No matter how strong and motivated and ready to face the world you feel after leaving rehab, it’s absolutely vital that you find qualified, regular support as soon as possible after your release and return home.  While the counseling you received as a part of your program helped you to get clean and sober and enabled you to embark on your recovery journey, you will need continuing support as you travel along this path.  Early recovery can be a rocky road, and you simply must have a trained professional standing by to help you navigate it.  With this in mind, finding a therapist or counselor that is experienced in the addiction recovery field, and one with whom you feel comfortable, is very important to your long-term success.  However, it can sometimes be difficult to find the right one for you.   How do you know what kind of professional you need?  Once you have found someone, how do you know if he or she is qualified and effective?  How can you be sure that your counselor or therapist is going to be there for you when needed? Read on for some tips on this topic.

Types of Professionals

There are actually several types of professionals that exist to help people who are recovering from addiction.  Many people often lump them all together as one profession in their minds, but really, they are quite different.  Different types of professionals require different types of licensing and different levels of education.  A few types of professionals that can offer support in recovery from addiction include:

  • Addiction psychiatrist – Psychiatrists are medical doctors who can prescribe medications to their patients. They usually do not spend a lot of clinical time face-to-face with their patients.
  • Addiction psychologist – An addiction psychologist is an expert in behavior and thinking and use scientific tests to learn more about his or her patients, and then designs their treatment around the results of those tests. Most of their counseling is focused on changing behaviors in the individual.
  • Addiction therapist – Therapists treat their patients through counseling sessions and relationships may be long and ongoing. Although it varies from state to state, most therapists are licensed and hold a masters degree in psychology, education, or social work.
  • Substance abuse counselor – The role of substance abuse counselor can be filled by people from countless walks of life and with varying levels of education. Some, but not all, have degrees in counseling, but others offer counseling based simply on personal experience – which, of course, can often be very effective; the majority of substance abuse counselors are recovering addicts themselves.
  • Social worker – The title of social worker encompasses a wide variety of professionals that help people in need. Social workers look at all aspects of an individual’s problem, including individual issues, psychological issues, as well as societal and political obstacles, and treats their client with all of these things in mind.  In addition to providing counseling themselves, they also often refer their clients to appropriate public or private resources as well.

Professional Qualifications

Since the roles and positions of various addiction support professionals are so varied, so are the qualifications for each.   To ensure that the professional you choose is adequately educated and licensed, do not hesitate to check their credentials online.   Every state has a licensing website that regular citizens can visit to look up professional licenses.  It should be easy to find the therapist or counselor you are considering with just a few simple mouse clicks.

The amount of schooling varies greatly for these positions.  Psychiatrists must attend medical school to become licensed, while some substance abuse counselors may have not even graduated high school.  Psychologists usually have master’s degrees but not always, and therapists and socials workers may have a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree, depending on where they are individually in their careers.

There are also a number of professional organizations in the substance abuse counseling field, and your therapist or counselor may belong to one or several.  Groups like the National Association for Addiction Professionals and the National Board for Certified Counselors are groups that offer support for the supporters, through professional development opportunities, newsletters, conferences, and networking for people in this field.

Of course, the qualifications of these individuals are less important than your personal connection to the individual professional you choose.  If you do not feel that you can open up to the person you have chosen, even if he or she went to a top school and has countless degrees hanging on the office wall, then it’s time to find someone different.  If you do not have a good rapport with your addiction professional, he or she will not really be much help to you if and when you encounter obstacles or feel that you are struggling.

What is Counseling?  What is Therapy?  Which do I need?

People tend to use the words counseling and therapy interchangeably, but they are actually different things that although similar, are actually different.  Counseling focuses on changing from this point forward, whereas therapy examines past experiences and behaviors and investigates the ways in which these things are effecting the patient in the present.  If you feel that your addiction was a product of things that have happened to you in the past, you will most likely want to work with a therapist of some kind.  If instead you feel that the past is the past, and you simply want support moving forward from here, then a counselor would be a great person to have standing by for support.

How to Choose Wisely

Once you have determined what type of counselor or therapist you think you need, the next step is to choose an individual specifically.  This can certainly be the most challenging part of this process.  However, going in, be aware that if you do not like the first one you try, it is perfectly fine to choose a different one.  In fact, you should.  Again, if you do not feel comfortable with the support you are receiving as a recovering addict, and if you do not feel like you can open up to the professional you are visiting, it is extremely important that you seek out someone else.  Someone with whom you feel that you do not have a good relationship will not be much help to you when you really need help.

When seeking out an addiction professional, there are many paths you can take.  A good place to start might be by talking to other people that you know who are in recovery about who they visit, and you can alternately ask who they tried that they did not like.    Leaders of local support groups may also have good suggestions due to years of experience in leading groups and personal knowledge of professionals in the immediate area the support group serves.  There are a number of online sites that review all sorts of professionals including addiction professionals, and even sites like Yelp may be useful to you.  And, asking your physician for recommendations may be an additional helpful resource in this realm.  Lastly, Psychology Today magazine has a fantastic therapist search engine on their site, organized by zip code, which includes a great deal of information about each therapist included and is searchable by things like insurance carriers accepted, gender, language, age group served, specialties, and more.

Once you have your first appointment, do not hesitate to interview your addiction professional.  They are expecting this and should be happy to answer any questions you have.  Ask if he or she has experience in treating people in recovery, and feel free to also ask if he or she is a recovering addict as well, or if they had addiction in their family.  You might want to know if your addiction professional views addiction as a disease, and whether or not he or she will judge you for thins you have done in the past.  If you are religious or spiritual, you may be curious as to whether your addiction counselor or therapist is too, to see if faith will be a part of your counseling.  You also may want to ask your addiction professional about his or her methods, to see if they plan to be more of a passive listener who will let you vent, or if he or she will instead be an active participant in helping you find solutions to the problems you encounter along the way.

Finding the right counselor or therapist can be imperative to staying clean and sober for the long haul.  If you are just starting on your path to recovery, we at Clear Sky Recovery are here to help.  Please contact us today to learn more about ibogaine detox and to find out whether it is right for you.  We are standing by for you, and look forward to discussing our methods and your future.  Call us now!