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Guide To Therapy For Drug And Alcohol Addiction

Drug and alcohol addiction is a complex condition that often starts as a psychological problem but often ends up affecting the addict's body and behavior. As such, it negatively affects both physical and mental health.

Addiction therapy sessionIndividualized and personalized treatment plans, to this end, are essential if the patient's needs are to be addressed effectively. More specifically, a comprehensive treatment program ought to include some form of counseling or therapy.

However, seeing as how there are so many options available, you might be confused about the route to take, whether you are looking to treat your addiction or that of a loved one or family member.

In the guide below, you will learn all there is to know about the available therapies for alcohol and drug addiction, what they entail, and the benefits that come with choosing each option.

Read on to find out more:

Understanding Addiction Treatment

According to NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse), addicts and their family members need to understand the various principles of drug and alcohol addiction treatment. This is based on the data NIDA has been collecting on the condition and its treatment for more than 40 years now.

Most of these principles are designed to improve the potential for success in the treatment of addiction by moderating or ending drug use and abuse, reducing the risks of relapse, and allowing the patient to restart or rebuild their life.

Some of the notions these principles are founded upon include, but are not limited to:

  • Although substance addiction is multifaceted, it can be treated effectively
  • Treatment for addiction ought to be directed towards the addict's personality and needs instead of to their drugs/substances of choice
  • Addiction treatment may be helpful even when patients join the facility involuntarily; eventually, however, voluntary participation may improve the chances of success
  • Medications are sometimes an essential part of addiction treatment, particularly with regards to treating the drug abuse problem or dealing with the psychological aspects underlying drug and alcohol abuse
  • Behavioral therapies and counseling now rank among the best treatment options available for drug and alcohol addiction

The final aspect is quite important. Many experts now agree that counseling and behavioral therapies are essential to the treatment of substance abuse and addiction. However, there are so many options available that it might be difficult to choose the most effective form of treatment, know the difference between these varied options, or understand which one might work best for a particular individual.

Therapy and counseling for addiction are often designed to help addicts in recovery understand the underlying causes of their condition, learn more about how to recognize the main risk factors for relapse, as well as develop tools for effectively coping with any stressful situation that may culminate in substance abuse.

The main thing to keep in mind is that no one approach may be appropriate for universal application in every case of addiction. As you look for the right program for a loved one or for yourself, it is essential that you learn as much as you can about the available therapy options.

More particularly, therapy and counseling for addiction are often designed to help addicts in recovery understand the underlying causes of their condition, learn more about how to recognize the main risk factors for relapse, as well as develop tools for effectively coping with any stressful situation that may culminate in substance abuse.

Working with certified addiction specialists and therapists, you may also find the motivation, develop the right skills, and mend broken relationships and build new ones to support your road to recovery.

In the process, you will get to learn that most of the underlying causes of drug and alcohol addiction tend to be environmental and genetic in nature. More specifically, your genetic makeup may make you more or less prone to behavior that seeks sensation - which would also make you more compulsive and vulnerable to addiction.

On the other hand, major life events such as early exposure to the typical substances of abuse, as well as stress, and trauma may affect your vulnerability. What is clear, however, is that addiction causes a variety of mental and physical side effects - some of which are so severe that they may push addicts to seek treatment. These side effects may include severe withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings as well as loneliness, anxiety, depression, and stress.

In most situations, treatment for addiction may focus on the main environmental and genetic causes of addiction. It may also be tailored to deal with the primary psychological and physiological side effects arising from substance abuse.

Many treatment facilities introduce new patients to treatment with detoxification. In this case, detox would be designed to keep the patient as comfortable and as physically safe as possible as they undergo withdrawal.

After that, therapy follows to treat the psychological aspects of addiction. Depending on how severe the condition may be, detoxification may also be used to deal with withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings in a span of 1 to 3 weeks. However, many addicts require weeks, months, or even years of steady counseling to fully recover from the severe mental effects of drug and alcohol abuse.

Choosing the Right Treatment Facility

While seeking treatment for addiction, you may want to think about the following:

1. Available Treatments

First, find out as much as you can about the different types of treatment provided in the program. You may discover that some facilities provide every type of available method while others rely on a single approach.

As you ask questions, check if the provider or program offers additional medication as part of treatment and if they will address any underlying mental health issues alongside the addiction.

2. Treatment Tailoring

In most cases, the success of any addiction treatment program is pegged on finding the right therapy and tailoring it to the individual and their particular needs. This is because no single treatment works universally for everyone.

Additionally, check whether the program will adapt the treatment to meet your changing needs when and as they arise. After all, there is no telling what will happen when you are underway with rehabilitation or detoxification.

3. Expectations for the Patient

Ask about what the program will require of you (or an addict in your family or social circle). This way, you will be better placed to decide on the type of treatment that may best suit your requirements.

4. Measuring Treatment Success

Find out if the facility measures treatment success. By assessing how and whether the provider or the program measures success, you will be better placed to compare the available options before picking one.

5. Relapse

Ask about how the provider/program handles relapse cases. This is because relapse is quite common for people who are addicted to alcohol and drugs. As such, it may be in your best interests to find out how the facility will address it when it happens.

As you seek professional help, it is vital that you feel understood and respected. You should also trust that the organization, group, or individual can help you overcome your addiction. That said, keep in mind that relationships with health professionals, therapists, and doctors often take some time to mature and develop - so you should not try to hurry the process.

Different Types Of Addiction Therapy

As mentioned above, there is no one universal treatment type for people suffering from addiction. As a direct result, the addict and the healthcare professional can and should try different types of addiction treatment to uncover the best route towards full recovery. In many cases, everyone suffering from substance abuse disorder comes with their own unique recovery story - which is more or less the same with any other kind of condition.

Upon enrolling for treatment, you will first be diagnosed with substance use disorder. After that, you may undergo detox to remove the behavior or substances that keep you hooked to drugs and alcohol.

Detoxification is designed to also deal with such withdrawal symptoms as:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Coma
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Shakiness
  • Vomiting

As you look for the right treatment program, it is essential that you learn as much as you can about the provider or the program before you make a final decision. You might also talk to someone who has firsthand knowledge of the facility or program to find out more about their personal experience and see if they would recommend it to you.

As much as possible, check that:

  • The individual providers as well as the program are accredited and licensed
  • The provider has a wide variety of effective treatments on offer, including medication
  • The provider offers treatments for other physical and mental disorders
  • There are trained and licensed doctors on staff for consultation
  • You will receive peer support services, relapse monitoring, general medical care, and continuing care (including family support services, medication, and therapy)

Although some addicts recover after undergoing treatment once, most may require several treatments - much in the same way with people suffering from such chronic diseases as hypertension, diabetes, and asthma.

In many cases, you will find that relapse is normal in the recovery process although it is essential that you seek help immediately if you go back to drug and alcohol abuse. Recovery will require that you commit yourself to long-term health and wellness, meaning that you should be in constant touch with an addiction treatment facility even after you are discharged.

Over and above everything else, you should never lose hope. With time, you will discover that many people suffering from a variety of substance abuse disorders recover and proceed to lead a normal, healthy, and productive live.

Depending on your particular needs and requirements, the level of care, and the length of the treatment, the addiction treatment center may initially schedule your sessions with a therapist once or twice a week. During these sessions, you will work with your therapist to develop a treatment plan.

This type of individualized drug counseling focuses on stopping or reducing alcohol and drug abuse while simultaneously addressing all areas of impaired functioning - including but not limited to social/family relations, illegal activity, and employment status. It will also deal with the structure and content of your recovery program.

Addiction therapy groupBy emphasizing on behavioral goals in the short term, individualized counseling may help you develop better coping strategies and discover tools you can use to abstain from drug and alcohol use, as maintain such abstinence.

Your counselor may also encourage you to participate in 12-step programs at least once or twice every week, before making referrals for the supplemental employment, psychiatric, and medical services you may need.

The most important thing to keep in mind as you undergo addiction treatment is that the most successful plans tend to be individualized. This is mostly because substance use disorders tend to be highly personal and complex.

Since everyone is different, people respond differently to the various treatment approaches. As such, you may want to ensure that the rehab facility, counselor, or therapist you end up working with understands this concept and values individualized care and all that pertains to it.

Consider the following addiction treatment options:

1. Psychotherapy

As you seek treatment for substance use disorders, it is highly likely that the health care professionals and doctors you work with will suggest you undergo counseling or psychotherapy.

Individual counseling therapyThis means that you will end up in one on one talk therapy with an addiction counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or therapist. You may also get into group therapy, where you will meet and talk with groups of between 6 to 10 other people - mostly those suffering from the same issues or addiction you have.

The treatment plan you create with your doctor may also include other kinds of therapy, an approach that could change with time. For instance, as you start on psychotherapy, the sessions may focus on helping you recognize your triggers and learn how to stop them or find out how to sooth yourself whenever you are feeling upset or anxious.

When you better establish your recovery from drug and alcohol abuse, you may work with your therapist to explore your past to find out what may have led you to addiction.

As with other types of treatment regimen, your psychotherapy sessions will be different from those that other patients go to. It will also be quite unique as you head on the journey to full recovery and sobriety.

2. Drug Therapies

Apart from psychotherapy, the treatment facility you join may also recommend that you use medications. In most cases, medications work effectively to ease withdrawal symptoms and prevent you from experiencing drug and alcohol cravings - which may cause you to relapse.

When doctors use drugs to treat addiction, the treatment is referred to as MAT (or medication-assisted therapy). SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services) has explained that prescription medications are particularly effective at helping addicts restore the normal functioning of their brain (by normalizing the production of dopamine).

Some of the prescription drugs used to treat the different kinds of addiction include but are not limited to:

  • Acamprosate (Campral)
  • Bupropion (Zyban or Wellbutrin)
  • Disulfiram (Antabuse)
  • Methadone
  • Naltrexone (Vivitrol, Depade, and ReVia)
  • Suboxone (naloxone hydrochloride and buprenorphine hydrochloride)
  • Subutex (buprenorphine hydrochloride)
  • Tobacco lozenges, gums, sprays, and patches
  • Varenicline (Chantix)

3. Behavioral Therapies

The center may also use behavioral approaches to help addicts engage better in the treatment regimen. Here, the addicts are provided with incentives to empower them to abstain, modify their behaviors and attitudes, and improve the life skills that will enable them handle stressful environmental cues and circumstances that might trigger intensive drug and alcohol cravings.

Behavioral therapies are also effective at dealing with anything that may prompt additional cycles of compulsive drug and alcohol use. Some of these therapies have been found to be quite effective at leading with substance abuse disorders.

Many addiction treatment centers apply more than one kind of therapeutic technique. By so doing, they empower their patients to understand the root causes of their high risk behavior, while also teaching them to develop tools that they can use to cope with or avoid high risk situations.

Some of the behavioral therapies used include but are not limited to:

a) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

People undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy get to learn how to spot, identify, and correct any problematic behavior that may cause them to continue abusing drugs and alcohol. They also get to apply a wide range of skills that they can use to stop their patterns of substance abuse, while simultaneously dealing with the whole range of additional problems that may co-occur with this disorder.

Otherwise referred to as CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy was first developed as a method to help alcoholics avoid relapse. Later, this type of therapy was adapted for cocaine addicts.

Most of the strategies used in CBT are based on the commonly-understood theory that learning processes tend to play a crucial role when people develop maladaptive behavioral patterns such as drug and alcohol abuse.

As such, people undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy get to learn how to spot, identify, and correct any problematic behavior that may cause them to continue abusing drugs and alcohol. They also get to apply a wide range of skills that they can use to stop their patterns of substance abuse, while simultaneously dealing with the whole range of additional problems that may co-occur with this disorder.

The central element in CBT, however, lies in the ability to anticipate likely problems while enhancing self-control. As such, patients get to develop better coping strategies. The specific techniques used include:

  • Developing strategies that you can fall back on to cope with your cravings and avoid high risk situations
  • Exploring the negative and positive consequences arising from continued drug and alcohol use
  • Identifying those situations that may increase the risk that you will start using again
  • Self-monitoring to know how to spot and recognize cravings early enough

Recent research indicates that most of the skills taught through CBT will stick with you long after you complete treatment. Most of this research focused on how CBT can be made more powerful by combining it with other kinds of behavioral therapy and medications.

Today, cognitive behavioral therapy is being used to effectively deal with the following types of addiction:

  • Alcohol
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • Methamphetamine
  • Nicotine

b) Dialectical Behavior Therapy

In some cases, you may require more acceptance and support to overcome your addiction and any other problems stemming from trauma and a difficult childhood. Through dialectical behavioral therapy, your clinician will let you know when a belief or behavior is unhealthy while simultaneously offering you the total acceptance you need to overcome these situations.

DBT also follows a standard universal protocol. At each session, you will report the problems and issues you encountered the previous week. In the process, you will learn new coping skills and strategies to use when you deal with future difficulties while remembering to react positively to present situations instead of layering them with problems from your past.

Dialectical behavioral therapy works well for patients who are struggling to regulate their emotions, or who have thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Therapy often emphasizes on accepting any uncomfortable behavior, feeling, or thought and, in the process, learning how to overcome each.

To this end, DBT is effective at treating most of the disorders than tend to co-occur with drug and alcohol abuse, including:

  • Eating disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Self-destructive behavior

It may also involve such relaxation techniques as yoga to help you improve your awareness of your emotions and thoughts. In the process, you get to learn such skills as muscle relaxation and controlled breathing - which are effective at tolerating and off-setting any negative urges and thoughts.

c) The Matrix Model

This model is designed to provide you with a framework you can use to maintain your abstinence during and after therapy. Doctors and therapists apply it to help patients trying to recover from cocaine and methamphetamine addiction.

In most cases, you will be immersed in different evidence-based therapies to empower you to overcome and prevent relapse. Support groups, education, and family therapy may also be required of you.

Similarly, the therapy sessions can include detailed manuals and worksheets for your reference. Your therapist will serve as your coach and teach and help you to promote more positive relationships and behavioral change. They will also promote your self-work and dignity.

d) Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Otherwise denoted as EMDR, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is a type of therapy designed to alleviate the distress commonly associated with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) symptoms and other traumatic memories - which tend to cause and worsen substance abuse disorders.

This type of therapy may be effective at helping you reprocess memories of traumatic events so that they are less painful. You will perform external eye movements, for instance, while simultaneously thinking about the event. In the process, you will teach your brain to associate these types of memories with better feelings so that you can heal.

In most cases, EMDR may relieve PTSD symptoms in as little as 3 sessions of 90 minutes each. If your symptoms are quite severe - such as for combat veterans - more sessions may be required.

4. Motivational Therapies

These happen to be the second most common type of therapies used in most drug rehabilitation centers. The therapies are designed to help you find the internal motivation to start treatment and see it through. They also provide incentives to help you maintain your sobriety, and may be used together with behavioral therapy to improve the chances of success.

Motivational therapies include:

a) Motivational Interviewing

Here, your counselor will help you slowly but surely feel more confident about making positive changes in your life. This is a highly specialized and modern type of patient-centric therapy that now works effectively for addiction.

Motivational interviewing is designed to help you find your own desire and drive to make the right choices and decisions instead of being forced to quit drugs and alcohol by guilt or threats of legal recourse.

Success comes from the following facets of therapy:

  • Autonomy
  • Collaboration
  • Evocation

Your therapist will also help you make you desire change by remaining empathic, managing your resistance, and showing you the differences between what you want and what you have been doing to achieve your desires.

Motivational interviewing is particularly helpful in the following settings:

  • Addiction-related treatments for mental health and substance use
  • Individual sessions as a primary therapeutic orientation
  • Individual sessions as the adjunct orientation
  • Initial assessments and intakes

It is also referred to as motivational enhancement therapy because it reduces doubts and uncertainties that you may have about stopping your drug and alcohol abuse or undergoing treatment. The ultimate goal is to encourage change instead of teaching you how you ought to change.

b) Contingency Management and Motivational Incentives

This approach to therapy is designed to reinforce positive behavior by providing tangible rewards. The therapies used may also augment any other type of therapy to improve the chances of recovery and encourage abstinence and sobriety during counseling.

Contingency management and motivational incentives are particularly effective for patients undergoing treatment for addiction arising from the following types of substances:

  • Alcohol
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • Methamphetamine
  • Nicotine
  • Prescription stimulants

Therapy incorporates chances to win major prizes or vouchers where those who are successful after a clean drug screen are awarded with vouchers they can use for retail goods, movies, and food.

c) Community Reinforcement

This approach is typically used for drug and alcohol addicts undergoing treatment on the outpatient basis. Therapy often involves different types of motivational incentives in the form of recreational, social, and familial rewards in addition to vouchers designed to motivate and promote abstinence.

Community reinforcement helps the patient remain sober so that they can acquire those skills they will rely on for long term recovery. CRA is particularly effective for treating addiction to the following substances:

  • Alcohol
  • Cocaine
  • Opioids

Lasting for about 24 hours, this type of therapy will require that you attend individual counseling sessions one or two times every week. During the sessions, you will acquire new skills to help you minimize your substance abuse, develop new hobbies, build up your social support structure, receive vocational counseling, improve existing relationships.

5. 12-Step Facilitation Therapy

This type of therapy is designed to improve the chances that the addict will become affiliated and involved with 12-step groups which promote abstinence. The ideas that predominate include acceptance, surrender, and active involvement in meetings and all related activities.

These 12 steps include:

  • Admitting that you are powerless over your addiction
  • Believing that you can receive help from a higher power
  • Deciding to let the higher power take control
  • Taking personal inventories of your situation and condition
  • Admitting the wrongs you have done to yourself, others, and the higher power
  • Being prepared to let the higher power deal with and correct all your shortcomings
  • Asking that the higher power removes these shortcomings from your character
  • Making a list of all the wrongs your did to others and making amends for these wrongs
  • Contacting anyone you hurt to talk about the issues, unless this would harm them
  • Continuing to admit when you are wrong and taking personal inventory
  • Seeking connection to and enlightenment from the higher power through meditation and prayer
  • Carrying and passing the message of these 12 Steps to other people in need

6. Family Counseling And Therapies

Since addiction tends to start at home in many cases, it may be essential that you work with your family as you undergo therapy. In case the members of your family are open to it, a therapist will counsel the entire group considering that families are systems with special dynamics.

Open up to and with your family may help you get to the root causes of some of the issues that lead you to alcohol and drug abuse. Although this might not be necessarily easy to do, it may go a long way toward empowering you to get sober and maintain such sobriety.

a) Family Behavior Therapy

FBT is designed to address the problems that may have affected your entire family. The primary goal is to reduce the risk factors for your addiction - such as conduct issues, abuse, family conflicts, and unemployment. It also uses such techniques as behavioral contracting and contingency management where patients agree to written contracts with their therapists.

Multiple family members also attend the therapy sessions where they learn new skills and strategies for improving the living environment and communication. Patients also get to set new behavioral goals which the family reviews at the next session.

b) Multisystem Family Therapy

Multi-systemic is used to deal with severe anti-social behavior in adolescents and children affected by drug and alcohol addiction. The goals here may include:

  • Correcting attitudes toward alcohol and drug abuse
  • Eliminating parental drug use
  • Eradicating the environmental prevalence of alcohol and drugs
  • Improving family discipline
  • Improving school performance and attendance
  • Teaching effective conflict resolution skills

c) Multidimensional Family Therapy

Multidimensional family therapy, on the other hand, is an outpatient type of treatment designed for adolescents who may already have started abusing drugs and alcohol. It is focused on community, peer, family, and individual networks to try and reduce the problematic behavior while encouraging healthy behavior.

This type of therapy occurs in homes, school, family court, and clinics, and may involve family and individual sessions where teens learn better problem-solving and decision-making skills. Parents also get to examine their parenting styles and how to effectively and positively influence healthy behavior in their teens.

d) Brief Strategic Family Therapy

This type of therapy is designed to reduce the family interactions that tend to exacerbate or support teen drug and substance abuse and the resultant problematic behavior. These types of behavior include high risk sexual behavior, aggressive tendencies, association with poor company, delinquency, and problems at school.

e) Functional Family Therapy

FFT also works at dealing with dysfunctional family interactions that support or create problematic behavior. The goal is to improve parenting, problem solving, and communication skills.

Other types of therapy include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Animal therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Horticultural therapy
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
  • Music therapy
  • Recreational therapy
  • Yoga

Seek Treatment Today

So, there you have it - the main types of therapy used for drug and alcohol addiction. As always, take some time to review the different options available in terms of treatment facilities to find one that matches your requirements in terms of the therapy you are looking for or you need according to your initial analysis and diagnosis.

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