How to Find the Right Therapist for You

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If you are addicted to alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit drugs, opening up to a therapist may feel daunting.

Many different types of therapy can be transformative for those trapped in the cycle of substance abuse. To get the most from the process, though, it is vital to choose a therapist you can trust. According to APA (American Psychological Association), the relationship that you form with your therapist is one of the most important elements of psychotherapy.

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This guide will help you to choose the right therapist for your circumstances, your addiction, and any co-occurring mental health disorders.

The Importance of the Therapeutic Alliance

The concept that a good relationship between therapist and patient is essential to effective treatment has been reinforced by many research studies. One of the first researchers to explore the effects of the therapeutic alliance, Edward Bordin discovered that the alliance is not solely composed of the bond between therapist and patient. A meaningful therapeutic alliance also involves therapy goals and the methods utilized to achieve those goals. 

When choosing a therapist, it is helpful if you like one another. Good communication and a mutual motivation to work together will help to round out a fruitful therapeutic alliance. 

According to an APA task force, the type of therapy is less critical than the therapeutic alliance between therapist and client. Finding the right therapist, then, is perhaps the most prominent factor liable to deliver maximum improvements in your substance use disorder.  

An image of a therapy session, symbolizing the topic at hand: how to find the right therapist for you

How to Find the Right Therapist for You

If you’re unsure how to find the right therapist, consider this simple framework for inspiration:

  1. Work out your budget
  2. Think about the different types of therapists or counselors available
  3. Consider the common types of therapy and decide which one best fits your needs
  4. Consult a medical doctor
  5. Utilize an online database of therapists
  6. Reach out to your health insurance provider
  7. Ask friends and family members for recommendations
  8. Explore online therapy options
  9. Contact your chosen therapist
  10. Attend the first therapy session

1) Work out your budget

The cost of therapy can differ dramatically, depending on where and how you engage with treatment. You can find free therapy, as well as low-cost options. 

Online therapy tends to be cheaper, while face-to-face therapy with a leading expert will cost significantly more. 

Before you start scheduling appointments with therapists, calculate your budget. This will help you to prioritize therapists that fit your budget. If you have health insurance, we touch on using this to obtain therapy below. 

2) Think about the different types of therapists or counselors available

Many different types of mental health professionals are trained in advanced therapy and board-certified. It is possible to check with the regulatory board of your state to verify that the therapist has an up-to-date license and no ethical violations recorded against them. 

These are the most common types of therapists: 

  • Social workers: An LCSW (licensed clinical social workers) has an MSW (Master’s degree in social work) and further clinical training.
  • Psychologists: A psychologists has a doctoral degree in psychology – either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. These professionals are licensed in clinical psychology.
  • Psychiatrists: A psychiatrist is a physician – either an M.D. or a D.O.) Psychiatrists specialize in mental health treatment. As medical doctors, psychiatrists are able to prescribe medication.
  • Marriage and family therapists: An MFT (marriage and family therapist) has a Master’s degree, as well as clinical experience in family therapy and marriage.

3) Consider the common types of therapy and decide which one best fits your needs

Many therapists do not limit themselves to one type of therapy. Instead, they deliver a blend of styles personalized to the situation at hand. 

These are some of the most common types of therapy available for the treatment of substance use disorders and alcohol use disorders: 

  • Individual therapy: You can work closely with a therapist to explore negative and destructive thoughts and feelings. You will also analyze any harmful or self-destructive behaviors like substance abuse. While you may touch upon past traumas, the primary focus of individual therapy is to make positive changes in the present.
  • Group therapy: Group therapy is delivered by a professional therapist to a group of peers with similar goals – substance abuse, alcoholism, depression, or anxiety, for instance. Group therapy provides a safe and supportive environment in which you can practice social dynamics and obtain peer support.
  • CBT: CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is an evidence-based form of psychotherapy or talk therapy. CBT is widely used and proven effective for the treatment of addictions and mental health conditions. A therapist delivering CBT sessions will help you to adapt and change your behaviors and your mindset by reframing distorted and self-defeating patterns of thoughts.
  • DBT: DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) is a subtype of CBT that was created to treat the symptoms of BPD (borderline personality disorder). DBT is now much more widely applied to treat substance use disorders and mental health disorders. If you want to learn skills like emotional regulation and mindfulness in therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy is worth exploring.
  • Family therapy: Addiction is a family disease and family therapy allows all members of the family unit to participate in therapy sessions. Work closely with a skilled and neutral intermediary to improve communication and conflict management within your family unit.
  • Marriage counseling: Marriage counseling, also known as couples therapy, can be beneficial if one or both people in a committed relationship require therapy.
  • ACT: ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) is an appropriate approach to therapy for those looking to improve their psychological flexibility.
  • Psychoanalytic therapy: Based on the theory of psychoanalysis formulated by Sigmund Freud, psychoanalytic therapy is a long-term type of therapy that can last for years. You will work closely with a therapist to uncover unconscious thoughts that can impact your perceptions, emotions, and behaviors.

4) Consult a medical doctor

APA recommends consulting a medical doctor if you are looking for a therapist. 

Your physician may connect you with someone who can help you to address your specific concerns. 

5) Utilize an online database of therapists

Many health organizations provide searchable databases of credentialed therapists. 

These are some common online search tools: 

6) Reach out to your health insurance provider

Consult your health insurance provider to establish whether your plan covers the cost of therapy through your insurer’s provider network. 

You should also check whether you have access to a limited number of sessions, and whether choosing to engage with an out-of-network therapist will impact your out-of-pocket costs. 

7) Ask friends and family members for recommendations

Friends or family members may be able to recommend a trusted therapist. Keep in mind, though, that your loved one may have different needs and therapy goals, so there is no guarantee that the therapist will be suitable for you. 

8) Explore online therapy options

Two leading organizations that offer online therapy tools are betterhelp and talkspace

Choose to engage with an accredited and licensed therapist online or by phone for the most affordable and flexible approach to therapy for addiction or mental health issues. 

9) Contact your chosen therapist

Reach out to your chosen therapist to find out whether they can help you address your addiction. Calling rather than emailing the therapist may give you an initial sense of whether or not you would feel comfy working with them. 

10) Attend the first therapy session

The first therapy session gives you a chance to determine how you feel working with the therapist. 

They may ask you to explain why you chose to engage with therapy. The therapist may also ask about the following: 

  • Your closest relationships
  • Personal history of substance abuse
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Your childhood
  • Coping mechanisms that you find beneficial
  • Previous attempts at therapy

You will also have the opportunity to ask questions. Consider this a mini how to find the right therapist quiz. Here are some questions suggested by APA that you could ask your therapist during the initial session: 

  • What types of therapy do you offer?
  • Do you have experience of working with people with addictions?
  • What will happen during therapy sessions?
  • How long will therapy last?
  • Are you a state licensed psychologist?
  • How long have you been in practice?
  • What is your specialty?
  • How do you feel you could help me?
  • What treatments have you found to be effective for treating addictions?
  • Do you accept insurance?
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Therapy for Addiction to Drugs or Alcohol at California Detox

Whether you are addicted to alcohol, prescription medications like benzos and opioids, or illicit narcotics, you can engage with a wide variety of therapies here at California Detox

You will first need to choose a treatment program at an appropriate level of intensity for your circumstances and the severity of your addiction. We offer the following programs at our affordable luxury rehab center in Laguna Beach: 

  • Inpatient program (residential rehab)
  • PHP (partial hospitalization program)
  • IOP (intensive outpatient program)
  • Remote rehab
  • Dual diagnosis treatment program
  • Supervised medical detox program

Once you have established which treatment program makes the best fit for your substance use disorder, connect with the following forms of therapy: 

  • Group therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Motivational therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapy
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)

Take the first step toward addressing your substance use disorder with ongoing evidence-based therapy by calling California Detox today at 949.390.5377.


Asking yourself questions like: Do I feel comfortable talking to my therapist?; Does my therapist listen and respect my feelings and experiences?; Does my thearpist prove insight and strategies?; Am I making progress? All of these things can help you better understand if you are with the right therapist or if you should make change.
Finding the right therapist should be straightforward if you first establish which type of therapy you require and then conduct some simple research, online and offline. Residents of Southern California can shortcut the process by reaching out to California Detox.


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