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Understanding Therapy For Addiction Recovery

An integral part of rehabilitation is therapy for substance abuse. Therapy allows patients seeking treatment to heal with a variety of options. Different rehabs will offer options depending on factors like location, cost, and intended focal or specialized groups; however, many offer therapies like group therapy, one-on-one therapy, and family counseling as standard therapies.

In addition to various therapies available, future patients should consider their level of need based on their severity of substance use. Being evaluated by a treatment professional can help individuals determine what may be the most effective level of treatment and whether they should attend inpatient or outpatient rehab, as both offer different types of treatment and therapies.

For example, those in outpatient therapy receive treatment and clinical services on site and then go home while those in inpatient rehab remain onsite 24 hours a day until completion. Fortunately, therapies available do benefit both types of patients.

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What Does Therapy For Addiction Treatment Do?

Therapy provides the individual with education regarding their addiction, relapse, and the recovery processes, and helps them learn about healthy coping and communication skills, as well as how to build and establish a supportive recovery network.  Treatment can help heal shame and guilt, and build trust and a positive self-image. Furthermore, it helps the patient explore motives, triggers, and warning signs for substance abuse they may not have been aware of. By uncovering the root of addiction, patients can better understand the value of getting treated in a supportive facility. There are different therapy approaches, such as:

  • Behavioral (Cognitive and Dialectical Behavioral therapy)

  • Creativity-based therapy (art and music therapy)

  • Physical (Biofeedback and EMDR)

  • NAD therapy

  • Experiential therapy (e.g. Animal therapy, Adventure therapy, Art therapy, or Music therapy)

  • Holistic therapy

  • Motivational enhancement therapy

Behavioral therapies focus on identifying negative behaviors and their cause while creating new healthy behaviors, while creative therapies provide feelings of well-being and help the patient work through challenging emotions as they recover from substance abuse. Therapies help increase patient motivation, self-confidence, self-esteem, communication, self-awareness, feelings of well-being, and provide a sense of purpose.

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Types Of Therapy For Addiction Recovery: Cognitive And Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps to make the patient aware of the impact of their thoughts and actions by teaching them mindfulness. Patients learn how to pay attention to the quality of their thoughts and how to positively alter them. Practiced as early as 1905, this therapy type helps to reduce anxiety, symptoms of eating disorders, obsessive thoughts and behaviors, and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) helps boost self-esteem of patients and may offer support for behavior in group settings by providing validation. DBT also combines elements of CBT, offering individual therapy, and in some cases, motivational enhancement therapy.

Types Of Therapy For Addiction Recovery: Motivational Interviewing

Motivational enhancement therapy or motivational interviewing consists of helping people find their inner drive to accomplish a goal. In the case of addiction, it helps patients overcome addictive patterns. The licensed therapist listens to the concerns of the patient and finds encouraging ways to get them to commit to change. This technique helps patients who struggle with depression regain a sense of focus. Additionally, motivational interviewing can be combined with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for better results.

Types Of Therapy For Addiction Recovery: One-On-One And Family Counseling

Getting one-on-one counseling can help the patient better understand the underlying reasons for their chemical dependency. Counselors can uncover factors like trauma, negative friends or family who encourage drug use, or poor self-esteem as influences for substance abuse, and provide help and awareness.

Family counseling as therapy can help both the patient and their relatives understand unhealthy relational patterns like co-dependency and enabling and help them understand that addiction is a family disease. Hearing the impact of chemical dependencies can increase perspectives and awareness for all parties involved.

Types Of Therapy For Addiction Recovery: Experiential Therapy

Experiential therapy offers exciting and hands-on experiences to soothe trauma-based emotions. Adventure therapy is often in nature and includes others who are also receiving therapy. Exciting activities range from rock climbing, being in the wilderness, and rope courses. Rope courses, for example, promote trust and team-building.

Music and art therapy are examples of experiential therapy, which help the patient release and work through emotions and trauma in healthy ways. Patients learn to heal through creative expressions with drumming, singing, writing, listening to music, playing instruments, drawing, painting, sculpting, and sketching to gain a sense of productivity and empowerment.

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Types Of Therapy For Addiction Recovery: Biofeedback And EMDR

Specific types of treatment focus on gauging neurological activities which can lead to mindfulness. Biofeedback therapy might involve a facilitator connecting electrical sensors on someone’s skin, providing individuals with visual data that shows them patterns in the brain, breathing, and muscle contractions. The facilitator can recommend improved patterns of behavior for the patient based on the patient’s vital sign reactions. The end goal is for those experiencing addiction to make informed decisions regarding their bodies and have more self-control over their behavior. Additionally, the patient can learn relaxation techniques such as meditation, guided imagery, and muscle relaxation.

EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, is a technique that functions in 8 phases. EMDR works by examining rapid eye moments while patients recall disturbing memories, and then taking the focus away from the memory. It is theorized that this weakens the impact of negative emotional responses. It is thought to reduce the patient’s cravings and addresses trauma by close examination. Benefits include improved memory, reducing intensity associated with cravings for addiction, and decreased feelings of depression.

Types Of Therapy For Addiction Recovery: Group Therapy And Support Groups

Traditional therapies, such as support groups, have always been effective in creating safe spaces for vulnerability. Groups modeled after the 12 Steps, like Alcoholics Anonymous, improve relationships with oneself and others, and produce feelings of community and validation through other’s experiences. The 12 Steps also encourage accountability and awareness of behaviors through admittance of wrongdoing, sharing fears and feelings of guilt and shame, making amends, celebrating successes and milestones, and learning a new way of living life free of substances. Additionally, individuals can learn to connect with a higher power of their understanding and choose to maintain a spiritual outlook.

Types Of Therapy For Addiction Recovery: NAD Therapy

Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide or NAD therapy is a 10-day treatment that helps cells become converted to energy. NAD is a chemical compound that is found in all living cells and helps the body produce energy. In NAD therapy, the compound is administered to the patient intravenously. This is ideal for those who suffer from addiction and side effects of addiction like anxiety and depression, as they can lose NAD in their bodies. This therapy helps reduce feelings of fatigue post-addiction as it intravenously makes its way through the patient’s bloodstream. It helps remove the drugs in the body, reducing effects of withdrawal and drug cravings.

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Types Of Therapy: Equine And Animal Therapy

Therapies involving dogs or other domesticated animals may not be available at every facility. Luxury facilities, for example, may provide patients with care by offering on-site animal bonding like exotic animals. Equine (horse therapy) offers patients the opportunity to connect with horses. Typical equine therapy sessions include the patient, a horse, and a therapist, where the therapist observes the patient interacting with the horse. Horses can mirror human emotion, so patients can understand and reflect on their emotions. Some equine therapy consists of caring for the horses by feeding, bathing, and brushing them. This gives patients an opportunity to connect with the powerful animals while providing a sense of responsibility and accomplishment. Some facilities offer therapy with dolphins, teaching patients about openness and trust.

Being in the presence of animals that offer unconditional love and promote relaxation can assist those suffering with difficult emotions connect and find joy. Furthermore, petting animals can release oxytocin, a stress neutralizing chemical in the body, which can improve feelings of depression and decrease symptoms related to stress. Lastly, patients can enjoy the feeling of responsibility that is associated with caring for animals.

Types Of Therapy: Holistic-Based Therapies

Holistic treatment includes non-traditional alternative treatments that take a whole mind and body approach such as:

  • Meditation

  • Yoga

  • Hypnotherapy

  • Massage

  • Acupuncture

  • Animal therapy

  • Art or music based therapy

When combined with traditional medicine, holistic treatments can help balance out medication-related side effects. For instance, some individuals can still endure anxiety, depression, and cravings post-detox and throughout treatment. Practices like meditation and yoga can help decrease and manage these negative feelings.

Meditation promotes a calm mind for those who suffer from anxiety and other stress-related conditions. Yoga can boost endorphins and elevate moods. Additionally, eating nutrient-dense foods and getting rest can all stabilize wellness.

Ready To Get The Support You Deserve?

Struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD) can be an exhausting and challenging way to live. Fortunately, there are programs available for your recovery needs. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, don’t hesitate to contact a treatment provider for more information.



Krystina Murray

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  • Krystina Murray has received a B.A. in English at Georgia State University, has over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience, and over 15 years of overall writing experience. She enjoys traveling, fitness, crafting, and spreading awareness of addiction recovery to help people transform their lives.

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Clinically Reviewed:

Certified Addiction Professional

Dayna Smith-Slade

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  • Dayna Smith Slade is the President and CEO of Substance Abuse Solutions, L.L.C., a unique and innovative substance abuse consulting firm based in Northern Virginia. Her Small, Women, and Minority owned (SWaM) firm is committed to increasing drug and alcohol awareness in the community and decreasing the prevalence and debilitating impact of substance abuse. Dayna is a seasoned counselor with experience in a variety of therapeutic milieus. She is a dynamic public speaker that has been the featured trainer at national conferences and the featured guest on local television and radio talk shows.

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  • All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.