Addiction counseling

Addiction counseling: What is?

Addiction counseling is a key part of recovery. This is because long-term sobriety requires much more than simply stopping the use of drugs and alcohol. Often addictions to substances form as a result of deeper underlying issues, trauma and pain. Addiction counseling, especially as a part of a treatment program, helps clients get to the root of their addiction and develop healthier ways of facing life’s challenges.  In addiction counseling, clients learn more about their addiction, work through underlying issues, build a recovery plan and develop a strong support system. All of these elements are critical to achieving sustainable recovery. 


Are you or a loved one struggling with substance abuse?

If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one’s drinking and want to learn more about treatment options, call us for free consultation


Why get addiction counseling?

Addiction counseling can be helpful at all stages of recovery, from early recovery work to long-term management of addiction issues. Depending on the addiction professional’s licensing and experience, they may also provide support during a crisis situation or a medical intervention. Addiction counseling may include several types of talk and behavioral therapies and other activities. This often depends on the needs of the clients, as well as the professional’s certifications, competencies and experience. If an addiction counselor works within a treatment program, their approach often lines up that of the treatment center. The Liberty Ranch’s Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)  takes a 12 step approach to treatment, providing evidence-based programming and therapies to clients healing from addiction. Addiction counseling is integrated into the comprehensive program, supporting clients as they rebuild their lives and achieve long-term sobriety.


1. Quitting alone is not sustainable

Often people think that if you simply stop using a substance, all your problems will melt away. This is rarely true. Yes, substance abuse can create many huge problems in a person’s life, and stopping use will eliminate many of them, but this is only a first step in achieving long-term sobriety. Addiction takes time to form, and so does developing healthier ways of dealing with triggers. Without identifying and addressing the source of the addiction, underlying issues can continue to prevent a person from healing themselves and their relationships. Addiction counseling combined with group support can be instrumental in the recovery process. Most people with substance use disorders abuse drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with trauma, difficulties and underlying issues. Sustainable sobriety is extremely hard and without proper support and working through deeper issues, a relapse can be more likely. 

It should also be noted that quitting cold turkey can increase the risk of relapse  and be dangerous in some cases. For this reason it is advisable to seek proper medical support when stopping the use of a substance. 


2. Counselors will help you understand your substance abuse

Substance use disorders are complex. Each person has their own relationship with their drug of choice. You may use drugs and alcohol in response to particular feelings, places, triggers and situations. But oftentimes, individuals with substance use disorders lack a deeper understanding of when and why they use substances and how their lives have been impacted. While a person may be aware of some of the issues their addiction has created, they do not fully understand the extent to which substance use affects them and their decisions. Addiction counselors work with clients to help them understand the role of substances in their lives, their triggers, patterns of use, and the many consequences of addiction. Working with a counselor to learn about your addiction can be extremely enlightening and a critical step to building a solid recovery plan. The insights about your addiction that come from treatment and addiction counseling are instrumental in setting up a successful recovery.


3. A big life change requires time and support

Addiction is a complex and challenging disorder to treat. Drugs and alcohol might play a key role in your day-to-day life, and stopping the use of substances is not so easy when your lifestyle reinforces drinking and drug use. Friendships, social events and family gatherings may all revolve around or involve drugs and alcohol. It can be hard to figure out where recovery fits into it all. For many, sustainable recovery from addiction means building a whole new lifestyle. Doing this without support is scary and adds extra challenges to an already difficult process. Attending a treatment program with addiction counseling puts everything in one place. Clients are guided and supported as they work to rebuild their lives. Addiction counseling is integrated with peer work and behavioral therapies so that participants are able develop and reinforce the skills they need for a sustainable recovery. In addition to the valuable insights and changes made in individual counseling, the comradery of living with peers can be especially powerful, as participants support one another and learn from each other. 

Moreover, long-term stays in treatment–more than 6 months–are more likely to result in sustained post-treatment sobriety. Strong drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, like the IOP at Liberty Ranch Rehabilitation Center, offer counseling as a part of an integrative program. Addiction counselors work collaboratively with clients to develop a recovery plan, build healthier coping mechanisms, create new habits and build a life that supports their recovery.  


Learn more about how to deal with a loved one’s addictions 

Are you concerned about a loved one’s substance abuse? Check out the following guides to learn more about substance use disorders, talking to the person in your life about getting treatment and how to support addiction recovery:


4. Recovery can be confusing and you may need help navigating the process 

Of course those who depend on drugs and alcohol know that giving up drugs and alcohol is no easy feat.  But still, recovery seems relatively straightforward, doesn’t it? Quit using drugs and alcohol, apologize to loved ones, maybe hit some meetings and follow some other steps. While the process seems relatively easy to understand, there is a lot more to it. Addiction is a disease, and there are a lot of unexpected questions and issues that will come up while healing and learning to manage recovery. For instance, how to socialize with loved ones, how to go about repairing relationships, developing boundaries, and even whether or not to drink caffeine.  

All of these questions and daily decisions are even more confusing while emotions are at an all time high. Drugs and alcohol are often used to numb painful emotions. With substances to block underlying feelings, intense emotions come to the surface, adding to the confusion. Painful memories may also return. Managing these feelings alone can be quite difficult for a person who for so long has used substances to escape. It can even be scary. Addiction counselors have experience with the recovery process and know what to expect. This means not only are they versed in working through the complexities of recovery, they also understand the flood of emotions being experienced. Counselors help clients manage these feelings, process their issues and develop a plan for recovery. Having someone who can support you through the process makes things feel less daunting and overwhelming. Remember, addiction is a lifelong disease. And like any disease it does not need to be dealt with alone. It requires treatment, long-term management and professional support


5. Addiction counselors help create individualized plans 

Often people look for a silver bullet approach to recovery and become frustrated when what works for someone else doesn’t work for them. But treatment is not one-size-fits all. While there are some generalities in addiction recovery, it is important to individualize treatment to meet a client’s specific needs and address their unique challenges. For this reason, addiction counseling varies from client to client. A good addiction counselor will assess and consider the unique needs and circumstances of their client as they work together to develop a recovery plan. Addiction counselors help clients address their issues and build a sustainable support system for recovery that works for them. Doing this as a part of a treatment program can be especially helpful because recovery takes time, community support and sharing with others who understand the challenges of addiction. Women especially face additional barriers to recovery that can make the process even more challenging. At Liberty Ranch, we have developed a Women’s Recovery Program that incorporates individualized recovery strategies, counseling and peer support, keeping in mind the obstacles women with addiction face. 

There are also a range of resources that can be extremely helpful during a person’s recovery journey. When a person seeks sobriety alone, they may be unaware of the many support services that can help them during their recovery. Sometimes there are other issues at play, like child custody or legal issues that they need support for as well. Addiction counselors can connect clients with many relevant resources that can help as they recover and rebuild their lives. Within the context of a treatment program, access to support services can be even more complete and integrated.


6. The therapeutic alliance supports recovery

Addiction can be isolating. Those who turn to substances to cope often feel alone and like no one understands what they are going through. Moreover, many with substance use disorders don’t seek treatment until they’ve hit rock bottom. This can mean that family members and loved ones have already cut them off. It can feel very lonely. Loved ones, if they are involved, may want to help, but don’t always have the tools and knowledge to do so. Moreover, they also have to heal themselves. Many difficult emotions that were previously numbed by the substance abuse will come up. It can be overwhelming. For this reason, an addiction counselor can be a safe place to turn. Addiction counselors and therapists provide a safe space where clients feel understood and heard. They offer support throughout the process, working hand-in-hand with clients. While the individual is going through recovery, addiction counselors not only help them navigate the process, but also provide emotional support and guidance. As a part of a treatment program, this can be especially empowering, as clients work through the steps of recovery with a supportive ally who can cheer them on and help them meet their goals while holding them accountable.


7. Creating a plan for relapse prevention

Relapse is a real part of the recovery process. When things are good, sober living feels great, and you don’t want to return to the dark places that substances took you. You may remember all of the pain and difficulties drugs and alcohol have brought you and never want to go back again. But this won’t always be the case. Life is full of ups and downs, and cravings can come back unexpectedly. For many, it is during the downs when they are most likely to want to start using again. Environmental factors such as chronic and acute stress can increase the likelihood of substance use and relapse. This is why staying sober during the holidays and other stressful times can be so hard for many.  For others, when things are going right, they may think, “Why not? It’s just one drink?”. This can also quickly lead to relapse. Either way, the urge to use drugs or alcohol is likely to return at some point. 


How could addiction counseling help you? Call us for a free consultation 

If you are considering addiction treatment for yourself or someone in your life, now is the time to take action. Addiction is a deadly disease that has taken too many lives, broken up families and destroyed futures. Recovery works for so many and it can for your family. Liberty Ranch offers free consultations. Call 888-387-1531 to talk to a specialist that can let you know about the treatment options available and help you select the right program.


The problem is, not only is relapsing bad for a person’s life in general, but relapses are extremely dangerous. The risk of overdose increases during a relapse. Because a person’s system no longer has the tolerance it once did, it cannot process the same quantities previously consumed to get high. As a result, one’s body becomes more sensitive to substances and a person is more likely to overdose. For this reason, it is extremely important to know the signs of a relapse, such as dry drunk syndrome symptoms, and have a plan. During addiction counseling, clients and counselors develop a plan for such scenarios. Liberty Ranch addiction counselors and professionals know the importance of detecting the signs of, preventing and managing relapses. Participants are prepared for relapse situations, applying the Gorski Method of prevention relapse, an evidence-based model. This way, clients know what an approaching relapse looks like, are prepared with the steps to take to prevent one, and if a relapse does occur, are able to get back on the path to recovery.


8. Counseling can help uncover other untreated mental health conditions

For many who struggle with addiction, there are other issues in their lives that impact their substance use disorder and recovery. For some, this can be untreated mental health conditions. It’s not uncommon for a person struggling with addiction to have another disorder, possibly even an undetected one. These issues often impact a person’s addiction and their ability to stay clean. If left untreated, they can become a huge barrier to recovery and other aspects of life. People with anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), psychotic illness, borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder and schizophrenia are more likely to have co-occurring substance use disorders. Others may struggle with multiple addictions, for example, gambling and pornography. Addiction counseling may help uncover mental health issues that need to be addressed as a part of successful treatment. Addiction counselors are able to help connect their clients to specialists who can diagnose, treat and manage the co-occuring mental health issues. They may work with other specialists incorporating relevant therapies and treatments into a person’s recovery plan. 


9. Addiction counseling can help rebuild fractured relationships

Though recovery requires a lot of inner work and healing, the person with the substance use disorder is not the only one who needs to heal. Partners and family members play an important role in supporting a loved one’s recovery journey. But they too have likely suffered a great deal as a result of the addiction. Loved ones might be holding onto pain and resentment because of what they experienced. Those with substance use disorders may also be holding onto hurt and suffering experienced during childhood or within a relationship. In many cases, there are issues on both sides of the relationship that need to be worked through. Trust must be (re)built. However, it can be hard to change patterns on your own. Addiction counselors can help clients and loved ones process, work through and rebuild their relationships. This not only supports sustained sobriety, but also allows for deeper healing and healthier relationships.


10. Addiction counselors can help educate loved ones on recovery

Yes, loved ones are often hurt by the addictions of those close to them. But sometimes they are unaware of their role in the dysfunctional patterns. There are a number of codependent behaviors loved ones often engage in that support addiction. This is not to say that they are responsible for the addiction by any means. Usually the family member or partner only wants to help, but they may lack the knowledge and understanding of the disease. Instead, they end up enabling the addiction. Likewise, a loved one may want to be supportive in the recovery process, but actually end up adding more pressure and stress. Recovery can be confusing for friends and family. It can be a struggle to manage fears, understand the changes that are occuring during the recovery process or know how to behave with a newly sober loved one. It is easy to fall back into toxic relational behaviors. Addiction counselors can work with family members, explain what to expect during recovery and what they can do to be supportive and helpful. Addiction counselors may also encourage loved ones to seek their own support, as recovery can be draining for everyone. Counselors may refer them to family support groups like Al-Anon and Families Anonymous so that they have their own safe space to share and decompress.


How can I become an addiction counselor?

Addiction counseling is a rewarding career where you can use your skills and training to make a real impact on the lives of others. Substance abuse counselors may have different titles, roles and responsibilities depending on their location, education, certifications, training and years of experience.  Substance dependency counselors often come from a range of educational backgrounds. The training and specific title of an addiction counselor can vary by location. Likewise, certifications needed to work as an addiction professionals also depend on that state’s requirements. In some states, substance abuse counselors are certified by third party organizations. Many states recognize multiple levels of licensure or certification. For instance, a person with a master’s in counseling may be able to deliver a wider range of services than another addiction professional. According to, because of this, there may be significant differences in scope of practice depending on where you are located.

What does an addiction counselor do?

Addiction counseling involves more than speaking with clients about their addiction issues.  Addiction counselors may provide screenings, evaluations, and referrals to other professionals. They may also assess the needs and risks of a specific client and help to identify the best treatment model for them. Some addiction professionals are certified to offer specific therapies. Of course the services offered by an addiction counselor will depend on their levels of education, certifications and state regulations.  

Addiction counselor titles

It can be difficult to unravel the differences between types of addiction specialists. The reason for this is because titling requirements vary between states. Titles for professionals in the field include chemical dependency professional, substance abuse counselor, alcohol and drug counselor and addiction counselor. What each of these titles mean depends on that state’s rules. In other words, the same title can mean something different depending on the state. This can cause some confusion in regard to the training and experience an addiction professional possesses.  For this reason, title is not necessarily the best indicator of equivalency. The use of the word therapist in a title can indicate master’s level studies, denoting more training than other addiction professionals. But that is not always the case, and master’s level professionals may go by other titles.

Training to be an addiction counselor

As mentioned, the training required to work in substance abuse counseling varies from state to state. The highest level of crediting is often reserved for those with relevant graduate degrees. However, it is possible to get certified to work in addiction counseling at other levels. Depending on the work you would like to do, there are many paths to certification. Educational requirements to qualify for licensure ranges, with some states setting requirements at 270 hours and others requiring many more hours of study. There is also a supervision component. In most states, trainees must work under a supervisor, completing certain time/activity requirements before receiving their state-specific certification. The National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors and International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium/ Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, Inc. are two larger organizations that set recommendations for licensure standards used in many states.  If you are interested in working to help those suffering from addiction, check your state-specific requirements for more information.