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Susana Spiegel

Recovery Writer and Advocate

Last Update on August 2, 2023

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Substance abuse is a challenging journey, often filled with unbelievable obstacles. But there’s a guiding light on this path—therapy.

Therapy plays a significant role in the treatment process, acting as a compass and guiding individuals through their unique recovery journey.

It helps unravel the complex emotions tied to addiction and provides the tools to manage these feelings effectively.

This article will explore the vital role therapy plays in treating substance abuse and how it aids individuals in navigating their path to recovery.

Many, many therapy methods.

Many methods are available when treating substance abuse— from medical detoxification for physical dependence to support groups and self-help programs.

However, therapy stands out as one of the most essential parts of this toolkit. These sessions, whether one-on-one counseling, group therapy, or family therapy, are invaluable.

They dive beneath the surface to address the root causes of addiction, helping individuals understand and confront their behavior patterns.

Therapy also provides coping mechanisms to manage cravings and triggers, making it a key player in the journey toward recovery.

Understanding Therapy in Substance Abuse Treatment

When caught up in addiction, it often feels like you’re stuck in a maze, constantly hitting dead ends.

Therapy, in the context of substance abuse treatment, is like a trusty guide helping you find your way out.

It’s a structured process where you meet with a trained professional to unpack your feelings, understand your addiction better, and explore how you ended up where you are.

But it’s not just about looking back—it’s about moving forward.

Therapy aims to equip you with strategies to cope with cravings, deal with stress healthily, and rebuild damaged relationships. It’s about creating a new roadmap for your life that leads to recovery and wellbeing-.

Addiction is like a heavy backpack full of feelings and thoughts that weigh you down.

Therapy is a tool that helps lighten that load. It’s a safe space to open up your feelings and dig deep into what’s inside.

You might find feelings of guilt, anger, or sadness, thoughts that lead you back to using drugs or alcohol.

With a therapist’s help, you can sort through these emotions and thoughts. You learn how to handle them more healthily without the need for substances. In short, therapy gives you the emotional strength and the mental toolkit you need to face addiction head-on.

Types of Therapies Used in Substance Abuse Treatment

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, often called CBT, is a therapeutic approach grounded in the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are deeply interconnected.

It helps you understand how your perceptions influence your actions and how modifying these thought patterns can lead to more constructive behaviors. In CBT, you’ll work collaboratively with a therapist to identify and challenge harmful thought processes, learn to manage stress and emotions effectively, and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

CBT’s Role in Substance Abuse Treatment

Now, let’s talk about the role of CBT in substance use treatment.

It plays a vital role in helping you uncover the reasons behind your substance use. With your therapist, you’ll explore the thoughts and feelings that lead to your substance use, be it a means to cope with stress, numb emotional pain, or manage social situations. Understanding these triggers is a significant step toward overcoming addiction.

One of the critical strengths of CBT is its emphasis on practical strategies for change.

For instance, you’ll learn to anticipate potential high-risk situations that might trigger substance use and develop a range of skills to navigate these scenarios successfully. This could include methods to manage cravings, effective ways to deal with pressure or stress, or techniques to reframe negative thoughts that often precede substance use.

CBT isn’t just about managing your addiction – it’s also about empowering you with the skills to build a healthier and more balanced life. This therapy can boost your self-esteem and confidence, improve your problem-solving abilities, and help you establish more beneficial relationships – all of which contribute to a more effective and sustainable recovery. The insights and strategies you gain from CBT can serve you long after your therapy sessions conclude, fostering ongoing resilience and wellbeing.

Family Therapy

Family Therapy is a therapeutic approach that recognizes the significant influence of familial relationships and dynamics on an individual’s well-being.

In this form of therapy, family members come together to participate in sessions with a professional therapist. The focus is not just on the individual experiencing the substance use disorder but also on how the entire family unit functions and interacts, which plays a critical role in the individual’s recovery journey.

Family Therapy’s Role in Treatment

In the context of substance use treatment, Family Therapy provides an invaluable platform for healing and growth. Substance misuse doesn’t just affect the individual; it impacts the whole family.

Misunderstandings, lack of communication, broken trust, and emotional hurt often pervade families dealing with addiction. Family Therapy seeks to address these issues, fostering understanding, opening lines of communication, and rebuilding trust and relationships.

One significant role of Family Therapy is enhancing the family’s understanding of addiction as a disease.

Doing so can reduce blame, guilt, and shame, paving the way for empathy and support. With this newfound understanding, family members can become influential allies in your recovery process, providing much-needed emotional support and ensuring a healthier, more supportive home environment.

Family Therapy also equips families with practical strategies to handle potential challenges during the recovery process, such as relapses. It teaches family members about setting healthy boundaries, creating a stable environment, and reinforcing positive behavior, which can significantly enhance the efficacy of recovery.

In essence, Family Therapy works on the principle that recovery is not a journey you must undertake alone. With its bonds of love and shared experiences, your family can be one of your most potent allies. As they say, in unity, there is strength – and Family Therapy seeks to bring out this strength to aid in your journey to recovery.

Motivational Interviewing 

Motivational Interviewing, or MI, is a client-centered therapeutic approach that emphasizes sparking and strengthening your internal motivation to change behavior, such as overcoming substance misuse.

The central idea behind MI is that you are the most capable driver of your change and that your readiness and commitment to alter harmful behaviors play an essential role in your recovery journey.

Motivational Interviewing’s Role in Treatment

In substance use treatment, MI is a powerful tool to encourage change without imposing it.

It operates on the understanding that ambivalence or resistance to change is a natural part of the recovery process, not a barrier.

The MI therapist is a collaborative partner, helping you explore and resolve these feelings of ambivalence.

During MI sessions, your therapist will create a supportive and empathetic environment that allows you to openly express your fears, doubts, and hopes about recovery.

They’ll guide you to identify your reasons for change, helping you realize that the motivation to recover comes from within you, not external pressures.

They’ll emphasize your strengths and capacities, reinforcing your belief in your ability to change.

MI also supports you in developing an action plan for your recovery, one that is in line with your values and goals. This plan serves as a roadmap, providing clarity and direction in your recovery process.

In essence, Motivational Interviewing empowers you to actively participate in your recovery, fostering a sense of personal control and autonomy. This approach can cultivate a strong foundation of self-motivation and commitment, vital elements that can sustain you throughout your recovery journey.

Contingency Management 

Contingency Management, or CM, is a therapeutic strategy used in substance use treatment that leverages the power of positive reinforcement to motivate behavior change. It operates on a fundamental principle of human behavior: the behaviors that are rewarded or reinforced are more likely to be repeated.

Contingency Management’s Role in Treatment

In the context of addiction recovery, CM provides tangible rewards or incentives for demonstrating positive behaviors like maintaining sobriety or participating in treatment programs. These rewards can range from vouchers that can be exchanged for goods or services to privileges within a treatment setting to even modest financial incentives.

What makes CM effective is its immediate and tangible reinforcement of your positive behavior.

This immediate reinforcement can motivate you to maintain the behavior, like abstaining from substance use, even in the face of cravings or triggers. The goal is to help you build and sustain new, healthy behaviors until they become self-sufficient habits.

At the heart of CM is the idea that your efforts toward recovery are valuable and worth rewarding. This recognition can motivate you to maintain sobriety and boost your self-esteem and self-efficacy – critical factors in successful recovery.

Furthermore, by providing consistent feedback about your progress, CM helps you see the tangible benefits of your efforts toward recovery, further reinforcing your commitment to change. Contingency Management can be an effective tool in your recovery toolbox, motivating and supporting your journey toward sustained sobriety.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy initially designed to help individuals with self-harming behaviors and borderline personality disorder.

It’s since been adapted to effectively treat various conditions, including substance use disorders, particularly those that co-occur with other mental health issues.

DBT operates on the principle of dialectics – the idea that change is constant and that two seemingly opposing truths can coexist. This therapy aims to help you find a balance between acceptance of your current situation and the need for change, fostering a more harmonious relationship with yourself and your world.

DBT in Treatment

One of the key elements of DBT in substance use treatment is its focus on skill-building.

DBT comprises four core modules: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. Through these modules, you’ll learn various practical skills to help manage your emotions, cope with distress without resorting to substance use, and improve your relationships.

Mindfulness skills, for instance, can help you stay present and aware, reducing impulsive behaviors.

Distress tolerance skills teach you how to tolerate uncomfortable feelings or situations without immediately trying to change them, often a trigger for substance misuse.

Emotion regulation skills can help you understand, manage, and change intense emotional reactions that might lead to substance use. Lastly, interpersonal effectiveness skills can improve your relationships, reducing conflicts and misunderstandings that might lead to substance use.

Furthermore, DBT also includes individual therapy and phone coaching, providing personalized guidance and in-the-moment support during difficult times.

DBT doesn’t just treat the symptom of substance misuse but addresses the root emotional and psychological issues that often drive addiction. By doing so, it can equip you with the skills and resilience to navigate your recovery journey more effectively, promoting long-term, sustainable change.

The Matrix Model

The Matrix Model is a comprehensive, multi-component therapeutic approach designed to treat stimulant addiction, such as methamphetamine or cocaine use disorders.

This model offers a highly structured program, blending several effective therapeutic techniques, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), and family therapy.

In this approach, you, as the client and your therapist, develop a positive, collaborative relationship.

Your therapist acts as your coach and teacher, creating an atmosphere of encouragement, respect, and empowerment. This dynamic encourages you to actively participate in your recovery actively, instilling a sense of personal responsibility and fostering self-esteem.

The Matrix Model in Substance Use Treatment

The Matrix Model includes various elements designed to address different aspects of recovery.

It involves individual counseling sessions, family education sessions, group therapy, and even relaxation techniques. One key feature of the Matrix Model is relapse prevention groups, where you’ll learn about triggers and develop strategies to avoid or manage them.

Education plays a significant role in this model, focusing on understanding addiction, the brain’s changes during addiction, the process of recovery, and the importance of abstaining from substance use.

Family therapy and education sessions offer a platform to involve and educate your family about addiction, enhancing their understanding and supportive role in your recovery journey.

Regular drug testing is also a part of the Matrix Model. This isn’t used to penalize you but rather to provide a source of accountability and reinforce your efforts to maintain sobriety.

The Matrix Model offers a holistic and flexible approach, capable of being tailored to your specific needs. IIntegrating various therapeutic modalities equips you with a wide array of tools and strategies to successfully navigate your recovery journey, especially when dealing with stimulant addiction.

12 Step Meetings

12-Step Facilitation Therapy is a structured approach to encourage you to engage in and continue participating in 12-step programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

These programs provide a supportive community and a step-by-step plan to achieve and maintain sobriety. The therapy is based on three fundamental principles: accepting your inability to control your addiction, recognizing a higher power as a source of strength, and active involvement in 12-step meetings and related activities.

12-Step Meetings in Addiction Treatment

In addiction treatment, 12-Step Facilitation Therapy serves a crucial role in building a solid support network for you during recovery.

It helps you acknowledge the reality of your addiction, surrender to the fact that you need help beyond yourself, and actively engage in seeking this help.

The goal is to promote abstinence by helping you integrate the 12-step philosophy into your life, supporting you as you navigate through the various stages of recovery. The shared experiences, wisdom, and support within these groups can provide comfort and motivation as you work towards sobriety.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a unique therapy developed to help individuals process and overcome traumatic experiences.

During EMDR sessions, you’re guided by a therapist to recall traumatic events while producing specific eye movements. This process helps to reduce the intensity of emotionally-charged memories, allowing you to view past experiences in a less distressing way.

EMDR in Addiction Treatment

In addiction treatment, EMDR is pivotal when substance abuse is linked to past trauma.

Many individuals with substance use disorders have experienced trauma, and these traumatic experiences can fuel substance abuse as a form of self-medication. EMDR works by helping you process these traumas, reducing their hold on your present life and reducing the need for substance use to cope.

By integrating your traumatic memories into your larger life context in a healthier way, EMDR can help break the cycle of trauma and addiction.

This therapy can provide a crucial step towards understanding and overcoming the underlying issues driving your substance abuse, facilitating a more comprehensive and lasting recovery.

Mindfulness-Based Therapies

Mindfulness-Based Therapies center around mindfulness – the practice of staying fully present and engaged in the current moment, acknowledging and accepting your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment.

These therapies, including mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) and mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP), are increasingly integrated into addiction treatment.

Mindfulness Therapies in Substance Abuse Treatment

In substance use treatment, mindfulness-based therapies can play a transformative role.

By fostering increased awareness of your internal and external experiences, these therapies can help you manage stress, identify and avoid triggers, and navigate cravings without substance use.

Mindfulness-based techniques can provide practical tools to stay grounded in the present, helping you disengage from automatic, often unconscious emotional and physiological reactions to everyday events.

Consistent mindfulness practice can result in improved emotional regulation, decreased reactivity, and greater self-compassion, all crucial for sustained recovery.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Dual Diagnosis Treatment, or integrated treatment, is an approach specifically designed for individuals with a substance use disorder co-occurring with a mental health disorder.

This approach integrates substance use treatment and mental health therapies to address both disorders simultaneously rather than in isolation.

Dual Diagnosis Role in Addiction Treatment

In addiction treatment, the role of Dual Diagnosis Treatment cannot be overstated. Substance use disorders and mental health disorders often interact complexly, each influencing and exacerbating the other. An integrated treatment approach can provide a more comprehensive understanding of these interconnected issues, leading to more effective treatment outcomes.

This approach recognizes that recovery involves improving mental health and addressing substance misuse, providing therapeutic interventions that cater to your unique needs in both areas. The ultimate goal is to facilitate healing on all levels, promoting overall well-being and sustainable recovery.

Holistic Therapies

Holistic Therapies refer to a broad spectrum of treatment methods, such as yoga, meditation, art therapy, and acupuncture, focusing on enhancing physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

While they are not typically primary treatments for addiction, they can be invaluable as complementary therapies, supporting and enhancing the overall recovery process.

Holistic Therapies in Addiction Treatment

In addiction treatment, Holistic Therapies can provide additional avenues for healing and growth.

These therapies can help manage withdrawal symptoms, reduce stress, improve mental clarity, and enhance physical fitness.

They offer a break from more intense therapeutic interventions and provide a different approach to personal growth and self-discovery. For example, yoga and meditation can improve mindfulness and stress management, art therapy can provide a creative outlet for expressing emotions, and acupuncture may alleviate discomfort associated with detoxification.

Holistic therapies can enrich your recovery journey, offering a more comprehensive approach to health and well-being that aligns with the overall goal of sustainable recovery.

The Benefits of Therapy in Substance Abuse Treatment

Therapy helps you see things from a different point of view. It’s about stopping drug use and learning new ways to handle life’s ups and downs.

Instead of turning to drugs when things get tough, therapy helps you learn better coping methods. It also enables you to build stronger and healthier relationships with your family and friends.

Therapy can help you understand your emotions better, making you feel happier and more at peace with yourself. So, treatment is not just about getting rid of bad habits; it’s also about acknowledging a lot of good in your life.

Relapse is like a detour on the road to recovery, but therapy can help you stay on track. The role of treatment in preventing relapses is vital.

It equips you with tools to recognize warning signs and triggers that could lead you back to substance use.

Through therapy, you learn strategies to cope with cravings, manage stress, and handle difficult emotions in healthier ways.

Therapists also help you identify underlying issues or patterns contributing to relapse, such as unresolved trauma or negative thought patterns.

By addressing these underlying factors and building resilience, therapy becomes a protective shield against relapse, empowering you to stay committed to your recovery journey.

Therapy is Crucial to Substance Abuse Treatment

Therapy plays a crucial role in substance abuse treatment by providing individuals with the tools, support, and guidance needed to navigate the complex recovery process.

It helps address addiction’s emotional and psychological characteristics, explore underlying issues, and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

Therapy also assists in identifying and managing triggers, building resilience, improving relationships, and preventing relapse.

By fostering self-awareness, enhancing emotional well-being, and promoting personal growth, therapy becomes a cornerstone of successful substance abuse treatment, empowering individuals to reclaim their lives and achieve long-term sobriety.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, it’s essential to remember that you are not alone and that help is available.

Seeking professional help and considering therapy as part of your recovery process can be transformative.

Therapy provides a supportive and non-judgmental space to address the underlying issues contributing to substance abuse, develop effective coping strategies, and gain the tools for long-term recovery.

Remember, reaching out for help is a courageous step towards reclaiming your life and finding lasting healing and well-being.

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, please contact us at Cornerstone Healing Center today.

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Author & Reviewers

susana spiegel recovery writer and SEO expert
RECOVERY WRITER & ADVOCATE

Susana is a recovery writer and advocate with over 8 years in addiction recovery. She is passionate about sharing accurate and helpful information about mental health, addiction, and recovery. She holds a Bachelor’s in Christian Studies from Grand Canyon University and has over 7 years of working in the addiction field. 

lionel estrada lisac clinical director
CLINICAL DIRECTOR & REVIEWER

Lionel is the Clinical Director of Cornerstone’s Scottsdale treatment facilities. He has had over 4 years at Cornerstone. He is personally in recovery and passionate about helping others overcome substance abuse and mental health challenges; he is trained as an EMDR, adopting a trauma-informed approach to treat the underlying issues.

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