Commonly Used Psychotherapies: Why They Are Essential For Addiction Treatment
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) describes several assumptions regarding substance abuse, which form the basis of treatments that seek to improve person outcomes by ending alcohol or drug use, reducing the chances of relapse, and helping the person regain their lives and recovery from addiction.
These assumptions include the following:
- Addiction is a multi-faced condition but can be effectively treated.
- Treatment should focus on the individual instead of the drug of choice.
- Treatment can be beneficial even in the person enters involuntarily.
- Medication can be a critical aspect of treatment to address underlying mental health issues.
- Behavioral therapies and counseling are commonly used and are the best available treatment options for substance abuse.
The last assumption is especially important – most health professionals are in agreement that behavioral therapies are essential to treat addiction. There are many options, however, and there is no one approach that will be appropriate for each person.
Several psychotherapies are used for the treatment of substance abuse, but the following are among the most common and effective.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is based on behavioral therapy, but equal importance is placed on feelings and thoughts. It is based on the notion that negative thought patterns result in undesirable beliefs and behaviors, and that these behaviors then led to more unwanted feelings and negative thoughts.
Moreover, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and the way in which they intertwine is the foundation for CBT.
During a session, a therapist will help the individual evaluate and understand the systems in place that result in the negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that the person needs to address.
In the case of addiction, the therapist would also seek to address the thoughts and feelings that occur after the person uses substances, and will look for the flawed, often irrational ways of thinking that fuel these behaviors.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR was developed out of treatment for those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The style is based on progression throughout treatment to help reprocess information that was borne of the trauma that results in unwanted symptoms.
The phases of treatment focus on:
- Evaluation of symptoms and identifying the information needed to be reprocessed
- Teaching relaxation skills
- Reprocessing of the adverse images and thoughts, and installation of new beliefs
One significant component of EMDS is the use of eye movement during certain phases of treatment. The therapist asks the client to track his or her fingers as they move back and forth. This stimulation accesses areas of the brain that are used to reprocess information.
EMDR can be helpful for addiction since trauma is often associated with substance abuse – many will self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to dull the memories of adverse events, and others will suffer from trauma as a result of their use. In either case, EMDR can reprocess these events and help relieve these symptoms.
In addition to CBT and EMDR, group therapy is an essential element of treatment for addiction and mental health and is an option, which due to certain advantages, may be as effective as individual therapy.
During group therapy, there will be a trained therapist leading the session, who will offer the following to the group:
- Education about the process of recovery
- Support and motivation, enforced by group peers to maintain recovery
- An opportunity to listen to others in the group and their methods of problem-solving
- Encouragement of group members to offer assistance and feedback to other participants
- Education regarding healthy coping skills to help manage life stresses without succumbing to substance abuse
- An environment to foster relationships between members that can be used outside the group for further support
- Therapeutical tools, including the ability to challenge irrational beliefs, to change behaviors.
Family therapy is a collection of treatment styles that focus on the group as a whole rather than just the individual.
It is based on the idea that because of the connections within a family, by changing one facet of the system other components can be affected.
Moreover, family dynamics can play a critical role in an individual’s recovery.
Styles used include treatments geared toward marriage/couples therapy, family behavioral therapy, and multidimensional family therapy (MDF.)
Family therapy takes into consideration that the effects of substance extend beyond the individual, and that family issues can contribute to addiction, and vice versa.
Finally, many therapists use an integrative approach, which means that certain elements of a variety of therapies that tend to be effective are used to address addiction. They may use aspects of approaches that also include community, family, and holistic practices such as meditation to design a comprehensive treatment.
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If you or someone you love is abusing substances, please seek treatment as soon as possible. There are many resources available to help you or your loved one.
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~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology