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Therapy and Addiction Treatment

September 6, 2019

Most people assume the remedy for recovery involves detox and abstinence from the drugs and alcohol. The truth is, this is only the beginning. Recovery is a life long process, one that requires discipline and most importantly intensive treatment and therapy. Addiction is usually a symptom of an underlying issue such as trauma, abuse, grief, and many other mental health disorders. Addiction has been named “disease of the brain”. This complicated idea suggests that the issue stems from the brain. Complex and often confusing, this disease attacks the thinking and behaviors of an individual. Therapy is one of the most useful tools utilized to promote long term sobriety.


Individuals who enter a drug treatment program are typically given the tools and support they need to overcome the underlying root that keeps them stuck in the cycle of addiction. There are several essential holistic treatment services that medical professionals utilize in order to create an individualized treatment plan. According to NIDA, every addict requires a recovery plan that best suits their individualized therapeutic needs. It is important therapy promotes a safe and positive collaboration between the addict and therapist. Avoiding condemnation and confrontation, the therapist must empathize with the patient in order to establish a secure and trustworthy relationship. Education in therapy is also quintessential for recovery, it is important the addict understand that addiction is a disease and not a matter of willpower. No matter the addiction or individual’s needs, therapy is the most essential and common service implemented in addiction treatment.


Why is therapy important in drug and alcohol treatment?

The disease of addiction is often referred to as a three-fold illness – affecting the mind, body, and spirit of the sufferer. Once the physical addictions are addressed during the medical detoxification process, many addicts assume they are “cured.” The truth is, despite the absence of physical addiction, the psychological aspects remain much long after the physical cravings subside. 


In order to properly address the psychological effects of addiction, a psychiatric evaluation may be conducted in order to properly diagnose, address, and treat the underlying issues the individual may be facing. Therapy encourages the addict to deal with any co-occurring mental health disorders while teaching the individual healthy coping skills. The most beneficial aspect of therapy is the many different varieties of therapy that can individually meet the unique needs of any patient in treatment. Here are some of the most common therapies used in addiction treatment centers.


Individual Therapy 

Psychotherapy – also known as talk therapy – is an individual therapeutic approach that is vital to the treatment of substance abuse disorder. Individual therapy involves the client working one-on-one with a licensed therapist on a regular basis. During these sessions, the client will have the opportunity to better understand themselves while learning how to implement healthy coping skills. Psychotherapy gives the client a safe place to discuss their feelings in a nurturing environment. Therapists may encourage “role-playing” or “talking things out” in order to encourage a more introspective response from the individual. Once trust is established, the client may feel better knowing they can be completely transparent and vulnerable while getting their feelings out in the open. This type of therapy is specifically beneficial in substance abuse treatment because it may provoke the individual to uncover past traumas, mental health disorders, and discuss the root of his or her addiction.


Group Therapy 

Coinciding with individual therapy, group therapy is also an important part of a person’s individualized treatment plan of recovery. This therapeutic method is also one of the most common therapies used in substance abuse treatment. Group therapy places the addict in an intimate setting, surrounded by peers who are experiencing similar adversities. Group therapy gives the individual a chance to witness the achievements – and failures – reached by other recovering addicts. Group requires the individual to interact with others in a healthy atmosphere while also encouraging the individual to listen to other perspectives. This type of peer therapy helps to remove the addict from isolation and outside of his or her naturally self-centered mindset.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a short-term psychotherapy that promotes problem-solving skills. Cognitive behavioral therapy primarily focuses on solutions rather than revisiting old problems. This method of therapy encourages the development of new coping strategies, changing detrimental cognitive thinking, and problem solving skills. CBT has also been used in treating co-occurring disorders as well. 


Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) works to address co-occurring disorders simultaneously. Enhancing behavioral skills, through mindfulness and emotional regulation, is the primary focus of DBT. This type of treatment encourages stress management, decreases impulsivity, and aims to strengthen self-esteem through discipline and structure. 


Trauma-Informed Therapy

Trauma-informed therapy recognizes a person’s substance use as a method of coping with overwhelming emotions and threatening feelings or memories. The priority of trauma-informed therapy is to establish safety first. Therapists will encourage an individual to discuss triggers of trauma while helping the client manage flashbacks for overwhelming responses without turning to drugs and alcohol. Trauma-informed therapy requires the patient to identify the specific trauma, within a safe environment. Once the trauma has been identified, the therapist will incorporate healthy coping skills to help the individual process, change old belief systems, and ultimately promote healing. This specific therapeutic modality is extremely effective in combating co-occurring disorders relating to anxiety disorders such as PTSD and depression.


Education in therapy is also important for the individual seeking recovery from substance abuse. It is important the addict understand that addiction is a disease and not a matter of willpower. Through setting expectations the individual will set goals to accomplish throughout the duration in therapy which will ultimately encourage taking further steps towards positive behaviors.