People who become addicted to drugs or alcohol are not weak or bad human beings. While many people can have a glass or two of wine or a couple of beers or perhaps use medically prescribed painkillers, for some individuals the complex physical and emotional effects of drugs lead to addiction and become overwhelming. Addiction affects brain chemistry and behavior. If the addiction is not confronted and treated, it can ruin a person’s health, finances and relationships.
How Therapy Can Help People Struggling with Addiction
An experienced therapist helps a person take the first important step by evaluating the situation. Considerations may include diagnosis of underlying mental health issues from childhood or traumatic events, or issues such as depression or anxiety that have led to substance abuse. Priorities such as living situation, family issues, workplace or unemployment stresses are taken into account when developing a realistic path of healing. The therapist works with the individual to develop a course of treatment that best suits the physical and emotional situation. In the case of addiction, time is of the essence, especially because of the potential long-term damage to health.
Types of Therapy for Addiction and Substance Abuse
There are many types of therapy for drug abuse and addiction that have shown to be successful in developing healthy habits. Many therapies have extensive research to back them up. Here are just a few examples of the options.
Behavioral Therapies: This is a general category of therapies that are the most common in treating substance abuse and addiction. The therapies can focus on motivating a person to change and providing incentives for abstinence, building skills to resist drug use, replacing drug-related activities with more constructive activities, learning problem-solving skills, and developing better interpersonal relationships. The skills learned in behavioral therapies are more likely to become a natural part of the person’s lifestyle when encouraged by a peer or community group, family therapy or long-term counseling.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This therapy is a specific type of behavioral therapy that helps individuals identify the triggers that prompt them to use drugs or alcohol. The person learns to redirect their thoughts and reactions away from using that substance. Skills learned in CBT have been found to lead people to make healthier choices for the long-term. Much research has been done on CBT and it is one of the most recognized types of therapy found to be effective in treating substance abuse and addiction.
Motivational Interviewing: This technique can be effective in treating addiction because a lack of motivation to quit can often be an initial barrier to breaking the cycle of substance abuse. An experienced therapist helps determine the person’s readiness for changing their behavior. Some people think their substance abuse isn’t a serious problem and “I can stop an time I want to.” Some people just don’t want to give up what they consider the pleasant physical or psychological sensations that come with the use of drugs. The counseling sessions that determine motivation can help prepare the person to change by overcoming resistance or fear and increasing the person’s own desire to change, the critical element in overcoming addiction.
Other therapy options: The wide range of treatment options for substance abuse and addiction can include in-patient treatment, medication, family therapy and a combination of strategies that can include skills such as mindfulness. The most important step is contacting a therapist trained and experienced in drug addiction and substance abuse treatment who is qualified to help a person develop a plan to overcome addiction and create a path to healing.
Long-term follow-up: Substance abuse and addiction arise from complex emotional and physical sources, so long-term counseling is often a part of solidifying a healthy lifestyle and preventing relapse. Addiction and substance abuse are common and many people find treatment and experience recovery, making way for a healthy and satisfying life that’s good for the individual, as well as family, friends and community.
“Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide,” National Institute on Drug Abuse, December 2012.
“Substance Use Disorders,” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Oct. 27, 2015
“Addiction Science, “National Institute on Drug Abuse, July 2015
Patterson, Eric, “Addiction Treatment Therapies: An Overview,:” drugabuse.com