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Addiction Therapy: Types, Benefits, & How it Works

Behavioral therapies are widely used in addiction treatment as a part of recovery and relapse prevention, and many types of therapy can assist in addiction treatment.1 This article will explore the basics of addiction therapy, the types of therapies used, and what circumstances might determine which is best for each individual.

What is Addiction Therapy?

Addiction therapy refers to a broad range of interventions, and each technique can help a person develop skills to overcome addiction.1 Therapy for substance use disorders can refer to medication, behavioral therapeutic interventions, or holistic approaches, which can be helpful in particular situations.1 Medications are available to assist with the detox and withdrawal process and to minimize cravings for some substances in the long term.1 Behavioral therapies may involve individual, group, or family counseling in a variety of therapeutic techniques.1 And holistic approaches (also known as complementary and alternative medicine) may address other aspects of a person’s life that need healing.2 This approach recognizes that a person who is healthy in other areas of life is more likely to overcome their addiction.2

Though it may appear different for each person, the goal of addiction therapy is the same.3 Treatment ultimately helps a person stop using their substance, stay sober, and achieve productivity in the family, at work, and in society.3 Therapy can help individuals attain these goals by developing self-awareness about addiction, coping skills to overcome addiction triggers, community that supports sobriety, and an achievable plan to continue sobriety.3 It may include developing job application skills and a work ethic, getting involved with a community-based addiction group, or reorganizing your life to allow for healthy activities to replace unhealthy habits.

Find Out If Your Insurance Plan Covers Rehab

American Addiction Centers can help people recover from substance misuse and substance use disorders (SUDs). To find out if your insurance covers treatment, including various types of therapy, for you or your loved one at an American Addiction Centers facility, click here, or fill out the form below. Your information is kept 100% confidential. You can also click here to find an addiction treatment center near you.

Types of Addiction Treatment Therapies

There are many available approaches for addiction treatment, and the path you take can be determined both by your preferences and your needs. Most treatment centers offer individualized treatment plans that are created after an initial assessment with a team member. Plans may differ depending on whether you:

  • Need inpatient or outpatient care.
  • Have one or multiple addictions.
  • Have multiple diagnoses.
  • Would benefit from addressing other social or familial problems at the same time.
  • Prefer or respond well to some therapeutic techniques.

Holistic vs. Evidence-Based Therapy for Addiction

Holistic therapy and evidence-based therapy differ but can be practiced together. A preferred name for holistic therapy is complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).2

CAM includes a variety of techniques and practices.2 There are few research studies done that cover the wide variety of CAM practices in addiction treatment, but most practices are considered safe.2 Some practices, such as mindfulness meditation, have proven beneficial for depression, anxiety, pain, and stress coping, and its success gives a promising potential for addiction treatment.2 So, if a person desires holistic treatments alongside traditional addiction treatment, their efforts are usually encouraged.2 Some treatment centers offer in-house holistic practices. Additional examples of CAM practices include:2

  • Acupuncture.
  • Massage therapy.
  • Pilates.
  • Relaxation techniques.
  • Yoga.
  • Meditation.
  • Other movement therapies.
  • And many more.

Evidence-based practices are named for the substantial positive research that supports them. The number of therapeutic interventions included in “evidence-based practices” is many, but some well-known techniques are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing (MI). CBT can help people develop recognition of triggers and situations that may contribute to their substance use and teaches skills to avoid or cope with those situations without deciding to use their substance.3 MI is a technique used in counseling sessions to help a person recognize their readiness to change and set achievable goals.3

Group vs. Individual Addiction Counseling

Throughout addiction treatment, both group and individual counseling techniques are common.4 While there are unique benefits to both approaches, group therapy may be most beneficial when a person also engages in individual sessions.4 Most therapeutic techniques can be given in either setting, and treatment centers usually offer both.4

Individual therapy is accomplished with 1 patient and 1–2 mental health counselors. This setting can allow the privacy needed for a person to feel safe and able to deeply explore their inner motivations and desires without fear of peer judgment. Through these structured sessions, a person can be helped to reduce substance use and develop coping strategies and life skills that improve their ability to function.4

Group therapy takes place in a setting with others who struggle with similar problems or in couples or family therapy.5 A group setting can be helpful for patients to see people who are farther along or just starting out on the road to recovery.5 The variety of stages of healing can provide both motivation and a sense of accomplishment. And sharing their personal experiences can allow patients to see the benefits of treatment from their peers in addition to hearing from their counselors. Each group may have different goals, such as education, consequences of addiction, anger management, or others.5 It is most beneficial when given alongside individual therapy so that patients can contribute perspectives they receive in individual therapy and separately process any difficulties they encounter in group therapy.4

Benefits of Therapy for Substance Use Disorders

Whether done in a group or individual session, therapies used in substance use disorder (SUD) treatment can assist in:6

  • Engagement in treatment.
  • Finding the motivation to seek recovery.
  • Setting attainable goals.
  • Providing incentives for abstinence.
  • Facilitating community support for sobriety.
  • Modifying behaviors and attitudes toward substance use.
  • Developing coping skills to manage stress in healthy ways.
  • Building life skills.
  • Fostering self-awareness of motivation, drug-use triggers, or other inner modalities.
  • Processing underlying factors that contribute to substance use and addiction.

Getting Started

If you or a loved one are seeking addiction treatment, it can be hard to know where to start. There are many treatment centers available, with a variety of therapeutic approaches. Before enrolling at a particular location, you can ask about specific therapies for addiction, individualized plans, or any other concerns you may have. It can be helpful to consider the following before deciding on a treatment center:

  • Availability of therapies
  • Whether your insurance covers that center
  • Attending a local facility vs. traveling to a rehab
  • Any co-occurring disorders you have that require concurrent treatment
  • Inpatient vs. outpatient treatment
  • Any preferences for additional amenities

Substance Use Disorder Therapy FAQs

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