How To Find An Addiction Therapist In New York City

Finding an addiction therapist can be a confusing, burdensome and overwhelming process.  Many individuals seeking recovery from addiction and their loved ones are left feeling lost, hopeless, helpless and isolated among a host of other negative emotions.  During a time of crisis when one is seeking treatment for their addiction and is already experiencing a variety of stressors, the process of finding an addiction therapist should not be an added pressure, and it doesn’t have to be.  Here are some steps to take to help you during this challenging time.


What Type of Addiction Treatment Options Are Available?

Finding the right treatment for you or your loved one requires some knowledge of what kind of treatment is needed.  You don’t have to educate yourself on the ins and outs of addiction treatment, but it may be helpful to familiarize yourself with five primary types of treatment listed below and the key differences between them.  To streamline this process and make it easier for you, it may help to speak with an addiction specialist who can provide an assessment and treatment placement to the appropriate level of care. 

Level of care is a term used to identify the intensity of services that are required to treat a particular individuals substance abuse.  The more pervasive the addiction in terms of the substance that is being abused as well as key factors such as duration of use, frequency of use, and quantity of use will help to determine what level of care is required.  For example, a heroin or other opioid abuser who has been using drugs for several years multiple times a day will likely need a higher level of care than an individual who uses alcohol in excess on rare occasions.

There are five primary levels of care:

Early Intervention Services

Most individuals seeking treatment for an addiction have gone beyond this level of care a long time ago.  Early intervention services entail exactly what the description implies and is most helpful before the onset of substance misuse or for those who may be at risk for substance abuse.  Early intervention includes providing education and resources to those individuals in order to prevent the onset of substance use disorders.

Outpatient Services

Outpatient level of care means that individuals are attending treatment during the day at a non-residential setting, meaning that they return home or to wherever they are residing at the time of treatment.  Outpatient services can include individual therapy, group therapy, and medication assisted treatment among other forms of treatment.  Individuals in outpatient treatment usually attend treatment for approximately 1 hour per day for 1 to 5 days per week over 6 to 12 months.  A form of outpatient services which will be discussed in much more detail below is treatment via a private addiction therapist.

Intensive Outpatient Services or Partial Hospitalization Services

Intensive outpatient services are the same as outpatient services as described above, but treatment is usually increased to approximately 3 to 6 hours per day for 3 to 6 days per week over approximately 45 days followed by a step-down to outpatient services.

Inpatient Services or Residential Services

Inpatient level of care means that individuals are living at the treatment center in a residential setting, attending treatment during the day and living and eating on premises.  It is what is commonly referred to as “rehab.” Inpatient services can include individual therapy, group therapy and medication assisted treatment among other forms of treatment, as well as holistic and recreational activities such as fitness, nutrition, yoga, acupuncture and other such wellness-based strategies.  Individuals in inpatient treatment usually attend treatment for approximately 28 days to 90 days followed by a step-down to intensive or non-intensive outpatient services.

Medically Managed Intensive Inpatient Services

Medically managed intensive inpatient is for individuals who require medical stabilization.  Individuals at this level of care receive 24 hours supervision and care.  It is what is commonly referred to as “medical detox.”  Individuals require a medical stabilization when they experience severe withdrawal symptoms when they stop using drugs or alcohol or are at risk of experiencing withdrawal.  This is very important as many individuals relapse during this time if they are not appropriately medically monitored and provided with medications to help curb withdrawal symptoms.   Furthermore, withdrawal from drugs and alcohol can result in severe medical problems such as seizure and can even be fatal, especially if the individual is withdrawing from alcohol or benzodiazepines (e.g. Xanax).  In addition to being provided with medication to help with withdrawal symptoms and having vitals closely monitored, individuals at this level of care may also be introduced to counseling.  This level of treatment usually takes place over the course of 2 to 8 days followed by a step-down to inpatient services.  Medical detox can be done as an outpatient detox when appropriate by an addiction psychiatrist or other such appropriate prescribing physician under nurse supervision.

Other "Levels" of Care

It is also worth discussing sober living homes, sometimes referred to as recovery homes.  These are not considered to be treatment and therefore are usually not considered as a “level of care,” but they are very useful for many individuals in the recovery process.  The reason they are not considered to be treatment is that most states do not allow for therapeutic services to be conducted on-site (in-house).  Therefore, it is common for individuals residing at sober living homes to attend outside therapy or addiction treatment services. 

Sober homes are residences where individuals live 24/7 that provide a safe and supportive sober environment.  During the day residents are able to go to work, school, and live a generally normal day-to-day life thereafter returning to their sober home at night.  While one may enter a sober living home at any time, they must be abstinent from drugs and alcohol and generally stable in their recovery.  As such, individuals often enter a sober living home after exiting from an inpatient treatment center.

Sober living homes are often staffed with individuals in long-term recovery, some of whom that may hold substance abuse related certifications and licenses, who can help guide and support residents in an intimate and identifiable way.  Sober homes may offer recovery related services such as sober coaching, sober companionship, or sober transportation to help safeguard individuals’ recovery, as well as provide alcohol and drug monitoring for accountability.  For more on the primary differences between a sober coach and an addiction therapist please read, “Should I Work With A Coach or a Therapist?” as well as, “What is the Difference Between a Coach and a Therapist?

For more information on the aforementioned levels of care please read, “A guide to the Different Pathways of Addiction Recovery.”


When is an Addiction Therapist Needed?

An addiction therapist is an umbrella term for an addiction specialist that works at all levels of care mentioned above.  Regardless of what level of care you are in, you will be working closely with an addiction therapist.  For purposes of this article an addiction therapist will be defined as an addiction therapist working in an outpatient private therapy practice.  You can think of it as what is commonly thought of as “seeing a therapist,” but in this case one that specializes in addiction.

Addiction therapists in private practice are needed in a wide variety of situations.  Such addiction specialists are commonly sought out in lieu of going to an addiction outpatient center for various reasons.  For example, there is much more privacy when seeing an addiction therapist in private practice as opposed to attending a center where there are multiple counselors working and dozens of patients coming in and out at any given time.  Furthermore, the type of treatment utilized in private practice will predominantly be individual one-on-one therapy as opposed to group therapy, although there are private therapists that offer group counseling in tandem with individual counseling.  Additionally, addiction therapists in private practice may be able to provide greater and more intimate care for their patients as a result of mor time, energy, and attention, but this case can be argued to be false by many addiction professionals.


What Are the Different Types of Addiction Therapists in New York City?

There are various national and state licenses that an addiction therapist may hold that allows them to practice therapy.  Below are the most common with a brief description of the primary differences.  All professionals listed are able to assess, diagnose, and treat mental health and substance abuse disorder.  Regardless of the particular license that your therapist holds, you will want to seek out a therapist who specializes in treating substance abuse disorders as well as any other important issues you may want to address in therapy, along with other considerations that will be discussed further below.

Psychiatrist or Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)

A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor (M.D. or D.O.) who specializes in treating mental health and substance abuse disorders.  PMHNP’s are psychiatric nurses, and the only reason they are lumped together with psychiatrists here is to highlight the primary ability that they have which differentiates them from the other licensures listed below, which is that they are able to prescribe medication.  Both Psychiatrist and PMHNPs often specialize in medication management, and therefore it is not uncommon for individuals to see a psychiatrist or PMHNP once per month or as needed for medication management while also seeing another therapist for more general and broad talk therapy and addiction treatment with a professional holding a different license as listed below.


Psychologists may hold a doctorate level degree (PhD or PsyD) but unlike psychiatrists they are not medical doctors.  As such, psychologists are not licensed to prescribe medication.  Psychologists may be better equipped to more proficiently treat complex and serious mental health issues than some of the other licensures listed below.

Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) or Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

In New York State it is common for addiction therapists to hold either an LMHC or LCSW.  Both LMHCs and LCSWs are masters level graduates who hold a license to practice having completed a certain number of clinical field hours and passing a state license examination.  Both LMHCs and LCSWs can assess, diagnose and treat mental health and substance abuse disorders, but neither is able to prescribe medication.  As such, as noted above, it is very common for these professionals to work in tandem with a prescribing medical professional such as a psychiatrist.  Although the two licensures are very similar, one difference in their education is that LMHCs have more educational hours of psychology and counseling while LCSWs have more educational hours of social service organizations and social resources.


What Should I Consider When Looking for An Addiction Therapist in New York City?

How much does addiction therapy cost in New York City?

If you have public or private insurance you may be able to find an addiction therapist who is in-network with your insurance provider, and therefore not have to pay anything out of pocket or a small copay of $20 to $50.  If you are only willing to work with an addiction therapist who accepts your insurance, you may want to contact your insurance provider directly and ask them to provide you with a list of accepted therapists in your area.

If you are willing to pay for your treatment services, your options obviously broaden significantly.  You will want to consider how much money you are willing to spend on your treatment, as the range of prices in New York City can range substantially from $150 per session to $300 per session on average, to upwards of $500 to $1,000 per session for some therapists in high-net-worth neighborhoods such as the Upper East Side or Central Park West.  If price is an issue for you, some therapists work on a sliding scale, meaning that they are willing to work with individuals with limited financial resources to lower the cost of services based on what you can afford to pay.

How do I find an addiction therapist in New York City?

There are many ways to find an addiction therapist in NYC.  One way is to do a simple online search through Google or whatever search engine you use.  Simply search for “addiction therapist near me” or “addiction therapist NYC.”  There are also many reliable online search engines and resources specifically designed to find a therapist such as Psychology Today

Another way to find a therapist is to ask people you know and trust.  For example, if you know someone who works in the mental health field or someone who has struggled with mental health or addiction in their past, they may be able to point you in the right direction.

There are also many free resources available that can help direct you to the appropriate level of care and to find an addiction therapist in your area.  One such resource is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration who can be reached confidentially 24/7 at 1-800-662-4357.

What to look for in an addiction therapist in New York City? 

There are a variety of factors to consider when selecting a therapist that is right for you.  As noted, it is important that you find a therapist who specializes in addiction.  Furthermore, you may want to find an addiction therapist who specializes in treating other issues specific to your needs.  For example, if you are struggling with your marriage you can try searching for an addiction therapist who also specializes in couples counseling or family systems.

If you are of a certain demographic such as LGBTQI+, a person of color, of a certain religion, or other such considerations you may want to make sure you have a multiculturally competent therapist who will understand you, your value system, and your needs.  There are various other considerations such as if the age or gender of your therapist will make a difference to you.  Also, practical considerations such as the location of the therapist and their availability for appointments.

Remember that choosing a therapist is a very personal matter and it is important to find a therapist who aligns with your values and someone you feel you can trust and confide in.  This is incredibly important, as studies have shown that the therapeutic alliance (i.e. the bond you have with your therapist) is one of the most important criteria in determining a successful outcome.

You will also want to do your due diligence by doing some research on the therapist.  Look at reviews on their website and reviews on various search engines.  Try to do an online search of their name and see what you can find on them.  Reviews are not everything, but if there are consistently good reviews or consistently bad reviews then it says something of the individual and their ability to be a successful provider.

What is the typical process of therapy and what should I expect?

A good starting point is to call the addiction therapist and ask if you can schedule a free phone consultation.  This will give you an opportunity to get to know them better and to make sure they are a good fit to work with you (this step is discussed in more in the section below).  Thereafter, if this is the therapist you want to being working with, you will typically schedule what is called an initial assessment or initial intake appointment, usually a 45- to 90- minute introductory session, which gives the provider an opportunity to gather important information on you and your presenting problems in order to formulate a treatment plan for you moving forward.  The provider will help you to determine the number of weekly sessions you will attend and what the goals of therapy will be.

What types of treatment approaches are used for addiction therapy in New York City?

There are various therapeutic approaches that therapists use.  Some therapists are eclectic, using a variety of approaches, while other therapists may be specifically trained in a particular approach or have one particular approach that they specialize in.  Some common approaches used in addiction treatment include:


How Do I Know When I Have Found an Addiction Therapist That Is Right for Me?

You don’t.  At least you won’t know right away.  As mentioned above, one of the most important steps to take early on is to schedule a phone consultation with your therapist before your initial appointment.  Most therapists offer a brief 10- to 15-minute free phone consultation with no commitment.  You will want to have your most important questions ready that will help guide you to making a decision as to if this therapist is right for you.  Go with your gut and intuition.  Sometimes it’s not what they say, but how they say it or how they sound.  If there is something that makes you dislike the therapist from the conversation, move on and don’t waste your time, energy or resources with an in-person appointment.

Some simple but important questions to ask you therapist during a phone consultation:

Once you have started working with a therapist, if you feel that the particular therapist you are working with is not a good fit it is never too late to find another addiction specialist.  Sometimes this will happen after the initial appointment while in other cases it may take a few sessions.  This does not mean there is something wrong with you or with the therapist, it simply means that the two of you are not a good fit.  To help determine if your therapist is right for you please read, “Is Therapy Working? Red Flags to Look for in Therapy.”


One Final Comment For Loved Ones

It is always encouraged that loved ones impacted by addiction get help for themselves as well, regardless of if the addicted individual is getting help for themselves or what their progress is in treatment.  Use the information detailed above to help guide you.  Many addiction therapists also specialize in working with family members who have been impacted by addiction.  For more information please read, “The Impact of Alcoholism and Addiction of Family, and How to Protect Yourself.”


For more information on NYC addiction treatment and to find the best addiction counselor, or for general therapy and mental health, or to inquire about Family Addiction Specialist’s private concierge sober coach Manhattan, recovery coach Manhattan, sober companion Manhattan, Manhattan addiction therapy services and/or our Manhattan teletherapy services (online therapy/virtual therapy), as well as our Manhattan hypnosis services in New York City please contact our undisclosed therapy office location in the Upper East Side of NYC today at (929) 220-2912.

Lin Sternlicht & Aaron Sternlicht

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