How Individual Addiction Counseling Works

Get started on your road to recovery. Reach out today

The effects of addiction are more than just physical. While you may feel the impact of substance abuse or addiction in your body, these conditions can also wreak havoc on your mental health as well.

So much of overcoming an addiction to drugs or alcohol involves learning new skills. To fully recover and avoid relapse, you must identify and change negative patterns. Recovery from addiction doesn’t stop after detox. Detox is the first step of a long journey.

After detox, people must complete a substance abuse treatment program. Most addiction treatment programs include several therapeutic practices and medical or mental health care. One of the most important parts of a successful addiction treatment program is individual addiction counseling.

Individual addiction counseling can take place in a variety of inpatient and outpatient settings and is offered in a wide range of approaches and methods. Understanding what happens during addiction treatment can help you make the best choices about your care.

What Happens in Individual Addiction Counseling?

Individual substance abuse counseling happens in many treatment settings. Whether you are in an outpatient program or are receiving residential or inpatient treatment, you will likely participate in both group and individual counseling sessions.

While every program and counselor is different, there are aspects of substance abuse counseling that are the same. First, substance abuse counselors are dedicated to maintaining their clients’ safety and privacy. Addiction counselors have a specific education, experience, and certification that allow them to offer this kind of therapy. If a person is finding their own counselor, they may interview several therapists before choosing one who works in the way they prefer.

Generally, individual drug and alcohol counseling includes:

  • An intake assessment
  • TIme to build rapport
  • Goal-setting
  • Skills practice
  • Regular assessments
  • Referrals to other community resources
  • Identifying negative patterns or beliefs
  • Guidance in building healthier habits
  • A non-judgmental, safe place to talk about addiction

The primary goal of addiction counseling is to help people achieve goals related to their substance use or addiction. Each person sets their own goals during the counseling sessions, then works with the therapist to make meaningful life changes that can help them reach the goals they set.

During a treatment program, individual counseling sessions may happen several times a week. A person may choose to continue participating in counseling for months or years after completing their program.

Using Individual Substance Abuse Counseling to Manage Triggers

Identifying and avoiding triggers is a big part of maintaining lifelong sobriety. Participating in substance abuse counseling gives people new skills to manage their triggers, including:

  • Environmental triggers: Places, situations, people, or certain dates or seasons can be triggering for people in addiction recovery. While some can be avoided, some can not. People must learn new ways to remain sober in the face of unavoidable environmental triggers.
  • Social Cues: People often resort to following the crowd, and this can be risky for people in addiction recovery. Engaging in substance abuse counseling can give people essential skills for managing the social pressure to drink or use drugs.
  • Stressors: Without the tools to manage it, stress can lead to a relapse. Stressful situations, trauma, or simply day-to-day stress can be triggering. A counselor can teach new skills to manage stress and stay sober when the pressure is high.

Learning to identify and manage sources of stress can help you avoid relapse and help you to achieve your goal of a healthy, sober lifestyle. You may begin counseling in treatment and can continue as long as you need to.

Benefits of Individual Addiction Counseling During and After Treatment

Counseling should be part of any high-quality, evidence-based addiction treatment program. Since addiction is never truly cured, people in recovery must find ways to stay committed and engaged in their sobriety. Continuing to attend individual addiction counseling sessions can be helpful as a part of an aftercare plan.

Both during and after addiction treatment, substance abuse counseling offers many benefits, including:

  • A non-judgmental listener
  • Objective advice and feedback
  • A steady, reliable source of support
  • Concrete tools to manage stress
  • New coping skills

Research shows that people in recovery are more likely to achieve their goals and avoid relapse if they have the support of a counselor. Individual drug counseling should be part of every addiction treatment and aftercare plan.

Find Help for Yourself or a Loved One

If you or someone you love needs support at any stage of addiction or recovery, please reach out to the knowledgeable staff at New Jersey Addiction Interventions. Finding high-quality care does not need to be confusing or overwhelming. Our dedicated and compassionate staff will answer your questions and make the admission process as quick and easy as possible.

We believe that people can recover from addiction if they have the right treatment, support, and resources. Living with addiction can feel lonely. You are not alone. Reach out to our compassionate staff today to get the treatment you need and deserve.

Medically Reviewed: December 22, 2021

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

0 replies on “How Individual Addiction Counseling Works”