What are the Different Types of Substance Abuse Counseling?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2019
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Substance abuse counseling for people with drug or alcohol problems is available in many different types. The kinds of counseling drug addicts or alcoholics may require at different stages of their recovery tends to vary as does personal preference. Generally, the types of substance abuse counseling available in many communities is in-patient, out-patient, group and individual.

Individual drug or alcohol counseling may be received either on an out-patient basis or during a residential treatment stay, which is an in-patient setting. A person trying to stop abusing alcohol or drugs typically begins regular counseling sessions during or after detox. Detox, or detoxification, refers to the process of getting the abused substance out of the addict's system physically. Other drugs may be given to ease painful withdrawal symptoms, such as vomiting, shaking, anxiety and muscle aches. Usually, addicts are in residential treatment centers for detoxing and counseling to reduce the chance of returning to drugs or alcohol.

Even after an addict has recovered enough from addiction to stay clean and sober for a number of months or years, substance abuse counseling is often necessary to help keep him or her from relapsing. Addicts who have had years of sobriety may still relapse, so the best advice usually given to them is to handle recovery one day at a time. Getting counseling during periods of sobriety can help recovering addicts stay on track of their goal of not using alcohol or drugs ever again.


Group substance abuse counseling is used in both out-patient and in-patient settings. Residential treatment or drug rehabilitation centers in which addicts often stay for a month or several months usually have regular group counseling sessions as well as individual ones. Recovering addicts who participate in group counseling often find that it helps them realize that others have similar issues, problems and struggles. They can further see the negative effects substance abuse can have by observing different situations caused by drug or alcohol addiction in other people. For example, if one addict hasn't lost his or her home or money to the addiction, he or she may meet others in group therapy sessions who have.

Many types of drug or alcohol group counseling consist of recovering addicts, as well as one or more therapists trained in addiction science, taking turns speaking while sitting in chairs placed in a circle. The counselor will often pose a question to the group that each member answers in turn. Some therapists allow some participants to remain silent on a particular question if they wish and let only those who want to answer do so. In addition to discussions, substance abuse counseling may include projects involving art or music therapy to allow recovering addicts to express themselves through creative projects.


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