Addiction Therapy

Addiction therapy can refer to a wide range of treatment options that help address substance abuse disorders and their underlying issues. While everyone who enters an addiction treatment program has a substance use disorder, no one definite therapy option will work for every person. Learn more about addiction therapy and how it can help lead you to long-lasting recovery.

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What Is Addiction Therapy?

Addiction therapy needs to adapt to a person’s specific needs and change as those needs evolve. There are some gold standard treatment options available like cognitive-behavioral therapy, but it may not be all you need to address your addiction issue.

There are dozens of addiction therapy options available, and some are more effective than others, but each person in addiction treatment should have a unique treatment plan designed to speak directly to their individual needs. There are two major categories of addiction therapy options: evidence-based treatment and alternative therapies.



An evidence-based therapy is one that’s backed up by scientific study and shown to be significantly effective. Evidence-based therapies can be implemented in a variety of settings. Behavioral therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy and 12-step programs are some of the most common examples of this type of therapy.

Alternative therapies are treatment options that have not yet been studied or have not shown to be widely effective in treating addiction. Examples include yoga, equine therapy, and art therapy. However, many people report finding value in alternative methods, which means they could be beneficial to some people in recovery. Still, if an addiction treatment center uses alternative therapies, they should only be secondary treatment options to evidence-based approaches.

Why Is Addiction Therapy Necessary?

Addiction is a complex disease that goes beyond the chemical effects of drug dependence. When you become chemically dependent on a drug, your brain becomes used to the chemicals that you are introducing. Eventually, it may stop producing its own naturally occurring versions and start producing chemicals to counteract the drug. If you stop using, you will feel uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. To treat drug dependence safely, you can go through a process called medical detoxification, which involves alleviating symptoms while your brain chemistry returns to normal.

Though addiction is closely tied to dependence, they are not completely synonymous. Addiction is characterized by a deep compulsive craving to use a drug, even after it has caused serious consequences, such as hurting a relationship or losing a job. This occurs when your brain starts to mistake the rewarding effects of a drug with the rewarding effects of life-sustaining activities like eating. Your limbic system, which is the reward center of the brain, learns to treat drugs as vital to survival.

Dependence can be treated with a week of detoxification, but it takes more than that to address the deeply seeded disease of addiction. Addiction therapy is designed to help you cope with chronic addiction. You can learn to identify triggers and high-risk situations, develop healthy coping responses to stress, and create strategies to prevent relapse.

Addiction therapy also can help you address other issues that might be contributing to your substance use disorder, including mental health issues, past traumas, and medical conditions.

How Does Addiction Therapy Work?

There are a variety of addiction therapy options available, and a treatment plan is typically made up of a combination of therapies depending on your specific needs. When you first enter a treatment program, you will go through a process called intake and assessment. During this process, you may sit down with your therapist and go through a biopsychosocial assessment, which is a questionnaire that can let your therapist know more about your medical, psychological, and social needs.

You and your therapist will work together to form a treatment plan. It’s important that you are an integral part of the process of creating this plan. It will mean that it’s tailored to your needs and you will be more invested in the success of the program.

Your treatment plan will involve an overall goal and several objectives that will help you achieve that goal. While a goal might be abstract like, “become more confident in group settings,” an objective will be a specific, observable task like, “share your story in group therapy.”

Interventions are the therapies and programs that will help you complete objectives and move toward your goal. Interventions can include:

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  • Group therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Mental health education
  • 12-step programs
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy

As you progress, clinicians should reevaluate your treatment each week and adapt it as your needs change. You may stop participating in ineffective therapies or start new ones.

The Cognitive-Behavioral Model

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is among the most commonly recommended therapy options in addiction treatment. It can be used to address a wide variety of cognitive, psychological, and behavioral needs, making it a great fit in an individualized treatment plan. In CBT, you will learn to identify thoughts and behaviors that can lead to relapse, when a person returns to using addictive substances after a period of abstinence. According to the cognitive-behavioral model, relapse doesn’t start when you first use a drug again. It begins with the thoughts that come long before that drink or drug use. High-risk situations like stress, cravings, and triggers, can either be met with effective or ineffective coping responses.

Ineffective coping responses can eventually lead to relapse while effective responses decrease the probability of it happening. In CBT, you will learn to develop positive coping mechanisms and increase self-efficacy, which is your expectancy in positive outcomes and mastery over your own behavior.

Other Types of Behavioral Therapy

Though CBT is the gold standard in addiction treatment, other therapy options can help you throughout the treatment process. Behavioral therapy is a broad term that describes therapies that examine how learned behaviors influence actions and how different methods can facilitate lasting behavioral change. It may sound like a simple process, but habits and behaviors are notoriously difficult to change permanently. But with certain therapy options, it’s possible.

Family Therapy

Addiction treatment is always focused on the individual and family therapy is group-oriented, so this type of therapy is approached with caution.

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Still, it can be beneficial in many cases and may be vital in helping bolster your support system for when you return to life after treatment.

Addiction is sometimes referred to as a family disease because of how it affects all of the loved ones that surround a person struggling with addiction. In many cases, family members are dealing with their own issues that stem from a loved one’s addiction, such as codependency. Family therapy can help show people how their actions while in active addiction affected others, and it can help family members learn how to avoid enabling behaviors. It also can strengthen the family as a unit, which is valuable in long-term recovery.

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing involves one-on-one therapy sessions designed to increase a person’s readiness to change. This therapy follows the transtheoretical model, which is the idea that there are five stages of change: Precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. Not everyone comes to treatment ready to make a change, and motivational interviewing helps people see the benefit in pursuing lasting recovery.

Begin Your Recovery Journey Today

Addiction is a complex disease, and it needs a complex solution that can adapt to your individual needs. Addiction therapy with evidence-based services and experienced medical and clinical professionals can be extremely effective in leading you to long-lasting, meaningful recovery.

If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance use disorder, learn more about addiction therapy by speaking to an addiction treatment specialist. Call California Highlands Addiction Treatment at (855) 935-0303 to start your road to lasting recovery today.