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Why Behavioral Therapy Is the Best Method for Addiction Treatment

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 Behavioral therapy (BT) is one of the most widely used approaches in addiction therapy. The types of therapy under this general canopy are evidence-based and effective for people who struggle with addiction.

Behavioral therapy is beneficial because it helps people to become more aware of negative thoughts and actions. It also provides tools to find more positive and healthier ways to think or react rather than reaching for their substance of abuse. It can help to identify and change self-harmful behavior.

It benefits people with mental health disorders, substance use disorders, and eating disorders. People with addiction can also be diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder, such as depression.

It successfully treats 75 percent of the people who are undergoing different behavioral therapies.

The main goal of BT is to focus on increasing the person’s engagement in the positives and not the negatives.

Behavioral therapies are motivational, strategic, essential in preventing relapse, and proven to be beneficial and valuable in addiction treatment.

Read on to understand behavioral therapy is the best method for addiction treatment.

What Is Behavioral Therapy?

Behavioral therapy is a term used to describe different kinds of therapies that treat mental health disorders, substance use disorder, and eating disorders. It focuses on current problems and how to change them. It is an evidence-based therapy, as opposed to alternative therapy.

There are different types of behavior therapy:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is the most widely known and most-often employed type of therapy. It deals with how a person’s thoughts and beliefs affect their actions and moods. The long-term goal of CBT is to change the person’s thinking and behavioral patterns to healthier and more positive ones.

CBT is one of the best methods of therapy for people with addictions. It is a shorter-term, goal-oriented type of therapy, as Psych Central describes. It is widely practiced and works for many different disorders that may co-occur with substance use disorder. It has a 75 percent success rate.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Commonly called DBT, this type of therapy engages four modules: mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance, and emotion regulation.

Its goals are achievable and practical: to teach the individual how to live in the moment, cope with stress in a healthy way, regulate emotions, and improve their relationships with others.

These are the elements of living and reacting to situations in manners that are positive and healthy. The individual learns how to cope with stress without using the substance(s) of abuse.

Family Therapy

It is said that addiction is a family disease because it affects everyone in the family.

Family therapy focuses on improving communication and relationships and resolving conflicts within the family environment. It benefits both the person with addiction and family members. It helps strengthen bonds. It also is beneficial in finding and working to end enabling behavior. It is essential in addiction therapy because it helps not just the person with addiction, but the family as a whole.

Motivational Interviewing

To be sure, not everyone is ready to change their behavior to end their addiction.

Called MI for short, motivational interviewing is a form of behavior therapy that is valuable in preparing someone to change substance-abusing behavior to substance-free behavior. It follows a model of therapy called trans-theoretical. This model employs five stages of change: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. Individuals in this form of therapy will learn the benefit of achieving long-term recovery by following all five stages.

Contingency management

Basically, this treatment method is based on the principle that if the behavior is reinforced or rewarded, it is likely to continue in the future. When this type of behavior therapy is employed for drug or alcohol addiction, abstinence from the substance of abuse is reinforced using cognitive management methods.

One way someone in addiction therapy can benefit from contingency management is abstaining from the substance, producing a clean urine sample on demand, and reaping a reward for it, such as a gift card, voucher for cash, etc. The longer someone in recovery produces positive outcomes (urine free of the substance, regularly going to therapy sessions or 12-step meetings, for example), the better the reward.

Contingency management can also be used to withhold rewards if addiction behavior doesn’t change or if the person isn’t following specific guidelines set by a therapist.

Why Behavior Therapy Is Effective for Addiction Treatment

As noted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Behavioral therapies can help motivate people to participate in drug treatment, offer strategies for coping with drug cravings, teach ways to avoid drugs and prevent relapse, and help individuals deal with relapse if it occurs.”

The different types of behavior therapy can encourage, support, and move the person with addiction from substance-seeking thoughts and behaviors to healthier, positive behaviors and outcomes. Some forms of this type of therapy are short-term, lasting for several months. 

The different kinds of behavior therapy can be utilized in combination with addiction treatment to best treat the person with a substance use disorder. 

Sources

Behavioral Therapies for Drug Abuse. Department of Psychiatry. Yale University School of Medicine. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Kathleen M. Carroll, Ph.D. and Lisa S. Onken, Ph.D. August 2005. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3633201/

Healthline. Behavioral Therapy. Is behavioral therapy effective?. Timothy J. Legg, PhD, CRNP. Written by Ana Gotter. November 14, 2016 from https://www.healthline.com/health/behavioral-therapy#effectiveness

Healthline. Behavioral Therapy. Types of behavioral therapy.Timothy J. Legg, PhD, CRNP. Written by Ana Gotter. November 14, 2016 from https://www.healthline.com/health/behavioral-therapy#types

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition). Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (Alcohol, Marijuana, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Nicotine) from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/evidence-based-approaches-to-drug-addiction-treatment/behavioral

In-Depth: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Ben Martin, Psy.D.June 19, 2019. from https://psychcentral.com/lib/about-behavior-therapy/

Psychiatric Times. Contingency Management in Addiction Treatment Nancy M. Petry, Ph.D. February 1, 2002 from https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/addiction/contingency-management-addiction-treatment

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition). from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/what-drug-addiction-treatment

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