At any given time, 23 million Americans are battling addiction and need recovery services. That includes those ages 12 and older. Yet, only 10 percent ever get the help they need to recover.

More than 100,000 people die from alcohol or some other substance each year in the United States. Addiction counseling is an effective way to cope and move through addiction recovery.

If you or someone you love is living with an addiction, there is help out there. Understanding the options can help you make the right decision for your needs.

Use this guide to learn everything you need to know about addiction and get the help you deserve.

What is an Addiction?

Before determining if you need addiction counseling, it’s a good idea to understand what addiction is. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misunderstanding about the issue, which can muddy the waters.

What many people think is a matter of willpower is actually a change to your brain’s structure. Yes, you read that right. Addiction changes the way your brain works, so beating an addiction is much more than willpower.

Diagnosing addiction should be done by a mental health professional. This person will be looking for several symptoms. Though you may know you are addicted, it’s helpful to get a diagnosis so you can find the right treatment program.

There are two types of addictions. They include physical and behavioral addictions. Physical addictions refer to substance use. Behavioral addictions are those that involve dependency on pleasurable experiences.

Symptoms include frequent and prolonged use of the substance, cravings for the substance, increased tolerance and difficulty stopping or avoiding the substance. The most common addiction is alcohol, followed by prescription and street drugs.

Behavioral addictions might be sexual, gambling, internet use, shopping, or eating. In these cases, other types of counseling may also be necessary to complement addiction counseling.

For example, someone addicted to pornography may seek couples therapy or marriage counseling to repair a romantic relationship. Someone who binge eats might see a counselor experienced with eating disorders.

How Does Addiction Counseling Work?

The goal of addiction counseling is to support change in behaviors that surround the substance you use. Evidence-based treatment methods are commonly used.

That includes cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectic behavioral therapy, both of which are incredibly effective for those battling addiction. In recent times, more emphasis has been made on treatments that heal underlying trauma such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocession (EMDR) and Internal Family Systems (IFS) which complement addiction counseling as a two-pronged approach.

As part of your treatment plan, you’ll set goals and create an action plan for reaching those goals. You’ll also learn new coping mechanisms that get you through situations where you might normally use drugs or alcohol.

You will learn how to handle the stressors that previously caused you to drink or use drugs. That way, you can make healthier choices in the future when those stressors present themselves.

Addiction counseling can be inpatient or outpatient. This will depend on the severity of your addiction and the level of intervention necessary to help you break the cycle of addiction.

What Happens in Addiction Counseling?

Knowing what to expect when you enter addiction counseling helps you feel prepared for what’s to come. It can take some of the scary feelings of the unknown away. It can also bring you comfort with your decision.

There are several types of addiction treatment programs. Each will include addiction counseling of some type.

In most cases, you’ll start with a detoxification protocol. This is when you are medically supervised and treated as you go through symptoms of withdrawal from the substance you were using. This can be quite uncomfortable, even painful for some people. The medical professionals monitor you to help mitigate discomfort as best as possible as well as to insure you are safe.

Once that’s finished, you may decide to choose long-term or short-term residential treatment. If a person has difficulty ‘staying stopped’ after detox, residential treatment is the recommended level of care. In these situations, you’ll live on-site and go through structured daily treatments.

This might include therapy or training for future employment. It could be learning coping mechanisms and engaging in life skills training for success when leaving the program. Most importantly, residential is a supportive community-minded environment away from access to your drug of choice.

Other people might choose outpatient counseling. This is similar to inpatient counseling but to a lesser degree in terms of intensity and time commitment. This level of care is recommended for those who are successful in “staying stopped” after detox despite having access all around them.

In any of these choices, the actual addiction counseling will include sessions. These sessions approach your addiction in a customized way. It takes into account your specific symptoms, choices, and behaviors.

A session might include talking about the issues that led to your addiction, as well as techniques for living a sober lifestyle. You’ll also receive emotional support when the going gets tough.

Addiction counseling is often more effective when combined with a twelve-step program or other community support group. This gives you the peer support you need to get through the process.

Choosing an Addiction Counselor

It’s just as important to choose the right addiction counselor as choosing the right addiction recovery program.

Of utmost importance is finding a counselor you feel comfortable with. Having a healthy rapport will make it easier to share your feelings, struggles, and story.

You should also find a counselor who is licensed and experienced to treat substance abuse addictions. Make sure they have specific training and experience working with addiction recovery because it’s treatment at times can seem counter-intuitive that those not trained would not be aware of.

Your counselor should be able to bring a new perspective to your addiction. He or she can also teach you appropriate coping strategies for recovery.

In many cases, you’ll know after a session or two if you’ve found the right counselor or if you might need to keep looking.

Taking the First Step

Now that you know what to expect from addiction counseling, you’re in a good situation to decide how to move forward.

The sad truth is that only about 10 percent of people with an addiction get the right kind of help. If you want to recover and live a full and healthy life, counseling could be your saving grace.

Get in touch today for an assessment, and let us help you start your path to recovery and take the steps necessary to beat your addiction.

Ready to Begin?

The decision to continue exploring your addiction recovery alongside a therapist is a big one, and if you’re ready to make that decision, Marin Family Recovery is here to support and celebrate this choice. If you would like to learn more about recovery resources and therapy services available from Marin Family Recovery, please reach out.