Angie's LIST Guide to
Addiction Counseling

Addiction is a chronic disease that involves biochemical reward by using a substance or behavior to reach a pleasant or pleasurable state of mind or feeling. In many cases, addicts need professional help to stop.


Individuals having a hard time coping with various circumstances can often find the help they need working with a counseling or mental health professional. A variety of specialists are available to provide individualized care for specific needs.
Individuals having a hard time coping with various circumstances can often find the help they need working with a counseling or mental health professional. A variety of specialists are available to provide individualized care for specific needs.

Seeking addiction counseling

When addictive behavior causes disruption in your life and you are unable to stop on your own, addiction counseling can help. Counseling will give you the tools you need to eliminate out of control behavior.  Addiction counseling serves as an initial starting point for identifying, treating and resolving the many forms of addiction. Trained professionals can evaluate and diagnose a suspected addiction or medical problem through a variety of therapies.

Alcoholism is a common type of addiction that can cause severe lifestyle and health problems. Frequent consumption of alcoholic drinks and an inability to stop drinking or control your drinking could signal alcohol abuse. When you're in the grasp of alcoholism, your drinking is out of control and negatively affects your lifestyle and those around you. Counseling that involves inpatient medical detox as well as intense behavioral therapy sessions can alleviate or teach you how to cope with symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and help you achieve sobriety.

Drug addiction is a very serious issue that may also require treatment through counseling. Because of the addictive qualities of some drugs and their deadly side effects, detoxification and counseling are often necessary to help beat drug dependency. Examples of addictive drugs include amphetamines, cocaine, certain prescription drugs, inhalants, phencyclidine (PCP) and hallucinogens.

If you smoke tobacco, counseling can help you deal with your cravings and teach you constructive behavioral modifications. Quitting smoking can contribute to a healthier lifestyle and reduce your risk for developing cardiovascular disease, emphysema and certain types of cancer.

Some behavioral addictions and disorders may force you to seek professional intervention and treatment. These types of addictions are referred to as impulse control disorders and include food addiction, body dysmorphic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, compulsive gambling, kleptomania and intermittent explosive disorder. You may need help with learning new behavioral skills to regain a sense of normalcy in your life. Choosing help for your addiction through a professional counselor increases your chances for long-term sobriety or cessation.

Types of addiction counseling

Addiction counseling is a form of mental health therapy. A counselor will look at your past medical history, family dynamics, relationships and current mental health status. He or she will examine current lifestyle points, such as employment, financial concerns and any type of issues that could be contributing to mounting stress factors. After evaluation, the counselor will decide which type of therapy or counseling is right for you.

Counseling may include individual sessions as well as multidimensional family therapy by trained counselors who have specialized training in addiction and chemical dependency. Individual counseling includes one-on-one sessions that evaluate your addiction, discuss its severity and identify triggers that may be causing your desire to use drugs or engage in certain behaviors. This type of counseling is the initial starting point of the treatment process. Multidemensional family therapy may be initiated if you have family members you interact with daily. Problem-solving sessions will help teach them coping mechanisms and guide them through what to expect throughout your recovery.

Inpatient therapy may be needed to help assure the body detoxes safely from drugs or alcohol with minimal side effects. An addiction counselor will be on hand throughout this process and provide care both in the facility and in follow-up outpatient therapy program sessions.

Group therapy may be beneficial for long-term care. This type of open-forum setting will involve other addicts at various stages of their recovery, along with a counselor who will assist in discussing the side effects and issues involved with withdrawal. Some form of cognitive behavioral therapy may also be introduced at these sessions. This type of therapy will discuss major triggers that could cause interruptions in your recovery and will teach you how to enforce healthy habits instead of bad ones so that you can stay focused on sobriety.

Benefits of addiction counseling

Participation in addiction counseling sessions aims to acquire the skills needed to lead a productive and healthy lifestyle. Overcoming addiction includes staying physically healthy, taking your prescribed medication exactly as directed and going to all doctors' appointments. It also means plugging into a network of support, attending all counseling sessions, recognizing and reducing life stressors, learning about your addiction  and getting help if you feel a relapse coming on.

Seeking treatment can improve your lifestyle habits, allowing you to be productive with daily activities and reduce the risk of permanent health damage that could result from prolonged use of drugs and alcohol or negative compulsive behavior. The correct coping mechanisms along with an accurate diagnosis for any underlying conditions will help assure your treatment outcome for addiction is successful.

Choosing an addiction counselor

The training and requirements to become an addiction counselor vary by state, but all states require some form licensure. Some states require counselors to obtain a certification in addiction counseling or substance abuse, while other states require addiction counselors to have a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Tips for choosing an addiction counselor:

  • Referrals – Ask your doctor for a referral, or try searching online or checking Angie’s List for reviews. The Association for Addiction Professionals has a searchable database to find addiction counselors by state.

  • Specialization – For optimal results, choose an addiction counselor that specializes in the addiction you are struggling to overcome, such as narcotics, alcohol or food.

  • Check your insurance – Your insurance policy might cover addiction counseling, but coverage varies depending on the insurance company.


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