Addiction Therapy

The challenges of addiction make it extremely difficult for individuals to quit on their own. Addiction can affect your well-being, livelihood, or someone you love. With therapy, support services and tailored programmes are available to help those affected by the grip of addiction.

The following guide highlights the different modes of therapy for treating addiction, both within an inpatient and outpatient setting.

What is Addiction Therapy

Addiction therapy and treatment involves rehabilitation provided through an inpatient (residential rehab) or an outpatient programme (such as those offered on the NHS). Treatment depends on the type of addiction and is most effective when tailored to individual needs. To understand the importance of addiction treatment, we look at the different therapies for addiction and its role in helping recovery while preventing relapse.

a therapist talking to a patient

Why is Addiction Therapy Important?

The purpose of addiction therapy is to assist individuals who are affected by addiction or dependence, to find healthier ways of coping and overcoming the triggers and negative effects of addiction. In many instances, those affected by substance dependence have co-existing mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, or personality disorders which add to the complexity of recovery (The Temper). Whether the mental health disorder was present prior to addiction or developed thereafter, the process of recovery becomes challenging and difficult without intervention.

Addiction therapy is an essential part of the recovery process because it targets the cognitive and the behavioural aspects of addiction. Therapists use various techniques to determine the reasons for developing addiction while introducing valuable tools for coping, reducing stress, and regulating emotions. A person who receives addiction therapy is more likely to achieve sobriety and recovery.

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Types of Therapy for Treating Addiction

There are many types of therapies that are used in treating addictions. From cognitive behavioural to 12 Step programmes, each programme offers specific practices and processes to help clients in recovery. Let’s take a closer look at the different therapies that are used for addiction treatment.

a 12 step group session

12 Step Programme

The 12 Step programme is a traditional therapy for treating alcohol, drug, and behavioural addictions. It consists of steps that individual must follow throughout the course of treatment. What is beneficial about 12 Steps is that it introduces the support and the tools needed to prevent relapse and work towards recovery. While 12 Step Therapy was originally developed for treating alcohol addiction, today the principles of this approach are applied to drug, gambling, and behavioural addictions.

During a 12 Step programme, individuals will attend regular group meetings. These meetings involve counselling and the opportunity to share personal experiences. The approach focuses on developing a spiritual foundation to facilitate the recovery process.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a problem-solving approach. The behavioural therapy aims to determine the connection between a person’s thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and behaviours, and how these influence actions including the cycle of addiction. Cognitive behavioural therapists believe that we have the innate ability to change our thoughts and perceptions which directly influence our behaviours. The goal of CBT is to breakdown the negative or unhelpful thought processes and to replace it with constructive and positive ways of thinking while preventing relapse (Oxford Handbooks Online).

Therapists can help individuals better manage problems by breaking it down into manageable parts. They also encourage positive thought processes to better cope with perceived difficulties. In treating addiction, CBT therapists will work with individuals struggling with addiction, to change the way one feels, thinks, and reacts to stressful or challenging situations (NIH). By creating a stronger and more positive mindset, it helps individuals cope and steer away from addiction as a crutch in their lives.

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy or DBT is a type of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It is a prominent choice of therapy in addiction treatment because it assists those who have had little to no success with other types of therapies in recovery. The technique incorporates problem solving methods while encouraging clients to take personal responsibility for their choices and behaviours (NCBI).

When you take part in DBT therapy, you will be introduced to a variety of activities in which the therapist aims to help you improve your drive to achieve your goals while encouraging personal responsibility and self-acceptance. The process of DBT focuses on key areas such as developing constructive skills, applying these skills in practical settings to curb problematic behaviours. From skill building groups to weekly training and group sessions, DBT remains a necessary part of treating addiction.

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    a group therapy session

    Motivational Interviewing

    Motivational interviewing is a style of therapy which focuses on changing unhelpful or negative behaviours by motivating individuals to change. It is applied in addiction treatment because a lack of motivation is considered the greatest stumbling block in preventing relapse (Taylor & Francis Online).

    In motivational interviewing, a therapist will assume that individuals know that all or part of their addictive behaviours are negatively affecting their lives. A therapist will utilize this awareness as a platform for positive and powerful change. This is achieved by exploring the fear or resistance to change and ways of naturally motivating the client.

    Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)

    REBT is considered the foundation upon which the principles of CBT were established. REBT believes that the way we think has a direct influence on the way we feel and process emotion. Therapists focus on developing rational thought patterns in their clients to reach healthier and more constructive emotional responses.

    REBT encourages changes in core belief systems. The purpose of an REBT therapist is to help us modify negative thought patterns. For example, if your belief system is filled with negative perceptions, you may respond to a challenging situation with behaviours that involve harmful substance abuse and addictions. Therapists focus on modifying negative thoughts into acceptance and positivity.

    a therapist talking with their patient

    Inpatient vs Outpatient Addiction Therapy

    With a personalised therapeutic approach and a desire to overcome addiction in your life, you can pursue an inpatient or an outpatient addiction treatment programme. We look at addiction therapy programmes for individual support and overcoming addictive behaviours.

    Residential Rehab

    Residential rehab is offered through an inpatient programme. Individuals are professionally assessed by a therapist and will enter a full-time programme. Clients will live in the residential rehab for the duration of addiction treatment. This can range anywhere from the minimum requirement of 30 days to a few months.

    Residential rehab includes medically assisted detox and the attendance of private and/or group therapy. Individuals will also partake in a variety of skill building and wellness activities to build confidence, learn the tools for overcoming addiction, and ways of coping.

    Private Counselling

    Private counselling is part of an outpatient programme. Individuals will meet with a private therapist or counsellor a few times per week for one-on-one sessions. Depending on the type of addiction, and whether comorbid mental health disorders are present, therapies including CBT, DBT, and motivational interviewing may be incorporated.

    Private counselling is also offered in residential rehabilitation; however, individuals are assigned a therapist and attend scheduled meetings at the facility. Private counselling as part of an outpatient programme still allows you to attend work and provide for your family but you will have to travel to visit the profession

    Free NHS Services

    The NHS offers individuals struggling with addiction, a resource for finding the assistance or recovery programmes that they need. The NHS will help you find the appropriate addiction therapy including free addiction programmes in your area. Depending on the severity of a case, the NHS also assists with medically assisted detox and placement into a free inpatient programme. Entry into a free or government assisted programme often requires a reference from a GP or self-referral (which could delay your treatment). You may be placed on a waiting list when seeking government funded addiction treatment.

    No matter your choice of therapy, finding the courage to pursue addiction treatment is an important part of your journey to recovery.

    Jason Sheirs
    Author / Jason Shiers / Dip. Psych MBACP
    Jason Shiers is a Certified Transformative Coach & Certified Psychotherapist who is a specialist in addiction, trauma and eating disorders. He has been working in the field of addiction for 25 years now.