The main goal of counseling and therapy for substance abuse is to address the underlying causes of the disease and to prevent them from causing a relapse. And while detox is a vital component of treatment because it helps patients handle withdrawal and ease cravings, but counseling/therapy addresses the factors that led to drug abuse in the first place.
There are now evidence-based practices in behavioral therapy for alcohol and drug addiction, which have been proved to be effective in treating substance use disorders in addition to co-occurring mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Counseling/therapy for substance is being provided to patients in various settings, including residential rehab programs, outpatient rehab programs, sober living communities, private practices, support groups, etc. It is invariably included in the 30-, 60- or 90-day rehab programs and helps prepare individuals in recovery for life after intensive treatment.
Therapy sessions are frequent and intense, to begin with, but tend to decrease in frequency and duration as the patient recovers and learns to cope with the causes of his or her addiction and to handle life’s stressors. There always remains a risk of relapse. And recovered patients should still return to counseling if there is a life stressor or any trigger.
It is important to note that counseling/therapy is not a one-size-fits-all treatment option. Different patients need different approaches that best meet their needs, their condition, their concomitant mental health issues and the specific circumstances of their life.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
There are many types of behavioral therapies available to patients of substance use disorder. One of them is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) which focuses on learning to reduce problematic behavior associated with substance abuse. It gets the patient to anticipate risky situations and apply coping strategies, such as avoidance or self-control, to prevent relapse
CBT has been found to be effective in patients who abuse marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, nicotine, etc. During CBT, patients learn to recognize and modify risky behavior by using a variety of skills. They are also able to recognize cravings or triggers and develop strategies for handling them.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is useful in patients who struggle to regulate emotions and have thoughts of self-harm, self-mutilation or suicide. DBT aims to help the users accept uncomfortable thoughts, feelings or behaviors so that they can overcome them. It has been found to be effective against many disorders that co-occur with addiction, such as mood disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, etc. It involves relaxation techniques, such as yoga, that help the patient become more aware of thoughts and emotions. Patients also learn important skills such as controlled breathing and muscle relaxation to tolerate self-destructive thoughts or urges.
While these two behavioral therapy approaches are the most prominent, there are many other more specific approaches that can be useful in certain situations. All of these approaches can be used in some combination to devise the best treatment plan for the patient given their specific condition and the stage they are in.