If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources.
Living with an addiction or dependency on a substance can be an emotionally and physically exhausting process for anyone. In addition, there are often stigmas surrounding addiction that make it an emotional and complicated topic for individuals to discuss or ask for support with.
The idea of reaching out to a substance use therapist can be daunting. However, taking the first step to research these types of providers and how they might support you can help you make the most effective choice for your recovery. You’re not alone in your challenges—over 46.3 million Americans meet the criteria for a substance use disorder, and thousands of professionals are available to offer guidance.
What Causes Addiction?
Human brains are wired with pleasure and reward circuits that release “happiness chemicals” like dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins when we experience something positive, such as interacting with loved ones or exercising. However, substances can also stimulate our brain’s regions responsible for distributing these chemicals, often in higher quantities, which can cause dependency to form.
Dependency can impact normal brain functions by rewarding your body with these positive neurotransmitters when participating in your addiction. Dr. George Koob, director of NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, states, “A common misperception is that addiction is a choice or moral problem, and all you have to do is stop. But nothing could be further from the truth. The brain changes with addiction, and it takes a lot of work to get it back to its normal state. The more drugs or alcohol you’ve taken, the more disruptive it is to the brain.”
Once your brain has been impacted by substance dependency, you may crave more and more to continue feeling the initial happy feelings you felt when you first used it. Not partaking in the addiction might make you feel anxious, depressed, or physically ill. In the end, many individuals find themselves taking substances to reduce withdrawal symptoms instead of gaining positive impacts. For many, withdrawal can be dangerous. Reach out to a medical doctor before going through withdrawal.
The Different Types Of Addiction
Though addiction is often attributed to substance use, it can come in many forms, and addiction therapists have the tools to support both physical and psychological dependencies. For example, they can treat gambling addiction, internet addiction, sex addiction, and love addiction, among others. These addictions can be as severe and life-altering as physical ones, as a is characterized by a compulsion to use a substance or continue a behavior even when it proves harmful. It can also be challenging to quit a psychological addiction, so addiction therapy can be valuable.
How Can Addiction Affect Your Life?
No matter what addiction a person is living with, they may find that addiction has adverse effects on their lives. The impacts you might experience include the following:
Changes in the way you think or feel or how your brain processes information
Mood swings, anxiety, or depression
Loss of control over multiple aspects of your life
Impaired ability to learn new skills
Difficulty making decisions
Loss of short or long-term memory
A lack of judgment
Health challenges, including potential organ damage, loss of taste or smell, weight loss, weight gain, or high blood pressure
Increased risk of infectious diseases
More frequent vehicular accidents
An increased chance of suicide*
Work concerns, including declining performance, missing days of work, and loss of employment
Diminished academic performance
Legal or financial concerns
*If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or urges, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text 988 to talk to someone over SMS. They are available 24/7 to offer support.
For some people, the repeated use of substances can damage the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with decision-making. For this reason, addiction can reduce the ability to make logical decisions. “Brain imaging studies of people addicted to drugs or alcohol show decreased activity in this frontal cortex,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse. “When the frontal cortex isn’t working properly, people can’t make the decision to stop taking the drug—even if they realize the price of taking that drug may be extremely high, and they might lose custody of their children or end up in jail. Nonetheless, they take it.”
Even if you’re unsure how addiction impacts your life or relationships, reaching out to a mental health professional can help you consider all sides of your decisions and feel in control of your behavior.
What Does An Addiction Therapist Do?
Addiction therapy can help you understand the causes behind your dependency, ways to replace habits, and how to repair relationships. For example, many individuals experiencing substance use disorders may have had adverse experiences in life or a parent who also had a substance use concern. An addiction counselor can help you discuss how these events or other areas of your life impacted your desire to use or partake in your addiction.
Addiction counselors can also provide mental health support, helping clients learn how to label and process feelings, find patterns between thoughts and behaviors, participate in healthy coping skills, and identify potential causes. You can also decide to see a group, family, or couples therapist if you’re looking for support with relationships or social challenges. Many addiction programs are focused on peer support, and many communities often offer free addiction support groups.
Types Of Addiction Therapists
Every client may come to therapy seeking a different thing. Regardless of what you hope to find, therapists can often create an integrative approach to meet their clients where they’re at. Below are a few formats of addiction treatment you might consider.
Individual or one-on-one therapy allows you to work closely with your therapist to focus entirely on your thoughts, behaviors, and emotions and your goals for treatment. They can non-judgmentally guide you through your dependency and help you learn healthy coping mechanisms. Individual therapy can be valuable for those who aren’t ready to discuss addiction with their family, partner, or peers.
Marriage And Family Therapists
If you have children in the home, a marriage and family therapist may benefit you. Marriage and family therapists often offer family therapy or couples sessions to address family dynamics and challenges surrounding substance use. Each client is equal in these sessions, so the therapist will encourage a lack of judgment or blame from each family.
Learn How Addiction Can Impact The Body And Mind With Professional Guidance
Many individuals experiencing addiction or dependency have intimate relationships. Marriage and couples counseling are two options to strengthen your relationship while living with these challenges. If conflicts arise in your relationship due to your addiction, your therapist can help you come up with solutions and repair any mistakes you or your partner have made in the process.
How To Find An Addiction Therapist Near You
Searching for addiction therapists can seem like a daunting task. However, many online platforms have directories to point you to local or state-wide therapists. You can try the following search terms:
Addiction therapist near me
Addiction counseling in my area
Substance use therapist in (city name)
Substance use therapist in (city name) that takes (insurance name)
Low-cost addiction therapy near me
Online addiction therapy
Once you’ve found a few interested therapists, ask yourself a few questions. For example:
Does the addiction counselor have the proper education and licenses?
Do they have any additional training specific to addiction counseling?
How are their online reviews?
What kind of treatment options do they offer?
After you’ve answered these questions, call them to set up an initial appointment. Many therapists offer a free consultation to determine if the therapeutic relationship would be a fit. Finding a therapist you are comfortable with can make a difference; if you aren’t comfortable, you may struggle to open up and discuss your concerns in session.
Alternative Counseling Options
For many experiencing addiction, cost, transportation, and availability can be barriers to finding in-person support, even when low-cost or partially covered by insurance. In these cases, online therapy may be more beneficial. Online addiction treatment can be done from home or any location with an internet connection at a fraction of the cost of in-person options. It can also be done over the phone, via video chat, or through live messaging sessions.
Through a platform like BetterHelp for individuals or Regain for couples, you can meet with a licensed therapist specializing in addiction, substance use, and dependency. You can also schedule your appointments as soon as you’re matched and take advantage of unlimited messaging with your licensed provider outside of sessions if you have a question or need instant support.
Studies have also found online addiction treatment effective. One study found that internet-based methods were more effective than in-person ones in substance use treatment due to convenience.
Many counseling options are available to those struggling with addiction of any type. You’re not alone, so consider reaching out to a therapist to take the first step toward professional, compassionate support.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about addiction therapy.
Can A Therapist Come To Your House?
Although many therapists work from a clinic, mental health center, or private practice, some therapists offer online therapy, which can be done from home. However, therapists may not physically visit clients’ homes for safety and ethical reasons.
Can Therapists Be Free?
Addiction psychologists and other mental health professionals come at a cost, but there are affordable and sometimes free options. Without insurance, many in-person therapists cost around $100 to $200 per hour. Online options can be around $60 to $90 per week. You can also look for free or low-cost short-term mental health clinics for those with financial needs in your area. Support groups can also be a free mental health or addiction support option. If you need further resources, call 211 for guidance.
Can You Be Too Dependent On Therapy?
It may be possible to use therapy in a way that is harmful to you. Although it can be beneficial to gain advice from a provider, if you are relying only on your therapist’s advice, not practicing skills on your own, and only using therapy in a way that provides no benefit to you long-term, you might be dependent on your therapist’s validation or guidance.
What Does A Therapist Do For Addiction?
Therapists specializing in addiction often offer direct coping mechanisms, teach about addiction, help clients meet their goals, and address relationship challenges that might come up. They may also offer local resources for addiction recovery if the addiction is physically harmful or the client is experiencing withdrawal.
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