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Over 8 percent of the adult population in the United States (ages 12 and older) suffered from a substance use disorder in 2014, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) publishes.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that while addiction is a complex disease that affects everyone differently, in general, a mixture of both pharmacological and behavioral therapeutic methods is beneficial during treatment. Addiction therapy may come in several different formats and types, although all have the same end goal in mind: to help an individual recover from drug and/or alcohol abuse by developing healthy coping skills, regaining emotional balance, minimizing relapse, and improving overall quality of life.
In addiction treatment, therapy can be performed in a variety of settings, including outpatient treatment centers, residential treatment facilities, hospitals, physicians’ offices, and clinics. Mental health professionals, usually counselors or therapists, may run therapy sessions in a variety of locations as well. Addiction therapy usually consists of both group and individual sessions that are provided at least once a week and oftentimes more regularly. Individual sessions generally last between 45 minutes to an hour, while group sessions are a little longer, at closer to 90 minutes on average. Individuals may attend therapy as long as they feel it is necessary and helpful to them.
A group session likely includes 5-10 individuals in similar circumstances. Homework may be common, as individuals are asked to practice the new skills or coping mechanisms outside of sessions and then to report back on how they worked or didn’t work at the next group session.
These sessions are also supportive in nature, where the therapist acts more as a facilitator for group discussions. In these sessions, the group decides the topics to be discussed, and individuals work through these concepts together by listening to members’ personal experiences and providing support and understanding. Peer support during addiction treatment can be very helpful in dispelling the sense of isolation or withdrawal that addiction can create. Group therapy can help people to feel more connected and less alone.
Another type of group therapy is family or couples therapy. Family therapy and/or couples or spousal therapy can help to ensure that all members of a person’s support system are on the same page and working toward the same goals. Family therapy sessions may focus on addiction education, communication skills, and improving the inner workings of the family unit. Family therapy may be intensive and short-term, or more spread out over a longer period of time. Group and family therapy sessions are usually provided in addition to individual therapy sessions during addiction treatment and ongoing recovery.
Individual therapy sessions provide a forum where clients can feel safe, understood, and heard. Personal issues can be fully identified, explored, and managed during individual therapy sessions, as the therapist can build a strong report with the client, offering security and confidentiality.
When a person first enters into addiction therapy, the first session will likely be a “get to know you” kind of format. Therapists will work to determine what kinds of things the person may need or want to talk about most, and what method of treatment or course of therapy may be the most beneficial. A mental health assessment may be done either in the first session, or just prior to it, in order to uncover any potential mental health concerns that need to be addressed during treatment. The session may follow a question-and-answer model, or the therapist may have the individual fill out a questionnaire prior to the first session. In this case, the therapist will then spend time during the session going over the questionnaire answers.
At the end of the first session, the therapist will likely develop a future plan of action and share this with the individual. Future sessions may differ, depending on the particular needs of the individual that day. Typically, they will start with a welcome and check-in to see how things have been going since the last session. From there, the therapist will decide how the bulk of the session will be conducted. Perhaps new tools will be taught, or individuals may need direction in using the skills learned previously. Emotions are discussed and worked through during these sessions. Sessions usually end with the therapist giving the individual something concrete to focus on in between sessions and possibly even new concepts or methods to try outside of therapy.
Different types of addiction therapy may use different models regarding how sessions are conducted and how therapy progresses.
However, in general, therapy sessions are led by a therapist who helps the individual to identify potential triggers or stressors, learn how to better regulate moods, and improve relationships.
The therapist provides insight into the individual’s emotions and subsequent actions through a variety of methods. Therapy is helpful for a variety of mental health concerns, including addiction, as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that therapy improves mental health symptoms.
There are many different types of therapy modalities used during addiction treatment. Typically, behavioral therapies are likely the most common. These therapies address a person’s thoughts and emotions in an effort to modify behaviors. NAMI publishes that about half of all individuals who abuse drugs also suffer from a mental illness, as do a third of those abusing alcohol. In addition, about half of those battling a serious mental illness, and a third of those suffering from any form of mental illness, also abuse substances. Co-occurring mental illness and addiction are common, therefore, and when a dual diagnosis exists, specialty integrated treatment is ideal. Co-occurring disorders are also treated with therapy methods that likely include both group and individual sessions as well.
Different types of therapy often used during addiction treatment and their specifics follow: