This table describes the major types of providers that offer addiction treatment services. For each, you can see the minimum credentials that the provider should have. These basic requirements should be considered the bare minimum. For example, nearly all treatment providers will have a license, but that does not necessarily mean they have the expertise you need.
Ideally, you will want to find a provider that goes above and beyond those minimum credentials. These “above and beyond” credentials, shown in the right-hand column, indicate that the provider has obtained a professional specialty through additional formal training and has passed a rigorous independent review of their expertise. If you’re choosing among several providers, try to choose one with these “above and beyond” credentials.
Someone has suggested the name of a treatment provider to me. How can I find out if they offer higher-quality treatment?
You may already know the name of an addiction treatment provider, perhaps from one of these sources:
- A recommendation from a doctor or another health professional.
A list of “in network” providers from your insurance plan.
- A recommendation from a friend or family member.
- An advertisement you saw on television or online.
I am searching for treatment for someone who is a US veteran. Can the NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator® help me find addiction treatment offered by the VA?
The NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator® focuses on treatment providers that are available to the general public. The best resource to find treatment in the Veterans Health Administration is the VA’s online treatment locator.
If you want to work with an addiction therapist but cannot find one using the directory listed in Search for Addiction Therapists, here are some additional suggestions:
- The American Psychological Association maintains a database of clinical psychologists throughout the United States. These are usually PhD-level psychologists with a variety of specialties. Go to their website (locator.apa.org/), enter your zip code, and select “Addictions/Substance” from the drop-down list labeled “Area of Specialization.” If you find one near you, remember to call and ask the 10 Questions before scheduling an appointment.
- The National Association of Social Workers maintains a directory of licensed clinical social workers throughout the United States. These are master’s-level professionals who can provide counseling as well as linkages to other important services in the community. Go to the HelpPro Social Worker Finder, enter your zip code, and select “Addictions/Substance” in the field labeled “Specializes in this concern:” If you find one near you, remember to call and ask the 10 Questions before scheduling an appointment.
- If necessary, you might consider traveling to a distant addiction therapist for a consultation that includes a comprehensive assessment and treatment plan that could be carried out in collaboration with providers closer to your home. Call ahead to explain your situation and arrange a visit.
- In many states, insurance companies and Medicaid have begun to cover “telehealth” services. This can include telephone or video sessions with professional health care providers, including licensed therapists. You might ask a therapist whether this option is available. Check with your insurance company about coverage.
If you want to work with a physician but cannot find one in the Navigator’s® current "Search for Addiction Doctors" directories, here are some more options.
- Check with the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), which is the professional organization for physicians who have an interest in treating addiction. Some physicians may be interested in (and good at) treating people with alcohol and drug problems, but they may not have completed the board certification process. You can find out if there is one near you by contacting the chapter president for the ASAM chapter in your state. Find that person’s contact information at the ASAM State Chapters page.
- If there is not an ASAM-affiliated doctor near you, you might try working with your own or your loved one’s primary care doctor. We recommend this especially if the person has a medical condition that needs monitoring in addition to an alcohol use disorder. NIAAA has developed a Clinician’s Guide called Helping Patients Who Drink Too Much that is designed to help doctors and other health professionals feel more comfortable assessing and treating alcohol use disorder. You might share this link to the Clinician’s Guide with your doctor, or download it and bring it with you to an appointment.
- If there are no nearby options, you might consider a single day of travel to a distant board-certified addiction medicine or psychiatry specialist for a consultation. A goal would be to have him or her conduct a comprehensive assessment and create a treatment plan that could be carried out closer to home in collaboration with your local primary care physician and a nearby therapist. Call ahead to explain your situation and arrange a visit.
- In many states, insurance companies have begun to cover “telehealth” services that link physicians or therapists to patients by phone or video conference that might be used for counseling and follow-up. Check with your insurance company about coverage.
A variety of recovery support services are available. As with treatment services, continuing care services will vary from one person to the next depending on their specific needs.
- The best-known type of continuing care is involvement in a mutual support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or SMART Recovery, in which persons in recovery meet with peers to share their experience and support.
- Professional counselors might provide telephone-based continuing care (sometimes called recovery management “checkups”), in which they call the patient periodically to check in and to provide or arrange for any additional needed support.
- Recovery coaching involves one-on-one support from a peer recovery support specialist.
- If needed, recovery housing (sometimes called “sober living” or a “halfway house”) is available for people who need the time and support to transition from a structured treatment setting back into their community.
- For people requiring ongoing monitoring as part of a formal job-based or criminal justice program, continuing care might also include periodic alcohol and drug testing, with support available to prevent or interrupt a relapse.
Relapse is a return to drinking after a period of abstinence. Relapse is common among people in treatment for alcohol use disorder. People with an alcohol problem are most likely to relapse during periods of stress or when exposed to people or places associated with past drinking.
Searching for alcohol treatment? Learn why different people may need different types of treatment and what information to gather before you start your search.
Many individuals find that participation in mutual help groups helps to reinforce and extend the benefits of professional alcohol treatment services. These groups—including Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), SMART Recovery, Women for Sobriety, and others—provide a ready-made social network that is supportive of recovery and abstinence.