What to Look for in a Substance Abuse Counselor

Trying to find the right substance abuse counselor may be the last thing you want to worry about when dealing with the stress of drug or alcohol addiction. However, seeking help is one of the most important steps you will take in your journey to recovery. Therapists who specialize in drug and alcohol abuse work closely with their patients to develop an individualized treatment plan, monitor patients’ progress, and help them reach their recovery goals. As a result, it is vital that you and your primary therapist have a trusting and positive relationship.

What is Substance Abuse Counseling?

Counseling is perhaps one of the most important parts of addiction treatment because it helps patients learn how to overcome substance abuse emotionally and mentally. When patients arrive at our treatment center in West Palm Beach, they will be paired with a primary therapist who specializes in substance abuse and mental health counseling.

Addiction counselors are usually licensed in psychology, social work, mental health, and other therapeutic methods. They work closely with afflicted individuals by helping them talk through the nuances of their substance abuse. Therapists who specialize in chemical dependency may be found across a variety of settings, from hospitals to community centers, but they are most often based at a local addiction treatment provider.

Patients will meet with their primary therapist in both group and one-on-one counseling sessions to address issues such as mental illness, lifestyle choices, behavior patterns, emotion regulation, and treatment goals. Addiction treatment therapy may consist of the following:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which focuses on identifying and getting rid of negative thought patterns
  • Learning how to practice healthy coping skills
  • Encouraging peer support and participation in 12-step recovery groups
  • Discussing relapse prevention strategies and relapse triggers
  • Setting recovery goals and monitoring treatment progress
  • Developing an aftercare plan for the patient to follow after leaving rehab

It is highly recommended that patients work with the same therapist throughout treatment in order to build trust and continue making progress. As a result, it is vital that you find a substance abuse counselor that you are compatible with.

How to Find a Substance Abuse Counselor Near You

There are many ways to find an addiction counselor. Depending on your needs, you may choose to see a counselor on an outpatient weekly basis or you may choose an inpatient treatment facility that pairs you with a counselor. A great place to start is by running a Google search for drug and alcohol treatment providers near you or to ask a friend or family member for their recommendation.

However, if you are unsure of where to start, you can contact one of our addiction specialists in West Palm Beach who will speak with you on a free and confidential line to help you find the right treatment program for you.

Choosing a Therapist: Things to Consider

Finding the right substance abuse counselor may be a process. After all, you may start working with someone and decide that it simply isn’t a good fit. Here are some things to consider when trying to determine if a therapist is right for you.


Depending on the state you are in, drug and alcohol abuse counselors may have different certifications. For example, some states require people to complete three years of supervised counseling work along with 300 hours of secondary education to become a certified alcohol and drug counselor (CDAC). Once people have their CDAC, they may apply to become a nationally certified addiction counselor (NDAC), a certification that provides the highest level of accreditation for therapists who have completed their bachelor’s or master’s degree. On the other hand, many addiction counselors have an associate, bachelor’s, masters, or Ph.D., but the level of education varies by state.

If you prefer a counselor with a lot of experience, it is important to ask about their credentials. However, your safety and comfort shouldn’t be sacrificed simply to see someone who has more education.

Trust and Comfort

Although it is normal for counseling to feel a bit uncomfortable, you shouldn’t feel so uncomfortable around your therapist that it stops you from being honest or vulnerable with them. If you don’t trust or feel comfortable with your counselor, it is unlikely that you will make the progress you are seeking.

The best addiction counselors will care for you in a nonjudgemental way that holds your best interest at heart. He or she should listen to your concerns, make adjustments when necessary, and direct therapy sessions to meet your needs. If you simply don’t feel comfortable being honest with your primary therapist, it is in your best interest to seek another professional opinion.

The Therapeutic Approach

Every addiction treatment center and substance abuse counselor has a different approach to treating drug and alcohol abuse. For example, some follow and encourage the 12-steps of recovery while others take a more behavioral and evidence-based approach to treatment. On the other hand, individuals who suffer from mental illness or trauma may require dual diagnosis treatment or trauma-informed care.

It is important to examine what types of approaches the therapist uses and whether or not that approach will target your personal needs. That being said, it isn’t always easy to know what you need when your mind is clouded by drugs and alcohol, so it is usually best to find a counselor that you trust and allow them to create a course of care that will meet your needs.

Get Connected With a Substance Abuse Counselor in West Palm Beach

Obtaining individualized counseling for drug and alcohol abuse is at the foundation of any addiction treatment program. Patients who enroll in our addiction treatment program in West Palm Beach will be paired with a substance abuse counselor who will tailor a treatment plan to meet their individual needs. By offering an intimate setting with a 1:3 staff to client ratio, our rehab programs offer individuals the individual attention they deserve while starting the process of recovery.

With 24/7 access to counseling, peer support, and other recovery resources, you will find that recovery is entirely possible. To learn more about finding the right substance abuse counselor near you, contact one of our dedicated treatment providers today.

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.