Core Practices in Substance Abuse Counseling


Substance abuse is a pressing problem in the United States, and counseling plays an essential role in supporting people struggling with addiction. Numerous organizations offer their services aiming to provide treatment and care for clients that need help. Substance abuse counseling can be referred to as a specialized form of counseling assessing addictive behaviors in people and providing addiction treatment. In other words, it is a facilitative process that enables people struggling with substance use to overcome their problems. This paper aims to discuss the best core practices in substance abuse counseling of three organizations in the L.A. County: Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Haven House, and 1 Method Center.

Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse

The first organization to be examined is the Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse (L.A. CADA). Several addiction counseling practices are implemented at L.A. CADA, such as patient-centered treatment planning, client engagement, and trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (“About us,” n.d.). The Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse target people with addiction and behavioral issues and provide patient-centered, trauma-informed, and recovery-oriented services. The staff consists of certified, registered, and licensed professionals qualified to implement evidence-based approaches and methods in providing care and treatment for individuals struggling with substance use.

One of the core counseling practices used by L.A. CADA is its patient-centered treatment planning. The organization recognizes and highlights the importance of this method and teaches its personnel to implement it for better patient outcomes (“About us,” n.d.). Client-centered planning refers to a framework focused on the individual needs, goals, aspirations, and problems of a person and allows for centering the treatment around them. Besides, this approach promotes respect, dignity, competence, and interdependence as the core values and enables a healthier lifestyle. Identifying problems, formulating short- and long-term goals, action planning, and the SMART goal framework are particularly important parts of counseling services.

Another critical practice applied by L.A. CADA is client engagement, which is viewed as a significant aspect of therapy. It refers to techniques that promote the client’s commitment to positive change. In this regard, L.A. CADA specialists aim to build a strong alliance, provide clear communication and active listening, entirely eliminate judgment, and be empathetic during the counseling sessions. At the same time, the organization recognizes that no universal concept can be applied to everyone, and each individual’s needs and concerns should be considered for effective patient engagement.

Finally, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) is another counseling practice used by L.A. CADA. This approach revolves around the idea of a trauma-informed care system that addresses the mental and emotional needs of people affected by traumatic experiences. L.A. CADA emphasizes that youth with mood disorders and post-traumatic stress resulting from violence, abuse, grief, and foster care or criminal justice systems are a particularly vulnerable population that requires specific attention. Counseling practices include individual and family therapy and communication, trauma care, recovery programs targeting different audiences, and humanistic techniques. Overall, L.A. CADA helps people stop their addictions, receive medical treatment, and participate in an active recovery program.

Haven House

The second organization to be discussed in this report is Haven House. It provides evidence-based addiction treatment and offers its clients a wide range of services and care options while demonstrating high success rates. As stated in Haven House’s website page, “Evidence based addiction treatment” (n.d.), the organization helps individuals with overcoming the use of “heroin, opiates, fentanyl, alcohol, prescription pills, meth” and other substances (para. 1). Moreover, both the physical and mental symptoms are considered for better patient outcomes.

Haven House emphasizes the evidence-based approach and implements it in its addiction counseling programs. The organization’s rehabilitation and treatment centers in Los Angeles provide services and care options for people with various backgrounds and problems. In particular, Haven House uses motivational enhancement, mindfulness training, and cognitive-behavioral therapy methods, all of which are known to be efficient and evidence-based (“Evidence based addiction treatment,” n.d.). These techniques positively affect patients’ outcomes since they consider the individual needs, promote engagement, and allow for designing a comprehensive treatment plan. Motivation is particularly important as it prompts people struggling with substance use to change and address their problems.

Furthermore, Haven House provides counseling for dual-diagnosis patients who have a mental health condition or co-occurring disorders in addition to the substance abuse problem. This approach allows for identifying the underlying reasons for the person’s addiction and addressing them in a holistic manner. For instance, one can develop depression due to a worsening disease or, on the contrary, turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism to cope with mental problems.3 At Haven House, an individualized treatment plan is created for each new client checking into the center (“Evidence based addiction treatment,” n.d.). Overall, a multifaceted approach to treatment is applied to help dual-diagnosis patients improve their progress and recover.

1 Method Center

1 Method Center is another organization that offers counseling services to people suffering from substance abuse. It provides inpatient treatment, namely primary, continuing, and extended care, as well as an independent living program (“Our programs,” n.d.). Furthermore, the organization recognizes that not all situations require one’s enrollment into residential treatment. As a result, 1 Method Center offers flexible options on outpatient treatment, particularly day or night treatment and the unique 1-on-1 coaching program (“Our programs,” n.d.). It is worth noting that regardless of the option chosen, the organization develops individual treatment plans based on the person’s particular needs and problems.

One of the core practices in substance abuse counseling at 1 Method Center is the 1-on-1 coaching method. It aims to support the positive change, facilitate transitions, identify interests, establish long-term goals, and provide community support (“Our programs,” n.d.). The organization emphasizes its uniqueness compared to other treatment centers due to the individualized approach to creating programs and attention to detail. The 1-on-1 coaching program and tailor-made plans contribute to the patients’ well-being and facilitate recovery as they fit the particular individual and their needs, enabling them to achieve specific goals while avoiding more general group therapy.

Furthermore, another substance abuse counseling practice is aftercare planning which is done in advance for every client. As stated in the organization’s website page “Our programs” (n.d.), “research demonstrates most relapses occur within 90 days of leaving inpatient treatment,” resulting from triggers, lack of preparation, and the absence of support (para. 13). Therefore, 1 Method Center underlines the importance of aftercare planning done on time. Various strategies can be applied, including coaching, 1-on-1 therapy sessions, exploratory writing, psychodrama, or exposure therapy (“Our programs,” n.d.). As a result, a holistic approach is implemented to help patients with transition-related problems.

Organizations’ Practices and Personal Experience

All things considered, the organizations and practices discussed in this report focus on patient-centered approach and treatment, as well as individualized care to address one’s specific needs. Based on my personal experience at my internship site, Sober District, these aspects are crucial for successful patient outcomes. In particular, patient-centered treatment planning, client engagement, and counseling for dual-diagnosis patients are the primary methods to ensure that the plan fits a specific individual and considers their background, needs, and objectives.

Furthermore, I find trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy particularly important since it is always challenging to get the client to open up and help them eliminate the adverse effects of the traumatic experiences and episodes. I encountered a situation when a client denied any trauma, which was unlikely the case, thus deterring the successful treatment. The evidence-based approach and the 1-on-1 coaching method are efficient as they imply cognitive-behavioral therapy methods and patient motivation. From my experience, motivational factors are critical in treatment since not everything is in the counselor’s hands. Finally, I find the aftercare planning a vital step after an episode with a couple that left halfway through their rehabilitation program. As a result, there will be a need for a relapse prevention plan in case of their return.


To conclude, three organizations under review, namely Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Haven House, and 1 Method Center implement different methods in the counseling practice for individuals with substance use disorder. Various addiction counseling techniques implemented by these centers were identified as particularly effective. They include patient-centered treatment planning, client engagement, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, evidence-based approach, counseling for dual-diagnosis patients, the 1-on-1 coaching method, and aftercare planning.


About us. (n.d.). L.A. CADA. Web.

Evidence based addiction treatment. (n.d.). Haven House. Web.

Our programs. (n.d.). 1 Method Center. Web.

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PsychologyWriting. "Core Practices in Substance Abuse Counseling." September 19, 2023.