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Do Psychiatrists Treat Drug And Alcohol Addiction?

Joseph Sitarik, DO

Medically reviewed by

Joseph Sitarik, DO

March 5, 2019

While psychiatrists are able to help individuals overcome their addiction, they may not have all the tools available to them like a rehabilitation facility. For individuals looking for help on the path to sobriety, it is best to find a treatment program that incorporates psychiatrists to ensure a well-rounded recovery experience.

In short, the answer is yes. The process, however, of choosing an appropriate avenue of care is a decision you or your family member should approach with the utmost care. Take careful measures to incorporate as much information about your options and consideration of your unique circumstances as possible.

Drug and alcohol addictions are complex multifaceted disorders. Because of this, they demand multidimensional treatment. Though a psychiatrist in a conventional practice will be able to help you, they may not have the resources, and most certainly not the supportive network that a rehabilitation facility will offer. Here we will compare and contrast seeking treatment from a singular psychiatrist in a private practice against receiving care from an inpatient drug rehab, which may employ several psychiatrists within their program.

How Does A Psychiatrist Come To Specialize In Addiction Medicine?

Though every psychiatrist will, within their general training, encounter some education on drug and alcohol addiction, a psychiatrist desiring to learn more and specialize in the field must undergo a rigorous certification process to ensure that they are adept in providing this specialized treatment. Specifically, they must become certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN), which ensures, as reported by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), that they have “demonstrated by education, experience, and examination the requisite knowledge and skills to provide prevention, screening, intervention, and treatment for substance use and addiction.”

The American Society of Addiction Medicine elaborates, telling us that these psychiatrists need to “complete a 1-year addiction psychiatry residency that has been accredited by the ACGME, meet the ABPN eligibility criteria and pass the ABPN certification examination.” Currently, according to ASAM, roughly 2,000 psychiatrists are accredited by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in addiction psychiatry.

Receiving Care From A Private Practice Psychiatrist

If you suffer from an addiction, you may be able to receive treatment from a psychiatrist who has a private practice. Doing so may carry the risk that the psychiatrist does not have ample experience in treating addiction. Even if they do, and they are ABPN certified, keep in mind that you will only be receiving treatment from a singular approach, and only during the time you have within each office visit. This outpatient treatment may utilize medication-assisted treatment, allowing you to receive prescription medications for your addiction.

In certain cases, you may receive care in a hospital setting, whether it be for the detoxification process or for inpatient treatment. A psychiatrist may also be present during these periods, however, due to the hospital setting, it is quite commonplace that they have an extended patient load, thus you may not receive the care you could in a residential setting.

That is not to say that this treatment would not be helpful—any treatment is better than none—only that this treatment may not offer you the comprehensive and intensive care that an inpatient drug rehab facility can grant you.

Inpatient Drug Rehabs, Dynamic, And Comprehensive Care

Though a person with a mild to moderate concern may fare within an outpatient program or under the direction of a private practice psychiatrist, those with moderate to severe cases of substance abuse and addiction warrant a more in-depth approach. Inpatient drug rehab allows you or your loved one to be completely immersed in treatment, due to the residential setting. You will have continual access to compassionate and fully-integrated support 24 hours a day.

Within this care module, you may reap the benefit of not just one psychiatrist, but several, providing you with a greater spectrum of individualized care and therapies. Beyond this, even more, benefit exists—in addition to these individuals, your care will be assisted and managed by an entire team of individuals who are committed to your care and wellness. This team may include physicians accredited by the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM) (the physician equivalent of the ABPN accreditation, which renders them certified addiction specialists), psychologists, licensed clinical therapists, substance abuse counselors, nurse practitioners, and a variety of other compassionate and attuned individuals.

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During your time within an inpatient drug rehab facility, you will encounter various treatment modalities geared towards developing sobriety and positive life skills, which are only made better by the number of people taking part in your treatment and the scope of their expertise. You may have access to any number or combination of the following: medical detox, medication-assisted treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, treatment for co-occurring disorders, family therapy and support, aftercare services, and even recreational therapies.

One unique and potentially transformative experience that you would not have access to within outpatient treatment in an office setting is a diverse offering of treatments and amenities. Today, numerous exciting options exist, including wilderness or adventure therapies, equine therapy, art therapy, yoga, Thai chi, specialty diets, fitness accommodations, and many other progressive options.

How To Determine What Treatment Is Best For You

When you’re considering enrolling in treatment, you must take a step back and consider the factors that are important to you against the realities of every treatment option. Take the time to make a list of what is important to you and ask questions of the treatment providers. For instance, some psychiatrists have reported that they feel uncomfortable treating mental health disorders until the addiction is treated, which can significantly and detrimentally impact your treatment.

Within a good inpatient treatment program, you can have access to thorough dual diagnosis care, that way you don’t have to put either concern on the back burner. Waiting to treat your mental health needs can be highly counterproductive, as left untreated, these issues may aggravate your substance abuse by triggering thoughts of drug or alcohol use. Due to the larger staff and varied specialties of team members, you will also have more engaging and comprehensive care within an inpatient setting.

Financial concerns are another huge consideration. Rehab may be costly, and for some individuals, outpatient treatment is attractive due to its reduced cost. It is important to realize, however, that you might not always have to pay for inpatient treatment out-of-pocket. Today, many insurance companies provide some, if not all, coverage for substance abuse and addiction treatment. In addition, various scholarships and financial aid options exist, and some facilities even offer financing options or sliding fee scales.

Location is another concern. If you seek treatment from a psychiatrist within your hometown, in an outpatient format, you are able to return to the comfort of your own home, however, keep in mind that you may also potentially encounter temptation and circumstances or people who may trigger thoughts of using. This is one reason why inpatient drug rehab is such an appealing and powerful option. When you are in a residential setting, you are removed from the day-to-day negative influences that might be present in your life.

Lastly, consider the degree of aftercare support you will receive. Not every office-based psychiatrist will spend ample enough time with you to prepare you for your time after treatment. Relapse is a viable concern, and relapse prevention education is key towards strengthening and protecting you against this threat. One other resource that you will not have access to if you choose to seek treatment in an office setting, is continued aftercare support. Many rehab facilities will continue to reach out to you even after you leave by periodically checking in with you, providing access to peer-to-peer support and even mentorship.

We Can Shed Some Light On Your Concerns

Choosing care for a drug or alcohol addiction is not a process that should be rushed. Instead, you should be very mindful and conscientious as you weigh your concerns about your treatment options. This may at times become overwhelming, or you may find that you reach a point where you’re confused or feel as if you could benefit from more information. That’s where we come in. can provide you with a bounty of information about inpatient drug rehab, financial concerns, family support options, and any other question or concerns you may have. Start your journey and contact us today.

American Society of Addiction Medicine - What is an Addiction Specialist?

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