Modern Therapy Techniques For Alcohol And Drug Addiction

When people face overwhelming challenges and big life changes, such as breakups or the passing of a loved one, their actions can become affected. Some become severely depressed to the point that they rely on too many drugs or alcohol without realizing that they’ve become addicted to such substances.

Alcohol and drug addiction, or substance use disorder (SUD), is a mental health condition referring to the destructive and uncontrollable use of substances. It’s a complicated disease that can affect different aspects of people’s lives.

Today, millions of people are suffering from addiction; however, only a handful of them have access to the necessary treatment to overcome it. If you or a loved one is suffering from SUD, ask a psychiatrist or a counselor for anxiety for help to prevent it from getting worse. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to treating addiction, and it varies depending on your situation and needs. In most cases, addiction treatment involves not only medications but also a series of modern, science-based therapies.

These therapies help recovering addicts fully overcome substance abuse. So, what are these, anyway? Below are the modern therapy techniques often used to combat addiction.

Young woman in meeting with female psychologist

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is psychotherapy that identifies one’s faulty and destructive thoughts, emotions, and behaviors and replaces them with desirable ones. 

In other words, CBT focuses on substituting negative thoughts and responses that lead to mental and emotional difficulties, such as depression and anxiety. These negative thinking patterns also have detrimental effects on mood. 

Here are some techniques used in CBT:

  • Identifying Negative Thoughts: This process may sound easy, but it’s actually not. Take your time to learn more about these thoughts to gain insights that may help and guide you through the treatment process.
  • Setting Goals: This is an important step to overcoming addiction. Your goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based (SMART). If you don’t know where to start, you can ask your therapist to help you set your goals.
  • Solving Problems: The path to overcoming addiction is full of obstacles; therefore, it’s important to learn how to solve problems throughout the treatment process. Some problems include relapse and sudden cravings that can hinder your recovery.
  • Monitoring Oneself: Self-monitoring is another crucial step in overcoming addiction. This technique involves tracking symptoms and behaviors and sharing them with your therapist. With this, your therapist can determine the right treatment program for your condition.

Furthermore, CBT is well known for its benefits, such as:

  • It encourages the development of positive thought patterns by identifying negative and unrealistic ones.
  • It’s an effective tool to overcome addiction, even if the session is purely virtual.
  • It’s often more effective compared to other modern psychotherapies.
  • It’s often used to address not only addiction but also a wide range of mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, anger issues, bipolar disorder, and phobias.
  • It’s also effective when dealing with chronic pain, insomnia, stress, and low self-esteem.
  • It can be effective even without the assistance of medications (but not in severe cases of addiction where relapse and intense cravings are more likely to occur).

This is why CBT is one of the leading evidence-based psychotherapies experts use to address alcohol and drug addiction. It’s also the most researched psychotherapy because it focuses on goals and results you can measure throughout the treatment process.

Contingency Management Therapy

Contingency management (CM), or motivational incentives, is psychotherapy in which recovering addicts receive rewards based on positive changes in their behavior. Examples of rewards include gift certificates, discount coupons, promos, movie tickets, etc.

Below are some behaviors that can be rewarded through CM:

  • Being consistent in attending therapy sessions
  • Participating in support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Negative drug tests
  • Staying away from substances
  • Attending recovery activities
  • Taking prescribed medications at the right time and dosage

CM is based on the principle of operant conditioning, where behaviors are determined and controlled depending on the consequences. The incentives given to recovering addicts act as a motivation that encourages them to change for the better. Hence, it’s one of the most effective evidence-based therapies to overcome alcohol and drug addiction.

Here are some benefits of CM for alcohol and drug addiction:

  • It helps boost retention rates of treatment programs.
  • It helps improve one’s likelihood of maintaining sobriety after the treatment process.
  • It helps people of all ages, whether young or old.
  • It’s often covered by most insurance companies due to its low-risk nature.
  • It can be used with or without the help of other types of therapy, such as CBT.

If you want to know more about CM and how it can help you overcome addiction, consult a psychotherapist right away. They can help you maximize the benefits of CM to achieve sobriety.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) is similar to CBT. It helps recovering addicts identify destructive thought patterns and beliefs that can lead to harmful and emotionally distressing behaviors. 

However, REBT focuses more on correcting the recovering addict’s irrational and damaging beliefs using logic, making it different from CBT. Below are the three common techniques used in REBT.

  • Problem-Solving: This focuses on developing essential skills to overcome problems that may arise throughout the treatment process. These include conflict resolution skills, social skills, assertiveness, and decision-making skills.
  • Cognitive Restructuring: This focuses on developing strategies that may help correct irrational and faulty beliefs. These may include rationalizing thoughts, humor, guided visualization, and reframing situations in a positive light.
  • Coping: This focuses on managing emotional disturbance and consequences through relaxation, meditation, or hypnosis.

Aside from these techniques, your therapist may ask you to do some tasks between sessions. This allows you to use all that you’ve learned in your everyday living. For example, they may ask you to write how you would respond to a certain situation that makes you feel depressed.

In addition, here are some benefits of REBT for addiction:

  • It helps people be responsible for their actions and behaviors in response to a situation.
  • It helps people identify irrational thinking patterns that contribute to destructive and damaging behaviors.
  • It helps people acknowledge stress and negative emotions.
  • It helps people build and adopt healthier expectations of the world, the people around them, and themselves.
  • It helps people understand the value of self-acceptance.

Furthermore, consult your therapist to learn more about REBT and how you can maximize its potential to overcome your addiction. 

Motivational Interviewing Therapy

Motivational interviewing (MI) is an approach developed to help recovering addicts identify what can motivate them to change their negative behaviors. MI revolves around the client and is effective for those with feelings of uncertainty about behavioral changes. 

Experiencing conflicting behaviors and desires (e.g., wanting to change but not ready for it) is common during addiction treatment. MI can resolve these contrasting thoughts, which can increase one’s motivation and ability to change.

Below are the four common techniques used in MI.

  • Summaries: Summaries are a form of reflection, which state that a therapist is always ready to listen and understand their client. Therapists can use them to guide their clients through their recovery process.
  • Reflective Listening: This is a crucial technique therapists use. It makes people realize that their therapist always listens and understands their views. Also, it allows people to fix misunderstandings about their feelings and behaviors.
  • Open-Ended Questions: These are questions given by therapists that can’t be answered with just a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Therapists encourage you to think deeper about the issue, so both of you can learn more about yourself. 
  • Affirmations: These are statements that acknowledge someone’s positive behaviors and strengths. When done correctly, such statements can help people build the confidence they need to achieve and maintain sobriety.

There are many reasons why therapists advise recovering addicts to undergo MI. These include:

  • It helps recovering addicts trust themselves.
  • It helps clients be responsible for their actions.
  • It helps reduce the chances of relapse.
  • It helps clients become receptive to addiction treatment.
  • It shows clients that they can change for the better.
  • It teaches recovering addicts to be more responsible for themselves.

Furthermore, MI is ideally helpful for people who resist receiving treatment and are unprepared to make their lives better.

Family Therapy

Family therapy (FT), or family counseling, is developed to address addiction and other issues involving family relationships. 

The principle behind FT is that an addict’s behaviors and actions can be influenced by their family members. FT includes affected family members (immediate, extended, or both) in every session to improve familial relationships and address other interconnected problems, such as communication issues, irrational behaviors, and stress. 

In addition, there are different types of family therapy a therapist can use depending on specific issues. These include:

  • Family Behavior Therapy (FBT): This type of FT is particularly effective for families and adolescents with SUD. FBT focuses on how an addict’s actions and behaviors affect their family and change those with the help of the family.
  • Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT): BSFT focuses on helping adolescents with SUD. It revolves around family interactions because substance abuse among adolescents is often due to unhealthy family relationships.
  • Functional Family Therapy (FFT): FFT helps families with adolescents suffering from addiction using different strategies and techniques. These include parenting skills, conflict resolution, behavioral contracts, communication resolution, problem-solving, etc.
  • Multi-Dimensional Family Therapy (MFT): MDFT is developed to help adolescents suffering from severe addiction and improve family’s functioning using a thorough treatment plan that includes involved parties, such as school and legal systems.
  • Multisystemic Therapy (MST): MST is an FT model used to help people suffering from addiction using family-strengthening and goal-oriented techniques. These strategies encourage them to change for a better life.

Furthermore, here are some benefits of FT for alcohol and drug addiction:

  • It motivates loved ones throughout the recovery process.
  • It educates loved ones about addiction, the treatment process, and the path to complete sobriety.
  • It provides a safe place where recovering addicts can voice their opinions, feelings, and emotions and ask questions without being judged.
  • It alleviates anger, fear, confusion, and stress among loved ones.
  • It helps loved ones develop techniques to deal with the recovery process as well as actions and behaviors caused by addiction.
  • It improves family interaction and communication.
  • It helps address possible mental health issues among loved ones.

If your family plays a crucial role in the development of your addiction, it’s best to ask your therapist and seek family therapy. Although it’s a difficult step, it’s essential for your overall recovery, especially if you and your loved ones live under one roof.

Twelve-Step Facilitation Therapy

Twelve-step facilitation therapy (TSF) is a set of practices developed to help recovering addicts abstain from drinking alcohol or taking drugs by encouraging them to participate actively in community- or faith-based 12-step organizations.

TSFs connects recovering addicts to essential support groups, particularly Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). These are the first groups that facilitated 12-step programs to help individuals struggling with alcohol or drug abuse. Today, similar support groups have emerged and applied the system to serve the specific needs of different individuals.

Here are the twelve steps in TSF:

  1. Admit that you’ve been powerless over drugs and alcohol and that your life has become unmanageable.
  2. Believe that there’s a greater power that can help you overcome addiction.
  3. Come up with a decision to give your will and life to God as you understand His ways.
  4. Search for your moral inventory.
  5. Accept that you’re bound to make mistakes because you’re just a human. 
  6. Be ready to let God step in and remove all your problems and worries.
  7. Ask God humbly to eliminate your shortcomings.
  8. Create a list of all the people you’ve wronged due to severe addiction and ask for their forgiveness.
  9. Make direct amends to those you’ve wronged whenever possible, except in instances where they could be harmed or injured.
  10. Take your personal inventory and admit anything you’ve done wrong. 
  11. Pray and meditate to improve your connection and relationship with God. 
  12. Have a spiritual awakening to spread the message to alcoholics and practice the principles discussed throughout your life. 

Many recovering addicts find TSFs to be an effective method in their recovery. Make sure to ask your therapist where to find support groups specific to your condition. 

Final Words

Addiction can be detrimental not only to the lives of the addict but also to the people around them. The therapies above can help you overcome your addiction and live a life of sobriety. Make sure to consult your therapist to determine which of these therapies is best suited for your condition. 

Medical Disclaimer: All the content available on the website is just for informational purposes. It’s not a substitute for any Professional advice. Don’t take it personally. As a medical student, I’m just trying to use my information through my content, and please keep in mind it’s not written by a professional doctor. Use the data just for educational purposes.

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