How to Search for an Addiction Therapist


Thursday, November 1, 2018 | By Cooper Samp

An addiction therapist is a popular choice for those struggling with substance use disorder. Licensed addiction therapists are widely available compared to treatment programs and addiction doctors. There are a variety of therapists who offer their practice in a mixture of specializations. Addiction Therapy itself can even have multiple types of counselors: those that practice different types of therapies and even those that might be trained to handle both addiction and mental health. Because of the large variation of therapists, you have options to narrow down which one works best for you.

We will be covering how to search the Psychology Today directory as it is the most used and largest psychological listing site in the United States. Psychology Today offers listings of clinical socials workers, psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, addiction therapists, and treatment centers. This article will help you pinpoint the therapists for your unique needs.

Addiction Therapist Purpose

Therapists are licensed professional experienced in handling emotional and psychological problems including addiction and mental health issues like depression. Unless they have a medical license (MD), therapists are not allowed to prescribe medications but rather help their clients through a variety of talk therapies like CBT, DBT, IBT, and EMDR. Addiction therapists offer counseling in either one-on-one sessions or family counseling to help people talk through their addictions and help them overcome their problems – both mental and drug use. Therapists can work in a solo practice, part of a small group practice, or part of a health care center. Treatment with a therapist is done on an outpatient basis. The frequency depends on the therapist’s discretion but typically outpatient sessions are weekly. A substance abuse treatment center will offer a comprehensive treatment program, but therapists can be a good fit for those with a fulltime job or those who are sober and need continuing care. Some treatment centers like Coalition Recovery will offer outpatient therapy services along with their intensive treatment programs.

When you do your research, we suggest exploring all of your options: addiction therapists, psychiatrists, and treatment centers. It can be confusing to tell what type of treatment you need. A psychologist spends more of their time prescribing and managing medication whereas a therapist is unable to prescribe medication, but focuses their efforts on talk therapy to treat the emotional and mental suffering of patients. A quality treatment center like Coalition Recovery will combine the services of therapists and psychologists as well as other ancillary services, giving the individual the best treatment for long-term success. The drawback to treatment centers is the time commitment. A full treatment program can last anywhere from 30-90 days.

Finding a Credible Addiction Therapist

Psychology Today offers a list of thousands of addiction therapists. The first step is finding therapists in your area by entering your zip; the second is finding the ones who are “verified.” This verification indicates the therapist either has at least a Master’s level degree and a license to practice. This is a good first sign the professional is credible.

The verification symbol will look like this:


Psychology Today Verification Symbol

Make sure the addiction therapist you choose has at least been verified. Some therapist may be more experienced than others, having Psy.D’s and even M.D.s’.

Additional Tips in Searching

Man searching for something on his computer and phone

Step 1: Enter Your Zip Code.

Step 2: Ensure the therapist is verified

Step 3: Narrow your List

  • Make sure “Addiction” is listed under Specialties (right-hand side)
  • Learn about their philosophy, fees and insurances accepted, and age restrictions (adolescence  is a common restriction)
  • Treatment Approach – what types of therapies they offer
    • CBT and DBT are common evidence-based behavioral therapy approaches
    • Additional Specialties: trauma, grief, mental health, elderly, gay, Christian, etc.

Step 4: Make a list of all potential therapist and call each individually to learn more.

Step 5: Make sure to also consider board-certified psychiatrists and Addiction Treatment Facilities

Step 6: Meet/Tour and perform consultation

What Questions Should You Ask?

  • Are they accepting new patients?
  • What are their credentials?
  • Do they complete an assessment and diagnosis?
  • What is their treatment approach? What kinds of services and therapies do they offer?
  • Are they able to arrange medication treatment if appropriate?
  • Are they able to handle co-occurring disorders? (mental health and addiction)
  • What is expected of the patient and family during treatment?
  • What is the protocol during relapse?
  • Cost of sessions. Does insurance cover anything?
  • When will treatment begin?

A good therapist is often one you can feel comfortable talking to – this is not something you can research or ask. Therefore, if you feel uncomfortable during a session, do not force the relationship. There are plenty of quality therapist professionals; chances are you can find one that will be able to meet all your needs – including a comfortable relationship.

What if There Are No Therapists near Me?

  • Try looking in a different zip code near you. If this doesn’t work, try looking into a board-certified psychologists or a drug and alcohol rehab. Drug and alcohol treatment centers like Coalition Recovery offer board-certified psychologists and licensed addiction therapists in their treatment program.
  • Try using another directory website. Directories like SAMHSA and offer a directory for treatment centers and addiction professionals but be wary because these sites do not require a verification to be listed so do your research!
  • If necessary, maybe consider traveling to a distant addiction therapist for a consultation. This assessment can determine if it is possible to carry out a treatment program with a local clinician. They may even be able to direct you to local and credible therapists in your area.
  • Depending on your insurance, you may be eligible for “telehealth” services which offer long-distance care through telephone and video sessions. These are not ideal but they can be a means of support nonetheless. Some addiction therapists might be able to offer this type of communication so ask if they are too far away.

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