How to Find a Good Addiction Therapist

Medically reviewed by: Erica Munro, MSc
Tuesday, August 15 2023

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 46.3 million people aged 12 or older (or 16.5% of the U.S. population) meet the criteria for having a substance use disorder. Sadly, these numbers continue to climb, with rates of both drug addiction and alcohol addiction on the rise.

Addiction is a mental health condition, and treating it as such is the best way to approach recovery. In this article, we’ll take a look at everything you need to know about the types of therapy used for addiction treatment and how to find the right therapist who specializes in addiction.

Understanding your specific needs

Before you search for the right therapist for substance abuse, it’s important to assess your unique needs, preferences, and goals for the recovery process. Different types of addiction require different treatment programs. Each person and addiction is unique, making it important to choose a therapist and addiction counseling program that aligns with your personal preferences.

Take a moment to reflect on what you hope to achieve from addiction therapy and what you are looking for in a licensed therapist. This includes taking into account the exact type of addiction you are dealing with (whether it's drugs, alcohol, gambling, shopping, etc.) as well as whether you would prefer individual or group therapy.  Answering these questions before you begin your search will help you find the therapist and treatment program that is best suited for you and ensure that you don’t end up having a poor experience with therapy.

What types of therapy can be used for addiction?

Therapists will use a variety of treatment approaches for substance abuse treatment, including:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT is a type of psychotherapy used by mental health professionals to treat a variety of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and substance abuse disorders. 

A treatment provider using CBT to treat substance abuse and addiction will focus on helping identify, challenge, and reframe maladaptive thought patterns and behaviors contributing to the addiction. By promoting cognitive restructuring, CBT helps therapy seekers adopt a mindset that supports addiction recovery.

Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT)

REBT places a heavy emphasis on a person’s beliefs and how those beliefs impact their behaviors. The goal of REBT is to identify and challenge irrational beliefs that contribute to emotional distress and unwanted behaviors. 

A therapist using REBT to treat addiction will focus on helping the client recognize self-defeating thoughts related to their addiction and replace them with rational, constructive beliefs. In this way, REBT helps people address the root cause of their addiction.  

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)

DBT is a therapeutic approach that combines elements of CBT but instead focuses on emotional regulation skills. It focuses on helping people identify and reframe maladaptive thought patterns contributing to their addiction to help them regulate stress and negative emotions that hinder addiction recovery.    

Motivational interviewing

When it comes to addiction recovery, motivation to get help and get better is one the most important keys to success. Motivational interviewing is a type of individual therapy designed to strengthen this motivation. With motivational interviewing, a therapist will help people explore their motivations for change and will work to reinforce them so they have the willpower to stick to their treatment plan.

Person-centered therapy (PCT)

Also known as client-centered therapy, PCT emphasizes the therapeutic relationship as the foundation for addiction recovery. PCT provides a safe and non-judgmental space for people to explore their feelings and experiences related to substance abuse. This supportive environment is designed to encourage self-discovery, personal growth, and increased self-awareness — all of which are key elements of addiction recovery.

Contingency management (CM)

CM is a behavioral approach commonly used to treat addiction. This approach involves providing rewards or incentives for abstaining from drug or alcohol use as a form of positive reinforcement. The underlying principle of CM is to reinforce desirable behaviors while discouraging or eliminating undesirable behaviors.

12-step therapy programs

12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are well-known and widely used tools for addiction recovery. These programs, based on 12 steps to addiction recovery, include support groups where people can share their feelings and experiences with others in a non-judgemental environment. 

How to find the right therapist who specializes in addiction

Finding a therapist who specializes in addiction, has the right experience, and uses an approach that aligns with your needs and preferences is key to making the most of addiction treatment. Here are six methods that you can use to find the best-fit therapist:

1. Match with a therapist with SonderMind

At SonderMind, we make therapy convenient and accessible by helping our clients connect with online and in-person therapists. By asking just a few simple questions about yourself, SonderMind can connect you with a therapist who specializes in addiction and is suited to your needs and personal preferences.

Once you’ve matched with the right therapist, you can communicate with them and schedule appointments directly within SonderMind’s user-friendly platform. If you’re looking for a straightforward and effective way to find your ideal therapist, connect with a SonderMind therapist today.

2. Consult with your primary care provider

One great way to find a therapist is to seek a referral from your primary care provider. After learning more about your condition and recovery goals, your primary care provider may be able to refer you to a therapist who fits your needs. 

Another benefit of getting a referral from your primary doctor is the fact that referrals are sometimes required before insurance companies will agree to cover addiction treatment. Additionally, the primary care provider can collaborate care with the therapist if needed.

3. Search online directories or insurance directories

Online directories of therapists who specialize in addiction and the directories that your insurance company provides can sometimes be helpful resources for finding a therapist. These lists won’t be able to match you with a curated list of ideal therapists in the same way that SonderMind can, but they can still be useful for learning more about the therapists who specialize in addiction in your area.

4. Get in touch with mental health associations or recovery centers

Mental health associations and recovery centers provide a lot of resources to people who are recovering from addiction, including helping them find the right therapist. Once again, these organizations aren’t the most effective way of finding a therapist, but they may be able to provide you with a lot of useful information about the therapists working in your area or other local resources.

5. Seeking recommendations and referrals

If you have any friends or family members who have undergone addiction treatment in the past, it could be worth considering reaching out to them. They may be able to tell you about their experience with specific therapists. While there’s no guarantee that your experience will be the same, their advice may still be incredibly valuable.

Tips for finding the right therapist who specializes in addiction

There are a few important factors you will want to keep in mind regardless of how you find the right therapist. Here are three of these factors that are always important to consider when searching for a therapist who specializes in addiction:

Assess experience and background

We’ve already mentioned the importance of choosing a therapist with experience in treating substance abuse. Before you schedule an appointment with a therapist, verify this background and experience with your own research.

Evaluate therapeutic fit

Choosing a therapist whose approach and personality align with your personal preferences is important for building a connection. This can often be difficult to evaluate before you’ve met with a therapist, which is why SonderMind is so beneficial. 

SonderMind connects you to licensed, qualified therapists who meet your unique needs and preferences so you don't have to search through directories. If the therapist we've matched you with isn’t the right fit, we’ll connect you to another one who is.

While meeting with a therapist firsthand is the best way to determine whether a therapist is a good match for you, recommendations from friends and family, plus researching testimonials from past clients, can also help you evaluate therapeutic fit.

Consider logistical factors

If you want to meet with an in-person therapist, you will need to consider logistical factors such as where the therapist is located, how you’ll get there, and their availability. But with online therapy, this is less of a concern because you can meet from anywhere.

Get matched with the right therapist for your recovery with SonderMind

Addiction recovery can be a difficult path. If you want to connect with a therapist ideally suited for you and begin your path to better health, SonderMind can help.

Try SonderMind today to match with an online or in-person therapist in as little as 48 hours. SonderMind's approach to personalized care is highly effective, with clients seeing results in as little as five to six sessions.

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