For most people recovering from a substance use disorder, it’s a good idea to find a capable therapist. The majority of people who struggle with addiction have co-occurring mental health issues such as depression, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorders, and others.
Many of these require ongoing management, or at least intermittent sessions to help you get through difficult times.
Even if you don’t have a co-occurring mental health issue, a therapist can be a great asset for a long recovery. The better your emotional health and relationships, the easier sobriety will be.
However, finding a good therapist is no easy task. There may be hundreds of therapists practicing in your area. Many of them are excellent but how do you know which are right for you? The following tips can help you choose a great therapist.
Ask Around for Recommendations
If you have no idea where to start looking for a therapist, ask someone. The best person to ask is another therapist. Therapists tend to know each other, at least by reputation. They know what others specialize in and they know about their therapeutic approaches.
Most importantly, they know who to avoid. Don’t feel bad about asking a therapist to recommend another therapist. If you’re asking a friend or relative, they shouldn’t be treating you anyway.
If you don’t happen to know a therapist, you probably know someone in therapy. If you’re recovering from a substance use disorder, you probably know several. See what they think of their therapists.
You may put them on your list of possibilities or you may contact them for a recommendation. Your friend may also be willing to ask for recommendations on your behalf.
Finally, consider asking your doctor for a recommendation. Healthcare professionals often network and your doctor may be able to give you some names. The advantage of asking your doctor is that you can be open about your addiction history and other issues without having to worry about confidentiality.
Whoever you ask, be sure to get two or three recommendations so you can check them out and see who best meets your needs.
Another good place to start or continue your search is to look online. Most therapists now have a web page where they describe their background, education, licensing, experience, and specializations.
There are a number of directories that list therapists in your area. The most comprehensive is probably the Psychology Today listing.
It allows you to narrow down your search by location, insurance, issues, types of therapy, and other factors. However, it’s not a good idea to look for a therapist on Craigslist.
Look for Education, Licensing, and Specialization
These are the basics you need to know about any potential therapist. Where they went to school isn’t especially important; great therapists come from all kinds of educational backgrounds.
However, you do want to be sure they are licensed. Common credentials held by therapists include licensed professional counselor, or LPC, licensed clinical social worker, or LCSW, licensed social worker, or LSW, licensed professional clinical counselor, or LPCC, and licensed clinical psychologist, or LCP.
Common credentials for treating addiction include licensed alcohol and drug counselor, or LADC, certified addictions counselors, or CAC, and certified co-occurring disorders professional, or CCPD.
Most importantly, you want to be sure a prospective therapist has experience and specialization in your particular issues. Most therapists will list depression and anxiety among the issues they treat, since those are the most common.
However, their other specializations should be more specific. They may specialize in family therapy, treating adolescents, treating trauma, sexual abuse, substance use disorders, and so on.
This will help eliminate many options. Look for someone whose specialization most closely matches your needs and be skeptical of any therapist who claims to specialize in everything.
See Who Your Insurance Covers
Many people will rely on insurance to pay for at least some of their therapy, so it may be important to find someone in your network. However, it’s also important to ask about price, for several reasons.
First, most insurers have relatively weak mental health coverage, so you will probably end up paying out of pocket for at least some of your treatment and it’s a good idea to make sure you can afford it.
Second, it may be worth it to pay for therapy out of pocket if you can afford it. Therapists only work with your insurance if they’re willing to accept your insurance company’s rates.
Many excellent therapists prefer not to deal with insurance at all. Unlike medical treatment, psychotherapy is not usually prohibitively expensive for the average person and therapists often work on a sliding scale, depending on need. So, try to make your decision based on your needs, not those of your insurance company.
Interview Promising Candidates
Once you’ve narrowed down your options to a few, contact them and see if they are accepting new clients. If so, you’ll want to get to know more about them before you make a final decision.
You may ask a few questions through email but eventually, you’ll want to set up a phone call. A lot of therapists will do a short consultation—maybe 15 minutes—to help you decide whether you are a good fit for each other. Try to do a few of these short phone consultations before making a decision.
Ask About Their Experience and Therapeutic Approach
During your consultation, you’ll want to ask about things like their therapeutic approach and their experience with your specific issues. Ask open-ended questions like, “Can you tell me about your experience working with clients with co-occurring addiction and ADHD?” or “Can you tell me a bit about your approach to therapy?”
There are many possible answers to these questions. Common approaches to therapy include cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, mindfulness-based approaches, acceptance and commitment therapy, or ACT, psychoanalytic, and so on. The more research you do before the call, the better questions you can ask.
Always listen to your gut when making the final decision. If someone makes you uncomfortable and you’re not sure why, it might be a good idea to pass. This is going to be someone you’ll spend a lot of time with and have to feel comfortable talking to so you want to find someone you click with or at least feel comfortable with.
Choosing the right therapist can make a big difference in the quality of your recovery and your quality of life. Take your time, do your research, and listen to your intuition. Remember that you’re doing the hiring and you deserve a therapist who can meet your specific needs.
At Hired Power, we take care of the things treatment usually doesn’t, including helping you make the transition back to normal life and supporting you during your recovery challenges. To learn more about our recovery services, call us at 800.910.9299.