What is an Addiction Therapist?
By Tracey Bassett Psy.D.
Deciding to take the step to seek addiction treatment is a very important and often difficult step. It can be complicated by the overwhelming amount of treatment centers, treatment modalities, and types of professionals that say they specialize in addiction. Today, our Manhattan addiction therapists will explore the different types of addiction treatment professionals and how to decide what is best for you.
Types of Addiction Treatment Professionals
Addiction Psychiatrist (MD)
A psychiatrist is a doctor who went to medical school and then specialized in mental health. Psychiatrists conduct evaluations for treatment planning and diagnosis, prescribe medication, and sometimes, but not always, conduct therapy as part of their practice. There are general psychiatrists who treat a wide range of issues and psychiatrists who focus on specific niches. A Board Certified Addiction Psychiatrist has undergone additional training and study and has passed board examinations to demonstrate a specialty in treating addiction.
Psychologist (PhD or PsyD)
A psychologist holds a Doctorate in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Psychology or a related field. Through graduate school education and multiple clinical internships working with clients, psychologists are trained to conduct diagnostic evaluations, work with multiple modalities of therapy, including group and family therapy, and assess various disorders through psychological testing. A practicing psychologist has to undergo specific education, meet clinical hour requirements, and pass an examination to possess a license. Specialties and areas of training and interest can vary widely.
Licensed Master Social Work (LMSW) and Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
A LMSW has completed a masters level education examination and is working towards meeting clinical hour requirements. A LCSW has completed a masters level education, examination, and has supervised clinical experience. Social workers can perform a variety of functions, including therapy, needs assessments, advocacy, case management, and coordination of treatment planning among other things.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC)
A LMHC holds a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. This person has met a combination of educational experience, clinical training, and examination requirements for licensure. A LMHC is trained in assessment and treatment modalities for mental health.
Substance Abuse Counselor
A Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC) has met licensing requirements by the state that includes training courses and supervised experience through a certification process. A CASAC does not have to hold an advanced educational degree, nor a college degree. A CASAC’s experience is more geared specifically toward substance use and not the treatment of co-occurring mental health diagnosis.
A sober coach does not have to hold any specific license or degree, although some do. A sober coach can be an important member of a treatment team that works directly with the client one on one outside of therapy and can provide support through coaching during triggers and cravings, ensuring clients get to appointments, helping develop routines, changing habits, advocating for clients, and many other aspects of sober living. A sober coach sometimes lives with clients or can assist with specific activities that have been identified as important to the recovery process.
Things to Consider When Seeking Addiction Treatment in Manhattan NYC
When seeking addiction therapy, there are a few important questions to ask yourself, including the following:
Are you looking for treatment to focus on only addiction or on other social, emotional, or behavioral factors that may be contributing to the cycle of addiction?
According to research, “As many as 6 in 10 people with an illicit substance use disorder also suffer from another mental illness; and rates are similar for users of licit drugs—i.e., tobacco and alcohol” (NIH, 2018).
If you believe that your substance use may be influenced or impacted by anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders then working with a professional that is trained to treat both substance use and mental health concurrently would be a key component in your recovery.
Would you benefit most from therapy or a combination of therapy and medication management?
This is often a difficult question for an individual to answer on their own. Typically, a consultation with a psychiatrist can help to answer this question. Although medication can play an extremely important role in the detox process, maintenance off of some substances, providing a barrier to use, and treating underlying mental health diagnosis, often medication alone is not the best treatment plan for long term recovery.
Therapy should be a key aspect in a well-rounded treatment plan. Research has shown that “combinations of behavioral therapies and medications (when available) generally appear to be more effective than either approach alone” (NIH, 2018).
Does the professional that you are looking to work with specifically state that they have training and experience to treat substance use?
The treatment professionals described above undergo required education, clinical experience and examination requirements to possess a license in their given field. However, specific expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of substance abuse is not a requirement of any of these licensing bodies. It is extremely important to specifically ask the treatment professionals that you are considering working with if they have training and experience with this specialty. Although some general therapy and clinical knowledge is relevant, treatment of alcohol and substance use disorders is a specialty that requires a specific expertise. Without this knowledge, clients can be misdiagnosed or mistreated leading to less-than-optimal addiction treatment outcomes.
Fifth Avenue Psychiatry’s Manhattan Addiction Doctors Provide Discreet Treatment
There is no one-size-fits-all for every person. By considering how your specific needs and goals align with the type of professional addiction treatment that is available, hopefully you can make a more educated decision in what type of professional support is best for you.
Fifth Avenue Psychiatry provides fully confidential, private treatment for professionals and executives.
- Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research Based Guide (Third Edition) (2018). Retrieved from: https://www.drugabuse.gov/download/675/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition.pdf?v=74dad603627bab89b93193918330c223