Choosing Different Types of Therapy in Addiction Treatment


For someone struggling with addiction, different types of therapy may be helpful, as can varying approaches to counseling. If you were to go to an addiction treatment center or participate in an outpatient rehab program, you might do a combination of behavioral therapies and take medications.

Behavioral therapy is a general term referring to various common types of therapy focused on treating mental health disorders. Addiction is a mental health disorder affecting the brain and behavior, similar to a condition like bipolar disorder. Participating in therapy can help you identify your unhealthy or possibly self-destructive thoughts and behaviors. The underlying concept of all types of psychotherapy is we learn our behaviors. As a result, you can change them.

Along with substance abuse, humanistic therapy can help with disorders including:

  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Panic Disorders
  • Bulimia
  • Stress
  • Anger Management
  • Mood Disorders 
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Interpersonal Issues 
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Different Types of Therapy

With addiction, a therapeutic approach can incentivize you to stop using drugs and alcohol. You can change your negative thought patterns as well as your behaviors surrounding drug or alcohol abuse. You can work with a professional counselor to improve your life skills and how you handle stress, triggers, and cravings for drugs and alcohol. 

The specific type of mental health care you might participate in depends on your individual needs, but below, we go into some of the more common types of “person-centered therapy” used in addiction treatment. 

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT is one of the most utilized and effective treatments in addiction. CBT is a short-term option that can help prevent relapse if you have a drug or alcohol problem.

The idea behind this approach is that when you develop harmful behavior patterns, including substance abuse, your learning of those processes is critical.

When you participate in this kind of therapy, you start to identify and then correct your negative behaviors. Working with mental health professionals, you complete a set number of sessions and provides a timeline for when treatment ends. 

Benefits of CBT include:

  • You can begin to develop effective coping strategies and problem-solving skills. 
  • Many people find CBT helps improve their self-control.
  • Working with your therapist, you can learn to evaluate the consequences of your drug or alcohol use.
  • This form of treatment can help you with your current relationships and interpersonal skills. 
  • CBT is a way to start recognizing triggers and cravings early on to avoid high-risk situations for you.

Research shows us that when you learn skills through CBT, they can be something you carry with you over the long term. Researchers are also currently looking at making addiction treatment even more effective by combining CBT with medication-assisted treatment or other types of behavioral therapies. There are specific subcategories of CBT, like mindfulness-based psychodynamic therapy. 

Contingency Management Interventions and Motivational Incentives

With contingency management, you might receive rewards that reinforce engaging in positive behaviors. Specifically, positive behavior in addiction treatment would be abstinence from drugs or alcohol.

Motivational enhancement therapy or MET is a type of counseling that can create intrinsically motivated change. So what does that mean? MET helps you feel the motivation within yourself to choose positive behaviors. The combination of MET and 12-steps can be helpful. For someone receiving addiction treatment, MET would include four treatment sessions usually. Each of those sessions is based on your individual needs. You would work to set goals for your future, and then as you move through your sessions, you’ll learn more about positive reinforcement and how that can help you stay sober.

Like other forms of therapy for addiction, MET can help with co-occurring mental health disorders. Co-occurring disorders are common when you’re struggling with addiction because of the common factors between the two and the changes to brain chemistry that taking a substance can lead to.

Critical elements of MET are:

  • Learning to develop and then express empathy. When you are active in addiction, it can be challenging to see how this affects the people who love you. MET can help you see things from their perspective, and that sense of empathy can motivate you to change.
  • With MET, you may start out being resistant to addiction treatment. You have to recognize a gap between where you might think you are in your life and what the reality is. When you see things more clearly, it can be a self-motivator for change.
  • With MET, you can work through why you feel resistant to treatment.
  • Learning how to achieve your goals and knowing that you have the power to overcome addiction are also cornerstones of MET.

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Family Therapy

You’ll often hear that addiction is a family disease, and it’s so true. Your addiction profoundly impacts your family and the dynamics of your relationships.

Family therapy doesn’t utilize individual sessions like the examples above. When you participate in this supportive approach, you’ll look at the patterns in your relationships, and family conflict and addiction affect these dynamics. You’ll work with a family counselor to improve dynamics and reduce destructive behaviors, which can help you maintain long-term recovery. Your therapist will guide these sessions by teaching specific skills, such as communication skills and behavioral strategies. Dialogue is an essential part of a family therapy session. You should all feel comfortable asking questions and talking openly and honestly with one another.

The goals of family sessions can include learning more about addiction and its effects on behavior, rebuilding trust in one another, and learning to set boundaries in your everyday lives. 

12-Steps of AA

Of the different various therapeutic approaches used in addiction treatment, a 12-step system may be one you’re most familiar with. 12-steps can promote long-lasting recovery through a proven approach using support systems.

Some of the principles of you follow include acceptance, meaning that you realize your addiction is a chronic, progressive disease you can’t control, as well as surrender. In these steps, the concept of surrender means that you give yourself over to a higher power. You also accept the support that comes from being with other recovering addicts.

The third core principle of any group therapy built on this framework is that you stay actively involved in meetings and any other related activities.

The Matrix Model

The Matrix Model is most often useful if you struggle with stimulants like cocaine or methamphetamine. The Matrix Model teaches you, as the patient, about issues related to addiction and relapse. Your guide is a trained therapist, and you’ll also learn about self-help programs.

Your therapist is somewhat like a coach. The counselor will work with you in a positive and informative way to help reinforce positive changes in your behavior. Research shows The Matrix Model can reduce drug and alcohol use, reduce other risky behavior, and improve psychological indicators.

Taking Action

As well as behavioral therapies or person-centered approaches, you might also participate in other forms of treatment such as music, animal-assisted, or even “Beach Therapy” like the residents at Opus facilities enjoy. Talk therapy can help you experience personal growth, overcome mental health issues, and improve your overall quality of life. Everyone’s needs are different. You might participate in primarily one type or go through a combination of types; doctors can also include medication in your treatment plan.

If you aren’t sure what type of therapy is right for you and your addiction, the good news is that the team at Opus Health can help you.  Call 855-953-1345 today for a free consult with a care coordinator to discuss some options. 

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