Q&A: Find an Addiction Counselor

What is your background? How often will we meet? Some key questions that will help you find the right addiction counselor for yourself or a loved one

January 24, 2022
An addiction counseling session

Q. Are you licensed? What is your training/background in? How long have you worked in the field?

A. License requirements vary by state; however, education and supervision are required. To be a licensed counselor, an individual must complete a master’s degree program in mental health counseling, marriage and family therapy, or social work. They must then undergo clinical supervision, and complete and pass a state-mandated exam.

Q. Do you take my insurance? How much will I have to pay out of pocket? Do you offer sliding scale fees for uninsured individuals?

A. Ensuring that your counselor is in-network with your insurance provider will help you avoid any high and unexpected costs for therapy sessions. Ask your provider what plans they take and if they can check your coverage to see what your copay would be for services. If you don’t have insurance, finding a provider that offers a sliding payment scale may be a good option for you. Sliding scale fees vary based on your household income, and your copay will be determined by their proprietary sliding scale structure.

Q. Do you currently have a waiting list? How long is it?

A. Some therapists may not have immediate availability to schedule your initial assessment. Determining how long you will have to wait for an appointment should be a factor in the counselor you choose.

Q. Are you specialized in any therapeutic modalities? Which one(s)?

A. Some counselors specialize in therapeutic modalities, some of which have been proven to best treat SUD and co-occurring disorders. Some therapeutic modalities that your counselor may specialize in could include CBT, DBT, ACT or Solutions Focused Therapy.

Q. Do you work with clients that are currently receiving treatment for SUD? Will you work with my care team?

A. Some therapists won’t work with individuals that are currently receiving treatment for SUD. Sharing information about your current care team and what you hope to get from counseling will be helpful in determining if seeing a counselor while undergoing treatment is necessary. It’s important that your counselor is working with your care team to ensure your needs are being addressed — physically and emotionally.

Q. Do you treat patients with co-occurring disorders?

A. Some counselors specialize solely in the treatment of SUD, whereas others are equipped to treat co-occurring disorders. It’s important to know if your counselor will be able to support your diagnoses as you undergo therapy with them.

Q. How long does the initial assessment take?

A. Initial assessments typically take 60 to 90 minutes. This allows your counselor to get to know you, establish some goals with you, and create a treatment plan best suited to your individual needs.

Q. How often will we meet? How will future appointments be structured? How long will they take?

A. Frequency of therapy appointments vary by individual. These answers will be determined following your initial assessment and the creation of your treatment plan. Your counselor will go over your treatment plan with you to ensure that you are comfortable with it.

Q. Do you have an after-hours crisis line? Are you available during business hours in the event of a crisis?

A. Some therapists have 24/7 hotlines that you can contact in the event of a crisis. If not, ask if they will create a plan with you to utilize in the event of a crisis.

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