How To Find An Addiction Therapist

Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Erban, LMFT, IMH-E
Updated May 24, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, substance use, or abuse which could be triggering to the reader.
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If you are struggling with addiction, get professional help
Challenges related to addiction affect many people. Over 20 million individuals in the United States have an addiction, and more than 100 people per day die of an overdose.

The disease model of addiction indicates that these addictions (also known as substance use disorders) are, in fact, diseases that involve genetic and/or biological factors, which means that medical and/or mental health treatment for such conditions is generally required for recovery. Also note that of those who live with a substance use disorder, almost 40% also have another co-occurring mental health condition as well. If you’re living with an addiction or dependency issue of any kind, you may benefit from professional help from addiction counselors or therapists online, in some cases, or in person.

Types of dependencies and addictions that may require addiction treatment

Understanding a bit more about common types of substance-related challenges can help you figure out which type of professional you may want to seek out. First, let’s take a look at the types of addiction and some of the addictive substances that are often misused. 

Although they're often used interchangeably, dependence vs addiction are two different stages of potentially harmful substance reliance. Dependence generally refers to the physical need and resulting tolerance a person may develop for a particular substance that can lead to withdrawal if stopped. Addiction generally refers to an escalated version of this experience, where physical dependency increases and mental dependency becomes strong as well. At the point of addiction, it can be very difficult to stop using the substance without professional support, as the chances of experiencing withdrawal symptoms can be high. Inpatient or outpatient treatment, usually involving addiction therapy, group therapy, and an individualized treatment plan, may be necessary.

Drugs and alcohol are two substances that people most commonly associate with addiction, which we’ll take a closer look at below. There’s also the possibility of nicotine addiction in the form of cigarettes or vapes. Even the milder caffeine addiction can still cause reliance, though with considerably lower potential consequences than the other addictive substances listed here. Finally, addiction can also involve many other behaviors outside of substances, such as gambling, shopping, and overeating. Struggles with any substance or addictive behavior can warrant help from an addiction therapist or other mental health professional.

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol, particularly in excess, can lead to alcohol use disorder or alcohol addiction in some individuals, which can greatly increase the risk of developing serious health complications that can impact a person’s quality of life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that over 140,000 adults died each year between 2015 and 2019 because of alcohol-related diseases or injuries such as: 

  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Stroke
  • Hypertension
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
  • Infections
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Various types of cancer

Alcohol use is legal and common at social gatherings, meaning that it’s easy to source, difficult to avoid, and fairly simple to hide in many cases if a problem with misuse or addiction develops. As of 2021, new statistics show that almost 11% of Americans aged 12 and older have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Searching for "alcohol counseling near me" can be a place to start if you’re experiencing symptoms of an AUD or alcohol addiction. This can help you find mental health professionals nearby who specialize in addiction treatment and particularly treatment for alcoholism.

Narcotics

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), around 8% of Americans aged 12 or older have a drug use disorder. Depending on the particular substance, possible consequences of drug use or addiction could include the risk of overdose and increased risk of long-term health conditions like stroke, heart disease, cancer, and various mental health conditions. Potential warning signs that you or someone you love could be experiencing a drug use disorder or addiction include:

  • A lack of motivation
  • Absenteeism at school or work
  • Changes in behavior
  • Changes in appetite
  • Hyperactivity or a tendency to talk more than normal
  • A tendency to stagger, stumble, or slur words
  • Poor hygiene
  • Cough or congestion
  • Swelling of the face or hands
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Needle marks
  • Changes in breath or body odors
  • Shaking or sweating
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Dilated pupils
  • Red eyes
  • Cravings
  • Lack of interest in other things
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Risk factors for developing an addiction

There are many risk factors for drug and alcohol addiction. For example, addiction can be at least partially hereditary. The environment can also contribute to the possibility of substance misuse; if you have been around drugs and alcohol in your home and/or grew up around them, your chances of using and misusing substances may be higher than average, also increasing your chances of addiction. There are many other possible risk factors, including:

  • A chronic or terminal illness like cancer
  • Mental or emotional disorders
  • Abusive family dynamics
  • Peer pressure
  • Parents who are neglectful or abusive
  • Curiosity or a desire for experimentation

Types of therapy provided by mental health professionals for substance use challenges

The best addiction treatment for a substance use disorder depends on the individual and their circumstances. There are various types of therapy that may be helpful for someone with a substance use disorder, depending on the particulars of their situation. For example, motivational therapy is one common form of treatment for addiction that utilizes techniques derived from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of talk therapy that helps you change thought patterns and behavior. It’s a patient-centered method that focuses on motivating the person living with the addiction to change negative behaviors through empathy, compassion, and personal accountability. Motivational therapy focuses on the stages of change, which include:

  • Precontemplation, when you are not ready to change
  • Contemplation, when you are thinking about changing
  • Preparation, when you are getting ready to change
  • Action, which is the main part of the change process
  • Maintenance, which involves sustaining behavior change
  • Relapse, or the potential to slip back into your previous behaviors
  • Termination, which means you are done with the cycle and have moved on

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is another form of therapy that may be used for those experiencing substance use disorders. This therapy aims to teach a person to build distress tolerance and healthy coping mechanisms to help them avoid turning to substance use when experiencing stress or sadness. Trauma-focused therapies like eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy could also help if unresolved past trauma is contributing to a person’s substance misuse or addiction challenges. These are just a few of the many different therapeutic modalities that may be recommended for an individual with this type of addiction disorder. Speak with a doctor, substance use therapist, or marriage and family therapist for more information on which therapeutic treatment process might be right for you.

Addressing drug and alcohol dependency with a therapist or other mental health professional: Seeking an addiction therapist near me

Seeking professional help for a substance use disorder or addiction is usually the recommended course of action for those who are experiencing symptoms. First—especially if you have any underlying issues related to physical health—a doctor may help you navigate any withdrawal symptoms, which could include vomiting, diarrhea, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and seizures. Then, they can establish an effective therapy and treatment plan.

In addition, setting out to find an addiction therapist or substance use therapist to add to your care team can help you with the mental and emotional aspects of quitting, as well as address what may have led you to substance misuse and addiction in the first place. For example, therapists like this can help you address past trauma, chronic stress, or symptoms of a mental health condition like depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and support you in finding healthier coping mechanisms for these difficult emotions. In one-on-one therapy, many therapists, addiction psychologists, and mental health professionals, whether they have a master’s degree or further education, aim to help you get to the root of addiction and find alternative ways to manage difficult emotions.

Some individuals will have the best results receiving comprehensive care at an inpatient facility, while others may be able to seek treatment by attending regular appointments online or in person. If you’re looking for a ‘substance use counselor near me,’ “addiction therapist near me,” or ‘drug counseling near me,’ you can search these terms to find inpatient or outpatient services in your area. Or, you could contact your insurance company, if applicable, for a list of in-network providers, ask your doctor for a referral, or reach out to local community organizations that may be able to provide resources. You might also consider group therapy and family therapy in addition to individual therapy. Working with family therapists can help you, as well as those close to you who may have been affected by your addiction. The best therapy may be the option that you believe benefits you the most, and this can vary from person to person.

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If you are struggling with addiction, get professional help

Online therapy for substance use challenges

Some people find it difficult, intimidating, or inconvenient to attend in-person appointments with a therapist to discuss their challenges with substance use. In some cases, online therapy can be an effective and convenient alternative with lower therapy costs. This is particularly true for those who have noticed early signs of potentially problematic substance misuse or those who may be at risk for developing a substance use disorder due to past trauma, a family history, or other factors. It can also be a promising option for individuals who have a loved one facing substance-related challenges, as a way for them to receive emotional support.

With a platform like BetterHelp, you can get this type of support virtually, from the comfort of home. While virtual treatment is not appropriate in all cases—particularly severe cases where inpatient/in-person treatment is necessary—it can be helpful for some individuals. Research suggests that online therapy where you meet with a provider virtually can be an effective treatment for psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety, and others, so it may be worth exploring for some individuals.

Counselor reviews

“Rebecca is a phenomenal counselor, her background and experience in a few areas like the judicial system and drug and alcohol treatment offers great insight for those who may have loved ones working through those issues. They are highly available, always willing to open additional appointments if you can't find a time that works for you, and respond quickly through chat. I would highly recommend anyone interested in working with cognitive behavioral therapy to reach out and see if they are available for a chat.”

“Samuel is an extremely smart man and makes me feel like he cares about me and my mental health. He goes the extra mile in finding me local groups and clinics and refers me to books to read. I still have a long way to go but I’m glad it’s with him. Thank you, Sam.”

Takeaway

Addiction can be a deeply challenging health concern to address, which is why deciding to find an addiction therapist or other licensed healthcare professional for support is usually recommended. If you’re experiencing a substance use disorder or any level of substance use that is concerning to you or your loved ones, help is available. You can find addiction therapists in your area by asking your insurance company, connecting with community organizations, asking for a referral from your doctor, or, in some cases, meeting with a therapist online.

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