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How To Find A Drug Rehab Counselor

Dr. Anna Pickering

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Anna Pickering

April 3, 2019

Finding a drug rehab counselor can be a very important part of the addiction recovery process. Before choosing a counselor, it is important to find one that understands your needs and is dedicated to helping you along your journey to recovery.

Addiction is a disease that has been notoriously swept under the rug. In the past, drug addiction has been viewed as more as a criminal act than a disease. Because of this false stigma, there were few resources and lifelines for individuals suffering from substance addiction to reach out to. Many individuals suffering from addiction found themselves scared to seek help or answers, fearing that they would be thrown in jail.

Fortunately, the past few decades have brought a lot of progressive change for individuals suffering from drug or alcohol abuse. Inpatient rehab centers are seen as a safe haven for those suffering from addiction or substance abuse, and people can reach out to these facilities without fear of being incarcerated. In many instances of drug-related crimes, judges will offer an addiction treatment program in place of jail, promoting recovery over punishment for addiction.

Along with the cultural shift towards helping individuals suffering from addiction came professions dedicated to drug rehabilitation. One of these professions is that of a drug rehab counselor. Drug rehab counselors are specifically trained to help those that suffer from addiction and focus solely on these types of clients. This specialized training allows drug rehab counselors to be a key component of any successful drug rehabilitation program.

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What Is A Drug Rehab Counselor?

Drug rehab counselors are individuals that have gone through unique training to treat substance abuse, mental illness, and other behavioral health issues. Behavioral counselors utilize different therapies to treat a variety of behavioral disorders. Behavioral counselors play the partial role of a therapist, in the sense that they are there to listen to a client’s concerns and issues, as well as provide feedback and help them sort through their feelings.

In addition, listening to their clients, behavioral counselors also utilize different therapy techniques to help change a client’s behavior according to their goals. These counselors will work with the client to reinforce good behaviors and try to eliminate poor behaviors that are harmful to the client.

Drug rehab counselors provide these same therapies and techniques but are specifically trained to work with individuals who are suffering from substance addiction. Drug rehab counselors actively work with their clients to identify the behaviors that lead to the addiction, as well as identifying the behaviors that lead them to rehab in the first place.

After identifying and separating the good behaviors from the bad, drug rehab counselors are equipped with the information they need to begin their therapy with the client. Therapy techniques will differ from client to client, as each individual comes with their own unique history, needs, and personality. For any counselor, the vast majority of their time is spent working directly with the client to better understand what their thoughts and emotions are surrounding their treatment.

How Can A Counselor Help Me?

Past clients and rehabilitation experts agree – drug rehab counselors help clients not only achieve, but also maintain, their sobriety. This is a very important aspect of drug rehabilitation, as it is not that uncommon to have individuals who have successfully completed a rehab program to relapse a few years later.

How can a drug rehab counselor help you achieve and maintain sobriety? The key is in their focus on your behavior surrounding the substance(s) you abuse. Medical detox is a necessary first step for many addictions, but it focuses on the physical aspects of addiction such as withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Drug rehab counseling pairs perfectly with medical detox, as it tackles the emotional and behavioral aspects of addiction.

When a drug rehab counselor asks a client how they felt emotionally when they call their drug supplier, that counselor is trying to put themselves in the shoes of their client. When your counselor tries to look at the world through your own eyes, they are better equipped to apply behavioral therapies that can adapt to the way your mind works.

Not only do drug rehab counselors go through a substantial amount of training and education in order to help individuals suffering from addiction, but many have also struggled with addiction in the past. While this is certainly not a prerequisite to becoming a drug rehab counselor, it can give a completely unique insight into what their clients are going through. Understanding their own thought processes and behavior patterns when they struggled with addiction can prepare them with the information they need to give valuable advice and guidance.

How To Become A Drug Rehabilitation Counselor

Becoming a drug rehabilitation counselor is no walk in the park. It can take years of education followed by in-depth, hands-on training to fully complete the training necessary to complete a drug rehabilitation counselor program. On the other hand, becoming a drug rehabilitation counselor can provide you with a steady income and job security, and it could be the most fulfilling thing you’ve ever done.

Drug rehabilitation counseling is a compelling industry for many individuals who had previously struggled with addiction to go into. There are many reasons for this, however the main draw for previous clients is their desire to help others overcome drug abuse and addiction. No one knows the destructive cycle and devastating effects of addiction like someone who has previously struggled with addiction themselves. This is what often makes previous clients the most successful counselors.

Generally education to become a drug rehabilitation counselor begins with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, however many students may choose to major in social work or counseling so they are able to work before going to graduate school. Following the completion of a bachelor’s degree, students will then attend a masters’ program and study clinical psychology. A licensure exam will follow the master’s’ program, which will allow the graduate to practice in a licensed facility.

Throughout all of the education required to become a drug rehab counselor, it is possible to work part time or full time, depending on the number of credits you choose to take in a semester. Many schools will offer internships or part time jobs in the field you are going into, which means it is possible you could earn a position at a drug rehab facility or clinic before graduating. The more experience, the better.

What To Look For In A Drug Rehab Counselor

While counselors who have previously struggled with drug abuse or addiction can provide unique insight to your specific situation, this does not mean the only good counselors are ones with a previous addiction. There are many things to consider when looking for a drug rehab counselor, and you should be conscious of the attributes that are important to you.

First and foremost, it is important to find a counselor with whom you feel comfortable speaking frankly. Being honest with your counselor about your feelings, cravings, frustrations, and behavior is the key when it comes to your success with rehabilitation. If you do not feel comfortable with your counselor, or if you feel that your counselor judges your thoughts and actions, then you will be tempted to leave out honest details and thoughts surrounding your addiction. Drug rehab should always be a judgment-free zone where you feel confident and comfortable sharing your most intimate thoughts.

Your counselor should also work with the rehabilitation program you have chosen to fit your specific situation. The rehab centers available through can be tailored to fit your needs, and it is important that your drug rehab counselor will continue with that program so your treatment can be consistent and thorough. Many drug rehab facilities will even provide their own drug rehab counselors, making for a relatively flawless continuation of the program you have chosen.

Your drug rehab counselor should also have good, open availability, or work with other counselors to ensure you have support day or night. Addiction is a disease that works around the clock, which means you may need someone to talk to after office hours. This should never feel like an inconvenience, but rather a smart decision – as you are simply utilizing the resources you have chosen. Talk with your drug rehab counselor about their availability, and always ask what their policy is for an after-hours crisis.

How Do I Find A Counselor?

Generally speaking, the drug rehabilitation industry is a large community with many networks. From medical detox facilities to inpatient residential programs, there is a community of highly trained individuals out there who want to help you. If you are already involved in a rehabilitation program, talk with your contacts at your program to see if they work with a specific drug rehab counselor. They should be able to give you guidance on counselors in your area, or may even have counselors you can utilize through your program.

Another network you should utilize is that of other individuals who have/are suffering from an addiction. If you know someone who has worked with a drug rehab counselor, ask them some questions about their experience with their counselor. Did they feel comfortable? Was counseling successful for them? What kind of behavioral techniques did they use? Do they still use some of those techniques to stay sober? Asking these types of questions can give you much more insight into how that counselor would work with you.

Finally, there are many websites online that can help direct you towards a counselor near you. is only one of many, but they have a full directory of substance abuse counselors organized by state and city. Often times, counselors and physicians will leave a little excerpt on the website about their philosophy and approach to substance abuse. This can help you to choose a counselor that aligns with your rehab program.

HealthGrades also allows previous/current patients and clients to leave a review about their experience with a specific counselor, which can help you make a more educated decision on which counselor will work best for your needs. The more information you have, the better chance you have at selecting a counselor that will be a successful addition to your recovery journey.

Family Matters

Drug rehab counselors try to incorporate any successful support systems you have access to with your recovery. This will often involve family and close friends that want to support your sobriety. When friends and family are involved in your recovery, your treatment is all around a more comprehensive program.

Drug rehab counselors will work with your friends and family to discuss with them the types of behaviors and feelings that you associate with addiction. This is not to divulge your private information, but rather to help them provide you with an environment that will help facilitate your success. Your friends and family want to see you succeed because they love you, which makes them the perfect team to work with your counselor.

Need Help Finding A Counselor?

Not quite sure if you want a counselor or not? Need help finding a counselor? We’re here to help. Our addiction treatment specialists are standing by to answer any questions you may have regarding a drug rehab counselor, or any addiction treatment program. Every client is different, we know that, which is why it helps to talk to an expert so you can make an informed decision on your recovery.

Your call is always 100% confidential, and our specialists are available to talk 24/7. If you’re ready to take your first step towards recovery, give us a call today.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) - Description of an Addiction Counseling Approach

Southern Illinois University - Models and Theories of Addiction and the Rehabilitation Counselor

US News - A Blind Eye to Addiction

United States Department of Labor - Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors

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