What Is Addiction Counseling? Benefits Of Drug Abuse Counseling

Last Updated: July 6, 2020

Authored by Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Addiction counseling is a term that describes the process where an addicted person seeks help from a professional drug and alcohol counselor to overcome this disease. Addiction counseling is mostly done individually and privately. However, it is also done in the format of a group, family, or even a couple. In addiction counseling, the patient is encouraged to talk about their substance abuse problems, how it affects their lives and their loved ones. Drug counselors then view and assess the complex of substance abuse and possible co-occurring disorders. After the assessment, a proper evaluation is done, and a specialized addiction treatment plan is developed for each patient’s treatment to help them attain a sober life.

The Role Of Substance Abuse Counselor In Addiction Treatment

Addiction counseling is a process that has proven to be highly beneficial for an individual to overcome substance abuse and its side effects, including anxiety, paranoia, fear, and stress. Since addiction counseling helps a person open up about their issues with drug abuse. It also helps them to understand their problems and encourages them to take the necessary actions to resolve them.

addiction counseling assessment
The role of a substance abuse counselor is quite important here. A good substance abuse counselor can help the patient understand the underlying issues – allowing them to get to the root cause of substance abuse. Once these issues have been resolved, they then suggest appropriate treatment programs that ensure the patient recovers from their disorders and does not fall into a relapse.
Addiction counseling benefits the individual in the following ways:

  • rebuild their relationships with their loved ones
  • building up the confidence and self-esteem of the patient
  • encourages them to find positive ways to deal with their emotions
  • encourages the individual to be responsible and cooperative about the treatment plans associated with their counseling
  • helps them to solve their underlying issues that lead to addiction in the first place
  • helps in forming viable skills in order to deal with the addiction and yearning
  • helps the patient learn the tactics needed to tackle the behavioral triggers caused by addictions
  • helps to prevent any chances of relapse in the future

What Kind Of Patients Need Substance Abuse Counselors

Most of the people who will in all probability benefit from the professional and specialized skills of addiction counselors are going to be the people who are directly influenced by the effect of a certain behavior or a chemical that, either in the past or present, has caused them to damage irrespective of the usage.

Patient Having Consultation With Addiction Counselor
The most common examples of people who can benefit from addiction counseling include drug addicts, alcoholics, and people with mental health diseases. It is possible that people quit their addiction but still feel the distress and are afraid of relapse. It is the effect of the past, and addiction counseling can help the patient ensure long term recovery.

Benefits Of Addiction Counseling

Although the benefits of addiction counseling are plenty, people still hesitate to visit a counselor mainly because quitting the addiction is thought of as something that can be done even without counseling. However, there are numerous benefits that one can expect when visiting a counselor. In most cases, counseling becomes mandatory in order to keep a check on the body and its functioning as it goes under detoxification. Substance abuse counselor will help monitor the body and make treatment plans accordingly. Furthermore, a counselor also creates a relapse prevention plan to avoid any relapse signs.

Addiction Counseling Services

Substance abuse counselors offer professional support and services to people suffering from short or long-term addiction issues. Some individuals require instant medical involvement while some only need a few therapeutic sessions. Some of the most common counseling services include therapies, relapse plans, and outside support groups.
Here are the most common services offered by addiction counselors:

  • Carrying out screening interviews for assessment purposes
  • Referring the patient to appropriate rehabs and agencies
  • Working collaboratively with clients to support them during their recovery period
  • Offering therapies for recovery such as cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy
  • Administer drug tests to identify the severity and type of addiction
  • Create relapse prevention plans and aftercare programs
  • Help to identify and address barriers to treatment
  • Meeting with family and friends to provide guidance and support

Here is a list of the services that addictions counselors can NOT offer:

  • Administering drugs and medications needed to kickstart the recovery process
  • Offering detox programs for drug and alcohol addictions
  • Offering inpatient or outpatient care to addicts
  • Offering hospitalization or emergency services
  • Intensive drug treatments to curb the addictions

Addiction Counseling Formats

When it comes to drug counseling, there are a few main types that include private, public, offline, and online counseling.

 Private Counseling

It refers to private organizations or private treatment centers or even private counselors who offer specialized services in addiction counseling. These services are different from one another as far as the cost, duration of treatment, and type are concerned.

during meeting with substance abuse counselor

Addiction counselors not only deal with addiction counseling, but they also deal with a number of personal issues of an individual which include anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, trauma, stress, and even relationship counseling. During the treatment of addiction counseling, the counselor does not only discuss the addiction but also explores its side effects on the individual and what impact these may have on their life.

Public Counseling

Besides private counseling, public addiction counseling is also common; however, it does not explore the client’s addiction in-depth, as it does not facilitate one-on-one dealing. Public counseling includes public campaigns that are made to create awareness about how harmful substance abuse can be. Seminars are also conducted, which help educate the people about addiction counseling and its importance.

Offline And Online Counseling

Some people find it difficult to physically visit substance abuse counselor and get therapy due to a number of reasons. The reasons could include lack of time due to busy schedules, confidentiality issues, or comfort issues. Hence, some counselors also offer online counseling where they counsel their client by video calls or any other convenient way. Offline counseling includes any format of counseling that does not involve going online, such as telephonic conversations.

What Makes A Good Addiction Counselor?

Even though it is essential for the counselors to be highly professional and adequately trained since they have a huge impact on the lives of their clients, there is, unfortunately, no check and balance or a regulatory system for the counselors. Any individual is allowed to become a counselor and set up a counseling organization without having the necessary qualifications or knowledge.

What Knowledge And Skills Should Substance Abuse Counselor Have?

People suffering from substance abuse might be already mentally weak, which makes them vulnerable to more mental illnesses. Hence, it is vital to make sure that the counselor has the necessary qualifications before getting counseling:

  • Make sure the addictions counselor has a relevant degree, which is a Masters in Counseling or Social Work.
  • Substance Abuse Counselor should have at least one year of clinical experience in a mental health institute.
  • The counselor should also have the required license to operate in the state, along with a valid driver’s license.
  • Make sure that the practitioner is understanding and supportive, and has strong interpersonal and organizational skills.
  • The practitioner should also be flexible enough to meet the needs of the patient.

More and more people have started seeking therapy and counseling for their issues, which is a positive step. However, it also gives rise to a number of uncertified and unqualified therapists and counselors who come in the business for the sole purpose of minting money from already helpless people. This is why a proper background check is crucial.

Seek Substance Abuse Counselors Help

Substance abuse and addiction is a growing public concern at a massive rate. It not only impacts the individual’s life gravely but also has an extremely negative effect on the people around them.

Even though some people quit, they carry the after-effects with them for a long time. This is where addiction counseling comes in handy since it not only deals with the addiction itself but also creates an aftercare goals.

Page Sources

  1. Kimberly Stubbs, Brian M. Merrill, Addiction Disorder Considerations for Patients Seeking Psychotherapy, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6538396/
  2. Kletter E, Counseling as an intervention for the cocaine-abusing methadone maintenance patient, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12924750
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US), Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy, 2005, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64223/

Published on: May 9th, 2017

Updated on: July 6th, 2020

About Author

Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Dr. Ahmed Zayed is a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery. He is graduated from the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Dr. Ahmed Zayed has a passion for writing medical and health care articles and focuses on providing engaging and trustworthy information to readers.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.


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  • Derek McDoogle
    I did not know the fact that counseling for alcohol and drug dependence is effective in treating co-existing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. My cousin urgently needs help to treat her drug abuse and his wife does not know what to do. Thanks for the information about the private practice a counselor can provide, I will share this information with them and it might help them decide to start treatment as soon as possible.