Substance use disorders (SUDs) can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, education, and socioeconomic background. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), substance use disorder is a complex brain disease characterized by uncontrollable use of addictive substances despite harmful consequences. Prolonged use of alcohol or drugs, or both, is known to cause structural and functional changes in the brain that result in dependence, tolerance, and addiction. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), around 38 percent of American adults battled substance use disorder in 2017.
The consequences of substance use disorder are many. They are far-reaching and can be a burden on families and communities alike. They can affect a person’s health and wellbeing, hinder careers and personal relationships, or even cause legal issues. For most, the idea of overcoming drug or alcohol addiction can be daunting. The withdrawal symptoms and relapses that are likely to occur during recovery can make it seem like there is no way out.
While the journey to recovery is never easy, it’s vital to remember you’re not alone. Many have traveled this path and achieved prolonged recovery. Thanks to the advancements in addiction treatment research, effective treatment and recovery are now a possibility for many.
There are many drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities all across the U.S dedicated to helping you achieve prolonged sobriety. These facilities help patients overcome physical and psychological dependence on addictive substances through medical detox programs, evidence-based behavioral therapies, and drug and alcohol counseling programs.
If you wish to overcome substance use disorder, seek immediate medical assistance from an addiction specialist or treatment provider for support and guidance.
What Is Drug and Alcohol Counseling?
Alcohol and drug counseling is an evidence-based treatment approach that helps address the underlying causes of addiction. It makes up a major part of rehabilitation and aims towards creating a supportive, therapeutic environment that makes it easier for patients to express uncomfortable emotions, concerns, and feelings so that they could find positive or effective ways to deal with them. Addiction counseling helps patients develop useful and healthy coping strategies, stress management, and relapse prevention skills to achieve long-term sobriety.
Alcohol and drug addiction counseling is offered at all rehab settings such as inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities, including sober living communities, halfway houses, private practices, and aftercare programs. Individual counseling and group therapy are the two main forms of alcohol and drug abuse counseling. It’s usually conducted by a licensed addiction counselor or therapist and can last anywhere between 30 days to several years, depending on individual treatment requirements.
Types of Substance Abuse Counseling
Counselling has proven to be highly effective in treating substance use disorders and mental health conditions such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety. However, there is no one-size-fits-all counseling approach for substance abuse treatment. Rehabilitation consists of a combination of therapies and counseling sessions that may vary from one person to another based on the type and severity of addiction and individual treatment requirements. So it’s best to seek the help of an alcohol and drug counselor, addiction counselors, or mental health professionals to figure out the right combination of therapies for you.
Some of the most common types of counseling are:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
- Motivational interviewing (MI)
- Family therapy
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a therapeutic practice that has been used for treating many conditions, including substance abuse. It helps patients identify and change problematic behaviors associated with substance use and teaches them skills to cope better with risky situations or triggers. CBT also focuses on helping patients apply coping strategies, such as self-control or avoidance, to prevent relapses after rehab.
CBT is a useful approach for substance abuse counseling as it can be seamlessly paired with other techniques. The skills learned through CBT can come in handy long after the initial therapy and can also be used to treat many types of co-occurring mental health disorders or physical health conditions. CBT is often more affordable than other types of therapies, making it the most popular form of therapy for substance abuse treatment.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a form of talking therapy that identifies and changes negative thought processes and promotes more positive thinking. It emphasizes more on the acceptance of negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors so that it becomes easier for a client to learn relevant coping skills to overcome them. The practice of DBT also helps improve communication skills that help improve relationships with family and friends.
Dialectical behavioral therapy is most effective for patients who experience difficulties regulating emotions. It’s also an effective practice for patients with suicidal thoughts and behaviors as it helps the client interact with the environment less emotionally and more healthily. This approach includes relaxation techniques such as yoga to help patients achieve higher awareness of thoughts and emotions.
Motivational Interviewing (MI)
Motivational interviewing (MI) is the second most popular treatment option for substance abuse. It helps build up motivation and readiness for treatment in order to reduce uncertainty about the management of substance use disorder. MI’s core goal is to resolve ambivalence to addiction treatment so patients are better equipped to change problematic behaviors.
MI does not address the underlying psychological aspects of substance abuse treatment. Hence it’s most often used to enhance other counseling therapies such as CBT. MI is regarded as an effective therapy option during the early stages of recovery and for people who are quite skeptical about the addiction treatment process.
Addiction is often referred to as a “family disease” due to its extended impact on the entire family. And as such most rehabs offer family therapy in addition to other forms of counseling to ensure quality treatment. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), family therapy is a therapeutic approach with a common belief in family-level assessment and intervention. It helps families of patients with SUDs heal and recover as a group and learn how to adjust to their loved one’s recovery from addiction. It also drives family members to improve the home environment so that the recovering individual can re-enter a relapse-free environment.
Family therapy usually involves the immediate family members of recovering individuals such as spouses, parents, children, and friends. This approach helps keep family members of patients involved in the recovery journey and motivates patients to make stronger efforts to establish sobriety.
Why Is Alcohol and Drug Counseling Necessary?
Although medical detox might sound like the most crucial step to recovery from an addiction to alcohol or drugs, it’s merely the first step to a long road ahead. Detox only helps you overcome the physical dependence you have on alcohol or drugs by managing the withdrawal symptoms that usually arise after quitting substance use. The psychological factors that led a person towards addiction in the first place will still remain unresolved and cause relapses.
This is why counseling has become a mainstay in substance abuse treatment for most recovering individuals. Addiction counseling helps address the underlying root causes and psychological aspects of addiction to prolong recovery. It also equips patients with the relevant tools to deal with daily stressors, maintain accountability for their actions, and improves both physical and mental health.
What Makes a Good Addiction Counselor?
To create a personalized recovery plan, an addiction counselor works with their patients to determine their needs and goals. Your counselor should be a good listener and have a compassionate demeanor. The aim of the initial therapy sessions is to lay the groundwork for mutual confidence, which is essential for a successful outcome.
Counselors provide a secure space for the patient to connect by empathizing and being supportive. This will aid the counselor in determining the root problems that are causing the unhealthy behaviors. This is an important aspect of a treatment since long-term rehabilitation is less likely if the root problem is not identified.
The motivation and determination to help their patients progress through the stages of transformation to maintain long-term sobriety is the most important attribute of a successful addiction counselor.
Requirements for a Substance Abuse Counselor
It shouldn’t take long after you meet a counselor or begin working with them to decide whether or not the partnership is beneficial. While it’s natural to feel insecure during therapy, it’s important that you do not feel so uncomfortable that you avoid becoming vulnerable. You’re unlikely to make any progress if you’re afraid, to be honest with your counselor.
Here are some questions to consider before deciding on the right substance abuse counselor for you:
- Do you trust them?
A counselor’s therapeutic relationship with a client must be built on confidence. You must be transparent and frank about the issue in order for substantive progress to occur. Look for a counselor who makes you feel comfortable, respects you as a person, and does not pass judgment on you. The right substance abuse counselor is concerned with your well-being.
- Are you comfortable with them?
The therapeutic relationship is incredibly intimate. Many people want to partner with someone who shares their gender, values, and beliefs. Gender-matching is a standard method in drug treatment that seeks to maximize the degrees of comfort for the client. It can be difficult to form the type of therapeutic relationship needed if your counselor does not share your core values. If their personal values are compatible with yours, they can help you navigate the healing process in the most meaningful way for you.
- What is their approach to addiction treatment?
Not all substance abuse counselors take the same path to addiction treatment. Some simply adhere to the 12 step programs of rehabilitation, and others take a more holistic approach to care. If you already know what kind of care you want, then you should look for a counselor who can offer it. However, finding a counselor, you can trust and allowing them to create a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs can be more effective.
- What are their credentials?
Most states don’t require a degree to become a licensed alcohol and drug counselor (CDAC). Three years of supervised experience, 300 hours of training, and secondary educational requirements are expected for certification. After earning this certification, individuals may apply to become a nationally accredited addiction counselor (NDAC), which provides additional levels of accreditation for those with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Certain substance abuse practitioners have a bachelor’s or associate’s degree. Some hold a master’s or doctoral degree, and others only have a high school diploma. The level of education required varies by state. You may prefer a counselor with extensive education and experience, but don’t put your comfort ahead of qualifications.
Overcoming a substance use disorder takes a great deal of time and commitment. It also requires an equal amount of support from family, friends, and addiction professionals who have years of experience in helping people overcome the disease of addiction. So, reach out to professional support when you decide to overcome the hold of addiction and, most importantly, stay engaged in treatment for a healthier life.
Futures Recovery Healthcare provides the highest level of care and highly qualified addiction specialists and counselors to help you on your road to recovery. We are dedicated to helping you obtain prolonged recovery. So start your journey with us today.