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What to Look for in a Substance Abuse Counselor

August 15, 2019

Finding the right substance abuse counselor can be challenging, especially while you are feeling overwhelmed by addiction. However, finding the right counselor for you is a crucial part of your recovery. Your substance abuse counselor will be by your side throughout your journey of recovery from addiction. They will be the person who works one-on-one with you to evaluate your health, develop a treatment plan, keep track of your progress, and help you meet your goals. Developing trust and a relationship with your substance abuse counselor is imperative at the beginning of recovery. 

Finding a Substance Abuse Counselor

The first step in finding a substance abuse counselor is to see what options your insurance will cover. If it is flexible, you can ask for recommendations from others. In addition, information about many addiction counselors can be found online among their practice’s website and patient reviews.

It is also important to consider that a counselor who is good for one person may not be a good fit for another. Each person has unique, individualized needs. For example, some counselors will deal with substance abuse only while others will have expertise in dual-diagnosis. When looking for a substance abuse counselor, it is important to determine your treatment needs and goals. 

Things to Look for in a Substance Abuse Counselor

When you decide on a counselor, you will have your first session where you get to know one another. Although the first session may be uncomfortable, you should be able to determine fairly quickly whether or not this counselor is a good fit for you. If you feel so uncomfortable that you are unable to be honest and vulnerable with your counselor, you won’t make as much progress as you may need. 



Participating in therapy is an extremely personal thing. Sometimes, it can be more comforting to have a counselor who is the same gender as you with similar opinions and beliefs. Using these aspects to pick a counselor is a common practice among addiction treatment facilities to help improve each client’s level of comfort with their substance abuse counselor. 

If you find yourself having a difficult time being open and honest with your substance abuse counselor, they may not be a good fit for you. Lack of comfort can make it extremely difficult to build a vulnerable relationship that is needed to help you begin healing from addiction.



Client-therapist relationships are built upon a foundation of trust. If trust cannot be built, it is unlikely that any progress will be made. If you are determined to make positive changes in your life, you must be able to be honest with your substance abuse counselor about your problems. 

A substance abuse counselor should help you feel safe, respected, and not judged. Instead, they should have your best interests in mind. A good substance abuse counselor will be there to listen to your concerns and needs in a compassionate, understanding manner. 


Clinical Approach

Addiction treatment can be approached in many different ways. Some counselors will take a holistic approach, some a twelve-step approach, and others will focus more on behavioral therapy. Some substance abuse counselors will encourage you to have your family participate, while others will work only with you. 

Although you may think you know exactly what type of treatment you need, it can be difficult to determine this if you are still in the midst of active addiction. If you are unsure what type of approach will benefit you best, it may be a good idea to place your trust in a counselor that you feel comfortable with. Try to be open-minded and let the professionals develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your specific needs. 


Education and Credentials

Education and credentials among substance abuse counselors can vary. Some states require counselors to obtain a degree, while others do not. It is understandable that you may prefer a substance abuse counselor that has more education, but this doesn’t need to be your top priority.

Instead, focus on looking for a counselor whom you trust and feel comfortable with. Also, somebody with years of experience, regardless of their education, might be more suitable for you. After all, somebody with years of experience will have dealt with many others who suffer from addiction and may be able to offer fresh insights that will aid in your recovery. 

Another thing you may want to consider is whether or not your counselor is in recovery themselves or has been touched by a family member who suffers from addiction. These individuals may have unique, personal experiences that they can share with you to provide first-hand insight. However, this is not required, it is merely a personal preference. 

Substance Abuse Counselors in South Florida

At Truth Recovery Center, our addiction professionals will help you choose which of our substance abuse counselors is the best fit for you. As professionals who are experienced in treating addiction, we understand how important it is for each individual to feel safe and comfortable during their sessions to optimize their growth. If you or a loved one is in search of a substance abuse counselor in South Florida, contact us at Truth Recovery Center today.