it may seem as if people with substance use disorders are doomed and have nothing ahead of them in life. Of course, this isn’t at all the case. If you have substance use disorder, you can overcome the condition. 

If substance use has cost you friends or loved ones, then there may be a problem that needs to be addressed. If you find yourself having a hard time getting through the day without alcohol, drugs, or medication, then you likely have a substance use disorder. The exception may be if you have a diagnosed condition or behavioral disorder, such as ADHD, that requires the use of medication. Still, it can be possible to misuse prescription medication as well, so if you are using the prescription medication in any way other than prescribed by doctors or behavioral disorder counselors , this can also be a sign of a possible substance use disorder. In essence, these may all be signs that you should consider reaching out for professional help.

Substance use disorder doesn’t only impact adults. For teens it may seem like experimentation is normal, however, teens may also develop a substance use disorder. This can make it challenging to find friends, develop healthy habits, or earn a high school diploma. 

Types Of Substance Abuse Counseling

One type of counseling for substance use disorder may be individual counseling with a certified alcohol or drug counselor. With this type of counseling, you and your therapist are usually the only people present. This can allow you to be the focus of attention and interact with the therapist the way you see fit.

Group therapy may be another option when it comes to getting treatment for substance use disorder. Also used with other disorders such as eating disorders or obsessive compulsive disorder, in group therapy you’ll generally be in a setting with other people who are also experiencing problems with substance use that you are. Group sessions may allow you to get and give support because each person in the group typically understands what the others are going through and how the recovery process feels.

The Process Of Quitting

Quitting any kind of addictive substance can be difficult. It can also be a dangerous process if you're not careful. The most important thing that you should do may be to speak with your doctor about your plan to quit before you implement it. A medical professional may prescribe you medications that can help with the detoxification process. 

Stopping anything that you may be addicted to without supervision or a gradual weaning process (which is usually impossible to do properly in a home setting) can be dangerous because it may cause a shock to your system. With medical intervention, you will likely get through the detox process much easier and more safely.

Seeking therapy can be an important step to take along the way as well. You generally want to make sure that you have someone to talk to about what you're experiencing and how it's affecting you. Whether you decide to go with individual therapy or group therapy, there can be many benefits of having someone to talk to. Talking with your family and friends can help as well, but often, they may not understand what you're going through and may not be able to provide you with adequate help. Though they may mean well and want to be there for you, they might lack the professional distance and know-how to assist you with the recovery process.

Some medications can help you with the process of quitting as well. These medications usually make the detox process much easier. They can also help you better resist the temptation to relapse and use again. These prescription medications normally can't be used forever, though, and you may eventually need to live without them. Also, it can be important to be careful if you are already addicted to medication because the potential for addiction to the new medication may exist. Your doctor may not want to test your strength by prescribing anything new.

When the process is over, you'll generally have stopped using the substance entirely. The important thing is usually to make sure you stay on that path. If you've gone through the process of detoxification and quitting, it can be vital that you do not return to drinking or consuming any kind of drugs. Recreational use of any of these should generally be avoided. This can be difficult for someone who started out using alcohol or drugs as a social aid, as it may mean finding new ways to interact with friends and peers. Still, making sure you stay away from the things you were once addicted to may be important for your overall health.

Why You Should Quit

When it comes to substance use, quitting can seem like quite a challenge. You may ask yourself why you would even want to quit in the first place. The truth is that there may be plenty of valid reasons to quit using a particular substance.  First, there may be many ways that substance use has affected your relationships with friends and family, and it might have changed the way that you perform at your job as well. Substance use generally affects just about every area of life, including your physical health. 

Misusing drugs can increase your risk for heart disease, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, psychosis, and even death. In some cases, these negative effects can occur after just a single use. As you continue to use, you often increase your risk for conditions like heart disease, lung disease, cancer, mental illness, hepatitis, and more. Using needles may increase your risk for diseases like HIV and AIDS. No matter what type of substances you use, though, you can suffer extreme consequences and could even die as a result. That may be a good reason for you to avoid using substances at all.

Millions Of Americans Experience Substance Use Disorder

Getting Online Treatment

If you're looking for a way to get the substance use disorder counseling that you deserve, one place for you to look may be online. Online therapy can give you a better chance for success in some respects because it may keep you more comfortable than you would be in a typical therapist's office. If you’re like many people, you may not want to sit on an uncomfortable couch and talk about your feelings, for instance. You may also be experiencing feelings of shame and embarrassment regarding your substance use. With online therapy, you can simply log on and conduct the session in a place where you feel more comfortable, both physically and emotionally.

With online therapy, you may not be compromising the quality of your care, either. Researchers have found that digital therapies can be effective in treating substance use disorder, particularly disordered alcohol use. With any therapy, your relationship with your therapist or counselor is critical, online therapy give you a wide range of substance abuse counselors to look through and try before deciding on one.  


"Is it time to find a substance abuse counselor near me?" If you find that you’ve become reliant on certain substances or experience difficulty controlling your use of a substance, you may be living with a substance use disorder. It can be crucial to seek professional help in order to take control and overcome addiction before it harms various aspects of your life. It can be possible to obtain the help you deserve in person or online.

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