Drug and Alcohol Addiction Therapies

Behavioral therapy is an important part of treatment for substance use disorders (SUDs). It can help a person develop a deeper understanding of themselves, their substance use, and what they can do to facilitate recovery.1 Therapy also provides an opportunity to learn strategies to avoid substances and cope with stressors in healthier ways.1

This page will further discuss the benefits of SUD therapy, detail the commonly used addiction therapy techniques, and explain different therapy formats, such as individual and group therapy.

Why is Therapy Used During Addiction Treatment?

Behavioral therapies are used in addiction treatment to help people address and change behaviors and thoughts related to substance use.1 Because addiction impacts all areas of a person’s life, drug and alcohol therapy provides individuals with the opportunity to discover more about how substance use has affected their lives, relationships, and other key areas. It also gives individuals an opportunity to learn skills to help navigate triggers and cope with stressors.1 Additionally, behavioral therapies can augment the efficacy of medications that may be prescribed as part of addiction treatment.1

Depending on the person’s needs and their individual treatment plans, one or more types of evidence-based behavioral therapy may be used.

Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an umbrella term that describes a number of evidence-based therapies that focus on the relationship between a person’s behaviors, thoughts, and feelings.2 The CBT model is rooted in three core principles: 3

  • Psychological problems are based on faulty or otherwise maladaptive ways of thinking.
  • Psychological problems are based on learned patterns of maladaptive behaviors.
  • People can learn to better cope with their psychological issues to relieve certain symptoms and make positive changes in their life.

CBT for addiction therapy helps individuals address the underlying issues, thought patterns, and behaviors that may have contributed to substance use.CBT also helps individuals build crucial skills for problem-solving, to manage cravings, and use healthy coping skills when stressors or triggers arise.4

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, originally developed to treat people who were chronically suicidal, but is now used for a wider range of mental health challenges, emotional regulation difficulties, and substance use disorders.5 DBT is an evidence-based approach whose focus on two opposing principles – acceptance and change – help people to reduce emotional dysregulation, find acceptance with difficult and challenging circumstances, and work toward living a life worth living.5

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) is a type of CBT.6 However, rather than the focus being on general unhelpful beliefs, the focus of this therapy style focuses on how our irrational beliefs can lead to negative and unhelpful behaviors.6

The purpose of REBT is to help people realize that it is not difficult events themselves that cause distress but how the person thinks about them.7 By identifying and challenging irrational beliefs, people can learn to replace them with more realistic and flexible thoughts and beliefs and develop the coping skills to manage emotions and behaviors in a healthier way.7

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

Motivational interviewing (MI) is a short-term collaborative therapeutic intervention, often used in conjunction with other types of therapy, like CBT. The goal of motivational interviewing is to empower individuals to discover their own reasons for change (motivation), dispel doubts about their ability to change, and set achievable goals for a healthier future.8

Alternative and Complementary Therapies

Alternative and complementary therapies are those that are not part of traditional psychotherapy but can complement traditional treatment, provide support and bolster treatment gains.9 Alternative therapies can include:

  • Mindfulness: This is a technique that helps people to learn to be present-focused and to learn to observe their thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without judgment.9 This increased awareness helps people to recognize cravings and triggers and by observing them objectively, learn to detach and manage them rather than using substances.9
  • Yoga: Yoga is a practice that focuses on the mind-body connection and includes the elements of postures, breathing techniques, and meditation.9 Yoga can help a person connect with their body and cope with stress, relieving tension, and increase feelings of well-being.9
  • Art therapy: This includes a wide range of activities such as drawing, painting, and sculpting through which a person can express themselves.10 For instance, they may draw to release anxiety or make a sculpture to describe an experience they have difficulty putting into words.10
  • Music therapy: Music therapy can include musical games, songwriting, lyric analysis, and drumming.10 Such activities can facilitate relaxation, relieve stress, and provide an outlet for expression for experiences that might otherwise be difficult to put into words.10

12-Step Groups

12-Step groups include those such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and consist of people seeking to recover from their addictions. Meetings provide an opportunity for those in recovery to work their program for sobriety together in solidarity and mutual support.11 The 12-steps refer to a set of guiding principles and actions that members of the group work through as part of their recovery journey. 12-Step groups provide a supportive community for its members that can be an invaluable component to recovery.11

Family Therapy

In family therapy, the family unit is considered the patient, and the idea is that the family system affects the substance use of one of its members, and vice versa.12 Thus, a change in the family dynamics can facilitate the person’s reduction or cessation of use.12

In family therapy, the therapist provides guidance on components such as trust and healthy communication, acceptance of individual differences, and changing unhealthy patterns.12 Family therapy also has the added benefit of enhancing relationships between family members, rebuilding or repairing relationships that have been impacted by substance use, and helping every member of the family to thrive.12

Individual and Group Therapy

Therapy sessions generally occur in two types of settings: individual counseling and group sessions. Depending on the needs and treatment goals of the person, substance use disorder treatment plans may include one or the other but will often incorporate both individual and group sessions.

In individual therapy, the person meets one-on-one with a therapist in a collaborative effort to address and understand underlying issues that may have contributed to addiction. Sessions are tailored to the individual’s needs and are patient-focused. Therapists will use evidence-based interventions, such as CBT or motivational interviewing, with the goal to get to the root of a problem or problems and equip the patient with the skills and tools for lasting change and growth.

Group therapy for addiction is facilitated by one or two group leaders or therapists. Group sizes vary, but generally include 6-12 people (though it can be more or less). Groups tend to be centered around a specific topic or focus and the leader will facilitate discussion, give feedback, or teach skills.5

Benefits of Therapy During Treatment

No matter the strategy and format, there are varied benefits to drug addiction therapy. These benefits can include:13

  • Developing healthier and stronger relationships with others.
  • Increasing motivation to change.
  • Learning healthy coping skills.
  • Learning problem-solving skills.
  • Maintaining abstinence.
  • Increasing self-awareness.

Addiction Treatment & Therapy in Florida

It is never too late for you or a loved one to seek help for an SUD. At our Tampa metro area inpatient drug & alcohol rehab facility, we offer different levels of addiction treatment, depending on your needs, including medical detox, inpatient, outpatient, and aftercare services.

We are here to help you get on the road to recovery and back to living the life you deserve. Please call our admissions navigators at for more information about your treatment options. You can begin the treatment admissions process and start your journey to recovery. We also offer different ways to pay for rehab, including insurance that covers substance abuse treatment.

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