Psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” is a fundamental treatment element in substance use recovery programs. Any therapy that involves talking through one’s thoughts, feelings and experiences in a controlled setting under the supervision of a licensed professional could be considered psychotherapy.
There are several types of evidence-based psychotherapies that are highly effective in helping individuals make meaningful changes in their thought and behavior patterns.
For example, psychotherapy is provided in both one-on-one settings and group settings. Both of these formats provide benefits during the treatment process. The sessions facilitate opportunities to examine maladaptive responses to stressors, and to make positive changes in recovery.
What Is Psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy is the cornerstone of effective addiction recovery programs. Individual therapy sessions involve confidential conversations between therapist and patient, while group sessions feature small gatherings of peers that discuss topics related to recovery.
Therapists assist patients in self-discovery using both of these formats. During the therapy sessions, patients are encouraged to explore unresolved past traumas or recent negative life events that may be contributing to the substance use. Just as important, therapy emphasizes the need to change negative or disordered thoughts that might also contribute to compulsive substance use.
Therapy provides patients with new coping techniques to be utilized in recovery, improving quality of life and protecting against relapse.
The term “evidence based” refers to those therapeutic techniques that have been studied and been shown to cause a statistically significant positive treatment result. In substance recovery programs, the most commonly utilized evidence-based therapies include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: CBT focuses on both the cognitive (thoughts) and behavioral (actions) of the individual by helping them modify thought-behavior patterns that are keeping them in a cycle of substance use. CBT teaches patients to change negative or irrational thoughts to those that are self-affirming and positive, as well as to pause before reacting to stressors.
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy: DBT is focused on shifting self-criticism toward acceptance. DBT focuses on developing four areas, including mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance. DBT can be especially helpful for individuals with a dual diagnosis, or individuals with both a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder, as it helps them learn to regulate emotions or mood states that might otherwise result in substance use.
- Contingency Management: CM is an incentive-based therapy that provides small rewards in exchange for continued sobriety. For example, a clean substance test results in receiving a reward, which helps reinforce a patient’s resolve to remain sober.
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy: MET is a short-term therapy consisting of four steps. It is often used in conjunction with other types of therapies at the outset of a treatment program, as it deals with the ambivalence that many initially have about sobriety. MET helps persuade the individual to embrace recovery and to become internally motivated to change their life for the better.
- Solutions-Focused Therapy: SBT is a goal-oriented and patient-driven approach that guides patients toward achieving desired goals. SBT helps them identify personal strengths while also creating solutions and strategies for overcoming barriers to reaching their goals.
5 Benefits of Psychotherapy in Addiction Treatment
- Changes Disordered Thought Patterns. CBT helps individuals in recovery adopt new, healthy responses to triggers and employ effective coping strategies.
- Increases Accountability. Whether you are engaged in individual or group therapy, participating in therapy allows you to build a sense of accountability with others for maintaining your recovery.
- Nurtures Peer Support. Group therapy allows participants to share common experiences and emotions, and to discuss recovery-oriented topics, while in a safe, supportive setting.
- Helps Resolve Past Trauma. Past traumas can be a catalyst for substance use. Therapy can help process and heal these painful events, which aids in the recovery process.
- Provides Ongoing Support. Once the treatment program is completed, outpatient therapy can provide ongoing psychological support during the early phase of recovery.
When used in combination with other important treatment elements, psychotherapy provides substantial benefits for someone entering substance use recovery.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, and provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle – “everything for recovery” – reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.