Psychotherapy for Addiction

Psychotherapy for Addiction Recovery

Addictions can utterly destroy a person’s life. It is estimated that 20.7 million adults in the United States suffer from a substance use disorder. Only 11% actually seek out treatment for their addictions. The vast majority try to control their substance abuse using their own willpower. Unfortunately, the nature of addiction makes it impossible for a person to control their drug and alcohol use on their own. Seeking outside help is essential.

Outpatient addiction treatment programs help people get sober by providing them with new coping skills and addressing the underlying issues behind their addictions. While outpatient rehabs make use of many resources and tools to help clients get sober and rebuild their lives, the most effective and commonly utilized tool is psychotherapy. Psychotherapy can be highly individualized, and it addresses the underlying causes and symptoms of addiction in a deep way. Psychotherapy also helps clients repair and rebuild their lives. As clients progress in psychotherapy, they not only develop stronger sobriety, they also improve their ability to socialize, their relationships, their mental and physical health, and their financial and legal standing.

Different Types of Therapy

The term “psychotherapy” is a generic umbrella term that refers to a vast assortment of different therapeutic methods and philosophies. A wide variety of therapies exist that are designed to meet the needs of individuals with distinct issues. The kind of therapy an outpatient treatment program recommends for one client will often differ from what they recommend to other clients. Factors that can affect the type of therapy used include which substance a person used, how their relationships have been affected, and whether or not they suffer from comorbid mental health disorders. It is important to recognize that psychotherapy is not a one-size-fits-all treatment.

Outpatient treatment centers often make use of a combination of different therapy types in order to ensure that every aspect of a person’s addiction is addressed. Commonly utilized types of psychotherapy include substance abuse counseling, behavioral therapies, group therapy, and psychotherapy (talk therapy). The overall goal of these different styles of therapy is broadly the same: to help clients understand their struggles and learn new ways of living without the crutch of drugs and alcohol.

Treatment Modalities

What are treatment modalities? The term “modality” doesn’t refer to a specific therapeutic philosophy. A treatment modality is the approach or method a clinician uses to address a person’s disorder, addiction, or disease. In many cases, especially in the case of addiction, making use of multiple treatment modalities simultaneously is enormously beneficial.

Common treatment modalities that are used to treat addiction include:

  • Behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy helps people learn new skills, coping techniques, and ways of responding to triggers. Common types of behavioral therapy include exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT).
  • Psychiatric interventions. Come clients benefit considerably from working with a trained psychiatrist. This can involve individual therapy, family therapy, or group therapy with other addicts.
  • Somatic treatments. Somatic treatments are medical interventions. Certain medications can help people withdraw from drugs and alcohol, reducing cravings and helping people remain committed to sobriety. Medications can also help address underlying mental health conditions.

Group Therapy

Group therapy is a type of therapy that involves more than two participants. In most cases, members of a group therapy group are unfamiliar with each other, but if they attend the same outpatient program they may know each other. Participants in group therapy are primarily linked by the fact that they suffer from the same condition: substance use disorder. Group therapy sessions can also be effectively used for mental health conditions other than and in addition to addiction.

Group therapy is as effective as one-on-one therapy, but it also has some unique benefits that stem from the communal nature of the treatment. Clients benefit from being able to relate to peers who are struggling with the same disorder. This can help people feel less isolated, and it also gives them a chance to improve their social and communication skills. Group therapy also allows clients to see their struggle from not just one, but many perspectives all at once. Clients who are new to recovery gain experience, strength, and hope from being in sessions with those who are further along, and people with more solid sobriety benefit from helping those who are struggling.

There are many types of group therapy, but they can generally be classified into two broad types. The two main approaches to group therapy are psychoeducational group therapy and process-oriented group therapy.

    • Psychoeducational group therapy works to educate participants on specific issues. The clinician, who functions as more of an instructor than a therapist, helps participants come to a better and more accurate understanding of their addictions. The clinician will tend to set goals, and sessions are directed in a structured way. Psychoeducational groups are less about social bonds, and more about apprehending the content that the clinician provides.
    • Process-oriented group therapy emphasizes the group experience, and it aims to foster connections among participants. The clinician leads group discussions, facilitating conversation rather than leading it. Participants engage in a wide variety of discussions and activities that improve their sense of belonging and increase their self-confidence. Process-oriented groups are less structured, and the group itself is in charge of the topics and direction.

Group therapy aims to:

  • Help clients recognize situations that may trigger them to use substances
  • Create an environment where people support and accept each other
  • Help individuals who are struggling with addictions process their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors related to substance abuse
  • Improve communication and social skills

Individual Therapy

Individual therapy involves two people only: the client and the clinician. This private form of therapy gives clients who are struggling with addiction a chance to get individualized attention from a qualified therapist.

Individual therapy is often called psychotherapy, or simply talk therapy. During a typical talk therapy session, clients address their troubling thoughts and emotions. Their clinician helps them address these issues and develop new ways of approaching challenging situations.

There are many treatment philosophies for individual therapy, some of which we’ll be going over later in this article. It is also important to recognize that clients benefit considerably from engaging in group therapy and individual therapy simultaneously. Working on their issues in a group context and in an intensive individualized way provides unique and complementary benefits.

Individual therapy aims to address a wide variety of factors. These include:

  • Changing unhealthy thought patterns that lead to emotional distress and problematic behavior
  • Developing new techniques for coping with stress
  • Offering guidance and emotional support during challenging and tumultuous life events

Family Therapy

Family therapy involves more than two people, but unlike group therapy the participants know each other quite well. Family therapy can involve parents, siblings, spouses, and even close friends. A related type of therapy, couples therapy, involves working with a spouse or romantic partner on couple-specific issues. The purpose of family therapy is to address the issues of the family as a whole. Family members each contribute their unique perspective. The clinician works to facilitate open and constructive communication so that interpersonal relationships can be healed.

As a form of therapy for addiction, psychotherapy can be enormously beneficial. One of the most common factors that drives a person to abuse substances is an unhealthy family dynamic. Many people with addictions grew up in households where substances were abused — or where they were abused. Addressing and healing these unhealthy relationships can go a long way toward helping people feel less drawn to drugs and alcohol.

Moreover, it is important to recognize that family members are often deeply affected by their loved one’s addiction. It is not just the solitary addict who suffers. Giving family members new tools for dealing with their grievances is an important part of recovery.

Family therapy is designed to help families:

  • Heal strained relationships and improve the general family dynamic
  • Learn how to provide proper support to the family member who struggles with addiction
  • Ensure that the individual who struggles with addiction recognizes the impact of their behavior on their loved ones

Different Styles of Therapy for Addiction

When people engage in addiction treatment at an outpatient rehab center, they generally participate in both group therapy and individual therapy sessions. Some people engage in family therapy, depending on their circumstances and family dynamic. In group and individual talk therapy sessions, clients learn the recovery skills they need to get sober and stay sober. They also learn how to cope with challenging or potentially triggering situations without resorting to drug or alcohol abuse.

There are many approaches to therapy, each with their own style and underlying philosophy. The most commonly utilized approach to therapy for treating addiction is behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy helps clients address their unhealthy, self-destructive, and unproductive behaviors. There are many treatment approaches that utilize the behavioral therapeutic philosophy. These effective techniques are listed below.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, often shortened to CBT, is the most popular type of behavioral therapy, and it is arguably the one most backed up by research for treating addiction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is demonstrably effective for a wide variety of addictions. CBT is based on the idea that problematic behaviors and symptoms of emotional distress are caused by unhealthy and inaccurate ways of thinking. People who participate in CBT treatment learn new ways of thinking about and conceptualizing their problems, and in the process they learn to recognize and alter their maladaptive behavior patterns.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is particularly helpful for substance use disorders, since addictions involve both thoughts and behaviors. CBT provides clients with new coping skills, and it helps them identify risky situations and develop new ways of responding to them. A major emphasis in cognitive-behavioral therapy is preventing relapse. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can be effectively paired with many other techniques, and it is used in both individual and group therapy. It is also effective for comorbid mental health disorders.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavioral therapy, often shortened to DBT, is technically a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Originally based on the principles of CBT, dialectical behavioral therapy incorporates mindfulness techniques derived from Buddhism. Whereas CBT focuses on changing maladaptive thought patterns and behaviors, DBT does so while also encouraging “radical self-acceptance.”

Dialectical behavioral therapy has been found to be the most effective treatment for borderline personality disorder, as well as other severe personality disorders and mood problems. Clients engaged in DBT work to reduce their cravings by accepting them and letting them pass. Dialectical behavioral therapy also helps clients give up actions that reinforce substance abuse, avoid opportunities or situations where they might be likely to relapse, and learn healthy coping techniques.

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

Motivational interviewing, or MI, is a technique for helping clients learn to embrace recovery. Many people have mixed feelings about quitting drugs and alcohol, and these can be an impediment toward their recovery. By resolving their ambivalence, MI therapy can help clients embrace their treatment full-heartedly. Motivational interviewing also encourages clients to play an active role in their treatment, rather than feeling simply like a passive recipient of treatment. Clients work with their therapist to develop their own motivation and an individualized treatment plan that they can embrace. This gives them a stronger sense of control and connection to their treatment.

The Matrix Model

The Matrix Model is actually an assortment of therapeutic techniques that are combined. It was originally developed to help treat individuals who suffer from addictions to stimulants, such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and Adderall. Clients learn about the nature of their addictions, receive guidance and support from a trained therapist, and engage in self-help programs. With The Matrix Model, the clinician functions as a coach and a teacher, and they aim to foster an encouraging and positive relationship. The goal of The Matrix Model is to improve the self-esteem, dignity, and self-worth while rewarding and reinforcing good behaviors. Research shows that The Matrix Model reduces drug and alcohol use as well as dangerous behaviors.

Contingency Management (CM)

Contingency management is effective for a wide variety of substance use disorders, including addiction to opioids, alcohol, stimulants, and marijuana. It is designed to reinforce sobriety by rewarding positive behaviors that are conducive to long term sobriety. By providing rewards to clients, CM increases the likelihood that a client will continue to engage in treatment. This is a critical benefit, since relapse and dropping out of rehab are the greatest dangers people face in recovery.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

REBT, like cognitive behavioral therapy, emphasizes the importance of thought patterns. Clients work with a trained clinician to understand their own thoughts and develop new ways of thinking about their problems that are more positive and rational. By developing more accurate ways of thinking, clients improve their emotional outlook. REBT conceives of negative emotions as a result of fallacious reasoning. For example, thinking “everyone hates me” is a result of the illogical belief that one can read minds. Rational emotive behavior therapy helps people change their situation from within, so that clients are not reliant on external circumstances of their happiness and sobriety.

Alternative Therapies for Addiction

Behavioral and cognitive therapies are not the only types of therapy that can be beneficial for addiction recovery. There are a wide variety of experimental, alternative, holistic, and spiritual therapies that clients can utilize to great effect. These types of therapy aim to provide a more person-centered approach, addressing every aspect of a client’s life — not just their substance abuse-related behaviors. They are often used in conjunction with the behavioral therapies listed above.

Mindfulness Therapy

Mindfulness therapy is an approach that is originally derived from Buddhist meditation practices. Mindfulness involves focusing on the present moment and paying attention to one’s feelings, thoughts, and actions. Mindfulness therapy encourages clients to accept how they feel rather than engaging in self-criticism or self-judgment. Mindfulness therapy can be an excellent technique for dealing with distracting cravings. Instead of trying to eliminate cravings or react to them, clients are instructed to simply observe them and let them pass.

Mindfulness therapy offers clients a wide range of tools, including meditation and breathing exercises. It helps people feel more connected to themselves and other people, and improve a person’s sense of engagement with the world around them. It has been found helpful for addictions as well as other mental health disorders, such as major depressive disorder and anxiety disorder.

Nutrition Counseling

Outpatient programs emphasize living a healthy lifestyle in general. While the main purpose of an outpatient program is getting people sober, nutrition, sleep, exercise, and good physical health are important factors in the recovery process. Engaging in proper eating, sleep, and exercise habits not only provide structure, they improve a person’s physical health. This can help reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. There is also evidence linking proper nutrition, sleep, and exercise with better psychological health. Nutritional counseling can thereby reduce cravings and better prepare people to meet the challenges of early recovery.

Moreover, people often develop dangerous eating patterns during active addiction. Many people lose weight and become emaciated, and others binge eat and become dangerously obese. Addiction therapies aim to heal people from all of the effects of addiction. Just as many therapies help people heal damaged relationships, nutrition counseling helps people heal their damaged health. Clinicians educate clients on healthy dietary changes and help them develop new long term habits.

Recreational Therapy

Recreational therapy is a holistic and alternative therapeutic technique for addiction. It provides people with a new framework for healthy interactions with other people, and it promotes the development of a healthy, physically active, and close community. Clients engage in a recreational activity, often in a group environment, which gives them a chance to practice teamwork, communication, and social skills. These activities also help clients engage in the world around them. By focusing on an engaging activity, clients can get out of their heads and find joy and serenity.

Common types of recreational therapy for addiction include:

  • Art therapy
  • Dance therapy
  • Yoga therapy
  • Community involvement
  • Sports activities
  • Equine therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Canine therapy

12-Step Facilitation Therapy

12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are not classified as forms of therapy. However, these support groups can be enormously beneficial for people who suffer from a substance use disorder. Engaging in 12-step programs and other support groups has been found to increase the likelihood that a person will stay sober long term, even decades after graduating from their outpatient rehab. 12-step facilitation therapy is a therapeutic technique that is designed to increase the likelihood that a client will engage in a 12-step self-help group.

12-step facilitation therapy is an active engagement strategy that helps clients come to a better understanding of the 12-step program. This type of therapy encourages clients to engage in acceptance: clients learn to recognize that their drug addiction is a progressive and chronic disease that they cannot control using personal willpower. They are encouraged to accept the fellowship and support structure of their 12-step program as a higher power. Clinicians also help their clients get more actively involved in 12-step meetings and recovery activities. Once clients are involved in AA, NA, or a related support group, 12-step facilitation therapy usually ends.

Treatment with Medication

For people engaged in addiction treatment, medications often play an important role. Certain medications can be used to mitigate cravings and reduce withdrawal symptoms. They are especially effective for managing withdrawal from alcohol, opioids, benzodiazepines, and other sedatives.

These medications are usually prescribed in the context of medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Medication-assisted treatment is a type of treatment that combines prescription drugs with behavioral therapy. Prescription drugs can be used to help people suffer less as they withdraw from their substance of choice. In the meantime, clients take part in behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavior therapy, which allows them to develop the long-term tools and coping skills they need for their sobriety. Eventually, clients taper off the medications they are taking.

MAT is highly effective and is utilized in many outpatient treatment programs for opioid use disorder and alcohol use disorder.

Commonly used medications for opioid use disorder include buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. These drugs, which are opioid antagonists, reduce the cravings that normally occur when a person stops using opioids. They also make it more difficult for a person to get “high” in the event that they do end up relapsing.

Commonly used medications for alcohol use disorder include disulfiram, acamprosate, and naltrexone. These medications reduce alcohol cravings and reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Addiction and Comorbid Mental Health Disorders

It is common for people with substance use disorders to suffer from comorbid mental health disorders as well. Comorbidity refers to two or more conditions that mutually reinforce each other. Clients who suffer from comorbid conditions are known as “dual diagnosis.” The causal relationship between addiction and mental illness goes both ways. As a result, dual diagnosis clients often have more acute symptoms, and their conditions can be somewhat more difficult to treat.

Many people turn to substance abuse in the first place as a way of dealing with undiagnosed and untreated mental health disorders. Drugs and alcohol can provide people with temporary relief from feelings of emotional distress. This is known as “self-medication.” Unfortunately, self-medication is generally counterproductive. While alcohol and opioids can provide short term feelings of euphoria, confidence, and relaxation, the withdrawal symptoms of these drugs tend to worsen the very symptoms that people are taking them for. As a result, self-medication can become a vicious habit. People with mental health disorders can quickly become dependent on the feelings of intoxication that drugs and alcohol provide. The result is addiction.

Addiction itself also leads to poor mental health. The effects of alcohol and drugs lead to emotional instability and cognitive problems, and the withdrawal symptoms can directly contribute to mental illness. Moreover, when people’s lives begin to crumble as a result of addiction, mental health disorders become more likely. Addiction causes people to lose their social support systems, they employment, and other essential resources. Feelings of depression and anxiety are therefore more likely.

Given these facts, it is no surprise that treating mental health disorders is an essential component of addiction treatment. If a person suffers from a comorbid mental health disorder, their symptoms can lead to an alcohol or drug relapse even if their addiction treatment is of the highest quality. Similarly, it is very difficult to successfully treat mental health disorders if a person continues to abuse drugs and alcohol. Outpatient treatment centers offer a form of treatment known as integrated treatment to meet the needs of dual diagnosis clients. Integrated treatment includes an assortment of comprehensive therapies to address both addiction and mental health disorders.

Common mental health disorders associated with addiction include:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Psychosis
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Schizophrenia

Treating Dual Diagnosis Clients

In many cases, people with dual diagnosis conditions have spent the majority of their lives without a diagnosis — and therefore without treatment. Their first few weeks in an outpatient rehab may represent the first time in their lives that their mental illness has been recognized and addressed. For many, the relief people get from the symptoms of mental illness is one of the greatest gifts of sobriety. But how do outpatient treatment programs address mental illness?

In many cases, pharmacological treatment is necessary. Medication can greatly reduce the symptomatology of many mental health disorders. Most notably, medical treatment for mental health disorders provides far more consistent and long-lasting relief than self-medication does.

At the same time, dual diagnosis clients generally engage in a wide assortment of behavioral therapies. Psychotherapy for mental health disorders is very similar to psychotherapy for addiction, and treatment overlaps considerably. Just as behavioral therapy for addiction helps people develop new coping tools to deal with cravings, behavioral therapy for mental health disorders helps people learn new ways of handling their emotional states.

The most commonly utilized behavioral therapies for mental health disorders include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Assertive Community Treatment (ACT)
  • Therapeutic Communities (TCs)
  • Contingency Management (CM)
  • Exposure therapy
  • Integrated Group Therapy (IGT)
  • Seeking Safety (SS)

Find Outpatient Psychotherapy Near Me

Outpatient treatment centers for addiction make use of a wide range of treatment modalities and therapeutic techniques to help people recover from substance use disorders. It is important to find an outpatient rehab that offers the type of therapy you need. Quality outpatient treatment centers help people address comorbid mental health conditions and other issues that may be influencing their substance use disorder. Different people also require different levels of care, so it is crucial to enroll in an outpatient rehab that offers a continuum of care.

NuView Treatment Center is an outpatient rehab located in West Los Angeles. At NuView Treatment Center, we offer outpatient treatment programs for all levels of care. Our programs, which are run by highly trained and compassionate addictions specialists, make use of the latest evidence-based therapies. Our programs include:

  • Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs)
  • Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs)
  • Outpatient programs (OPs)
  • Aftercare planning

Whether you’re trying to get sober for the first time or working to rebuild your life after graduating from a residential treatment program, NuView Treatment Program is here to work with you. After an initial evaluation, our treatment team designs an individualized treatment plan for every client. We believe that addiction treatment is not one-size-fits-all. At NuView Treatment Center, every client gets therapeutic care specifically tailored to them. In any of our outpatient programs, clients not only develop the skills and tools they need to get sober and stay sober, but they take positive steps toward rebuilding their lives.

If you are ready to make a change and get the help you need, reach out to NuView Treatment Center today.

Reach out to us today.

Send us a message below.