The Importance of Therapy in Recovering from Addiction

It’s no overstatement to say that kicking addiction is a major achievement. If you’re recovering from an opioid addiction or know someone who is, you know that the detox phase is only the first in a long battle against potential relapse and cravings.

Counseling, including cognitive behavioral therapy, family counseling, and other forms of therapy is a critical part of maintaining sobriety and caring for your mental health.

In addition, psychotherapy may be beneficial in addressing underlying mental health concerns that often contribute to substance abuse behaviors.

Why Counseling is Essential to Achieving a Lasting Recovery

Addiction, and especially opioid addiction, is not simply a physical dependence on drugs and involves several underlying social and emotional factors that must be taken into consideration.

Physical dependence on opiates can be resolved after the initial detox phase, but this freedom from physical dependence does not mean that an addict is not susceptible to relapse. Complex social and psychological factors strongly determine the risk of relapse, including:

  • Unmanaged stress and unexpected life events
  • Certain triggers in the environment, old neighborhoods and familiar places in which drug use has taken place
  • Influence from peers who are actively using drugs or with whom the addict has participated in drug use previously

These, among other factors, may threaten a newly recovering addict’s sobriety and trigger intense cravings to return to a pattern of substance abuse.

Prescription and opiate abuse counseling can help the addict to maintain a healthy state of mind and avoid cravings that might lead them back to their former habits.

Individual vs Group Therapy: Which is Most Effective at Addressing Addiction?

While any form of therapy is beneficial in addressing and aiding in the process of recovery, group therapy has been shown to be advantageous over individual therapy where substance abuse is concerned.

In a group therapy setting, recovering addicts share experiences between peers who are confronting the same life challenges.

Group therapy is also an environment in which support can be received on a shared, community level.

Some recovering addicts may find attending group meetings offered by Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous useful in conjunction with group therapy (supervised by a trained psychotherapist).

In the case of a dual diagnosis, a recovering addict with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, depression, or another coexisting mental health condition may benefit greatly from individual therapy.

This treatment plan should be addressed separately from substance abuse counseling, and treat the underlying mental health condition.

Outpatient or Residential Treatment: Which is Most Effective in Treating Addiction?

Residential treatment centers can prove useful in separating a newly recovering addict from the environment in which they used drugs previously, and from their environmental triggers.

Is residential treatment more effective at addressing substance abuse than outpatient counseling? Not necessarily.

Growing debate suggests that the risk to return to former substance abuse habits once released from an inpatient program can be even higher for a newly recovering addict, than for those participating in an outpatient treatment program.

Outpatient therapy also proves advantageous over residential programs in terms of cost and insurance coverage and offers more options regarding long-term care.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Address Addiction

A useful tool in addressing addict specific behaviors, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) teaches patients to identify the triggers that lead to disordered patterns and behaviors-including substance abuse.

Once identified, a certified therapist aids the patient in replacing these behaviors with positive new thoughts that promote sobriety and well being.

CBT must be practiced by a specially trained CBT certified, licensed therapist.

Contingency Management Therapy to Address Addiction

Contingency management therapy focuses on the use of positive reinforcement to aid in recovery and support healthy behaviors.

Common incentives include level advancement in a privilege based system or rewards including vouchers and gift certificates. CMT has been shown to be especially effective in treating substance abuse disorders.

Motivational Interviewing

Previous forms of therapy to address substance abuse have focused on confrontation, in an attempt to instill addicts with a sense of personal responsibility and to honestly confront their behaviors.

In motivational interviewing, the focus is placed not on confronting the addict but in uncovering new goals and motivations to aspire to.

Patients in motivational interviewing therapy may achieve recovery by focusing on new aspirations, such as being reunited with their families or setting career advancement goals.

Couples and Family Therapy

Family therapy is a treatment option that addresses the effect an individual’s substance abuse has had on loved ones and offers an environment in which to heal.

Healing relationships with family members can aid in recovery and utilize the family as a support network. Family therapy may include a spouse, the extended family, or various family members.

Benefits of a family therapy approach in treating substance abuse include:

  • Powerful feedback from family members that can inspire the addict to make necessary changes in their life
  • The inclusion of family members has been shown to increase the likelihood that the addict will adhere to their treatment plan
  • An opportunity for each family member to address the ways in which their lives have been affected by addiction, and a chance to heal in a healthy setting supervised by a licensed therapist

Research has demonstrated that individuals who have completed family therapy to address substance abuse exhibit a lower rate of relapse, increased family cohesivity and a better outcome in children of parents with substance abuse disorders.

Maintenance Therapy: A Lifelong Treatment Option

For many patients, opioid addiction is best treated as a chronic, lifelong condition that requires maintenance and care-just like diabetes or high blood pressure.

Today’s experts consider opiate addiction to be a chronic disease that can be managed effectively with the right treatment. Maintenance therapy is a lifelong treatment option that uses a replacement medication to suppress cravings.

Many addicts have achieved lasting recovery and freedom from opiate dependence through maintenance therapy.

Medications used in this form of therapy replace the body’s need for addictive opiates, and include options ranging from implants placed underneath the skin to methadone, naltrexone and suboxone.

To be eligible for maintenance therapy, detoxification must first be completed. It is beneficial for individuals receiving maintenance therapy to attend regular substance abuse counseling in conjunction with maintenance therapy for optimal results.

Traditional approaches to addressing opioid addiction have focused on a brief detox period in which an addict was assumed to be cured afterward. This method has been proven ineffective and shortsighted.

Current research suggests that lifelong maintenance therapy results in fewer relapses and a higher rate of success from opiate dependence.

Experts today believe that a form of maintenance therapy along with lifelong counseling should be a standard treatment approach in addressing opiate addiction.

For more information and to schedule an appointment, please contact Gentle Wellness Center today.