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Addiction Therapy

If you or a loved one is like the tens of millions of other individuals struggling with addiction, you can understand how serious and life-altering of a condition it is.

Getting proper treatment for the condition is crucial when it comes to getting the disorder under control.

When left untreated, addiction can lead to various physical, psychological, and financial problems. In the most severe cases, addiction to drugs and/or alcoholism can even lead to death.Drug Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, & Causes

People have constantly battled addiction, but in years past, there were very limited options available to addicts and alcoholics who yearned for relief. However, as a result of modern medicine and progress made in the mental health field, today there are finally different addiction therapy treatments for individuals looking to get their condition to a manageable level.

What Is Addiction?

Despite the seemingly countless number of individuals suffering from addiction to drugs and alcohol, many people still do not have a solid understanding of the condition. Addiction also referred to as a substance usedisorder is considered an actual disease by medical professionals.

By definition, a substance use disorder (SUD) is a condition in which the use of one or more substances leads to a clinically significant impairment or distress. It is recognized as a disease by the DSM-V, the manual used by psychiatric professionals when diagnosing patients. There are certain criteria utilized by professionals when making the official diagnosis.

The diagnosis is made of at least 2 or 3 of the following behaviors are exhibited:

  • Taking the drug in larger amounts and for longer than intended
  • Wanting to cut down or quit but finding yourself unable to do so
  • Spending copious amounts of time attempting to obtain the substance
  • Experiencing cravings for the drug
  • Finding yourself incapable of performing obligations at work, school, or home due to drug use
  • Continuing to use the substance despite consistent social or interpersonal issues caused by or exacerbated by drug use
  • Cessation of important social, occupational, or recreational activities due to drug use
  • The habitual use of the substance in physically dangerous situations
  • Still using the drug after recognizing continual physical and psychological difficulties stemming from drug use
  • Building a physical tolerance to the drug
  • Undergoing withdrawal symptoms when drug use is stopped

Depending on how many of the listed criteria are met, medical professionals may diagnose your substance use disorder as mild, moderate, or severe in nature.

Regardless of the severity, any level of a substance abuse disorder will have negative impacts on the patient in a physical, financial, and emotional way. Once you receive an official diagnosis, it’s important to seek addiction treatment immediately to prevent the condition from worsening.

What Is Addiction Treatment?

Addiction treatment, also known colloquially as rehabilitation or rehab, is the method by which medical and clinical professionals address a substance use disorder. Since addiction can manifest in various ways depending on the individual, addiction treatment encompasses numerous techniques and methods that possess unique approaches.

Some addiction treatment programs require patients to live onsite at the facility. This is known as inpatient/residential addiction treatment, and it creates a safe environment for patients away from outside distractions and stressors that may take away from focusing on the task at hand.

There is also the type of addiction treatment that occurs on a part-time basis and requires patients to live in alternative housing and commute to treatment. This is known as intensive outpatient or outpatient. This form of treatment allows clients to still maintain their own schedules and outside commitments while undergoing treatment for their substance use disorder.

There is no one-size-fits-all method when it comes to addiction treatment. Different people respond to treatment in their own way, so finding the correct approach is important to your success in battling a substance use disorder. The most common forms of addiction treatment are medication-assisted treatments (MAT) and addiction therapy. Medication-assisted treatment utilizes prescription medication in order to combat the symptoms of a substance use disorder, while addiction therapy uses psychological treatment to help patients find relief.

Addiction Therapy

man in therapy

Addiction therapy is the more traditional method of treatment when it comes to a substance use disorder. Addiction therapy is a blanket term used to describe different therapeutic approaches employed by psychologists and other clinical professionals. Each of the addiction therapy techniques takes a unique approach to addressing the condition, focusing on different aspects of the disorder.

With so many addiction therapy techniques available to addicts and alcoholics today, it can be a bit overwhelming trying to pinpoint the most effective approach for you. What works for one addict or alcoholic may not for another, so much of addiction therapy is trial and error. Having a solid basis of knowledge when it comes to the different addiction therapy techniques is important so that you understand what might work best for you.

Humanistic Therapy

Humanistic therapy attempts to address substance use disorders by assisting patients to access and comprehend their feelings. The goal is help the individual find a sense of purpose in their lives and reach a level of self actualization. Self actualization is the realization of one’s full potential. Humanistic therapy is a great option for many addicts.

This method of addiction therapy puts a significant emphasis on the healing power or creativity, free will, and human potential. By fostering self exploration, it helps patients view themselves as a whole person. Developing a stronger and more positive sense of self can help individuals overcome their addiction to drugs and alcohol.

EMDR Therapy

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy, also known as EMDR, is another popular addiction therapy technique. EMDR was developed to assist patients overcome distress associated with traumatic memories and experiences.

The concept of EMDR is based on the biological methods involved in Rapid Eye Movement, or REM sleep. The idea is that the therapist administering the EMDR has a patient recall a specific traumatic memory or event. As the patient focuses on the memory, the therapist then moves their hand back and forth across the patient’s field of vision. The patient is to focus on the hand’s movements.

As the patient follows the therapist’s movements, internal associations manifest and the client is able to process the traumatic memory and subsequent upsetting feelings. The connotation of the event is transformed on an emotional level, and the patient is able to view the situation in a positive rather than negative manner.

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Trauma Therapy

Trauma therapy is one of the most important addiction therapy techniques. While not limited to a specific form of therapy, trauma therapy focuses specifically on traumatic experiences and treating Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a whole. Trauma therapy is crucial to addiction treatment due to the prevalence of PTSD being cited as a reason for substance abuse.

PTSD is a mental disorder that develops whenever an individual undergoes a traumatic event such as traffic accidents, warfare, and even sexual assaults. It manifests as upsetting thoughts, feelings, and/or dreams related to the traumatic experience. It can alter the way in which a person thinks and behaves in an extreme manner.

Trauma therapy focuses on assisting patients with working through their PTSD and processing the catalytic event. By providing therapeutic support and psychoeducation to patients, trauma therapy helps individuals begin to heal from the experience and move forward in their lives. Since people struggling with PTSD can have potentially dangerous episodes, having a specially trained trauma therapist administer therapeutic intervention is important for the safety of the patient and others.

Behavioral Therapy

Like trauma therapy, behavioral therapy is a broad category of various therapeutic techniques aimed at changing the learned behaviors of the patient. Since much of addiction is significantly behavioral, using behavioral therapy is an effective means of addiction treatment.

Behavioral therapy is often used in tandem with cognitive psychology. Combining the two addresses the thoughts and actions of the patient. Using behavioral therapy in addicts can help stop the engagement in negative behaviors (using drugs and/or alcohol) and replace it with healthy behaviors (maintaining sobriety)

An aerial shot of young people undergoing behavioral therapy

Family Therapy

Family therapy is one of the most effective addiction therapy techniques. Since many addicts cite difficulties at home and interpersonal relationships with family members as sources of stress and reasons they abuse substances, it’s important to include family members in addiction treatment. They say that addiction is a family disease. This means that family members or loved one play a substantial role in both active addiction and recovery.

By holding therapy sessions that include family members, underlying issues and conflicts between the patient and their loved ones can be addressed and resolved in a healthy manner. Learning how to set boundaries, improving communication, and learning about addiction as a whole provide family members with the opportunity to learn and be heard. Improving the family dynamics can help addicts have a greater chance for long-term success in recovery and heal the wounds caused by their addiction.

Expressive Therapy

Expressive therapy is the category of addiction therapy that involves the creative process in treatment. By using creative arts such as writing, drawing, or composing music in therapy, the idea that through creation patients can find healing.

The creative process is the central focus of this type of addiction therapy. Emphasis is put on the actual act of creating rather than end product. Whenever a person is in the process of creating art, the individual taps into a deeply emotional place. As the patient explores this emotional space, the ability to process and access their thoughts and feelings may become easier.

Holistic Therapy

Person undergoing addiction therapy practicing mindfulness

Holistic therapy hones in on the important relationship between mind, body, and spirit. Holistic therapists believe that patients must have a balance between these various aspects of self in order to attain self-awareness, self-esteem, and ultimately self-acceptance.

Rather than focusing on the symptoms of addiction, holistic therapy aims to have patients view symptoms as a way the individual’s consciousness can bring attention to the individual’s higher awareness. By changing the way that the patient interacts with the world and their overall sense of being, they can overcome their addiction and adopt more healthy behaviors.

Far different from the more traditional therapy techniques like talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy, holistic therapy employs a number of different therapy methods that are meant to help the patient find the balance between mind, body, and spirit. Some of the more common forms of holistic therapy are yoga, meditation, and art therapy.

Motivational Therapy

When used as a form of addiction therapy, motivational therapy can help addicts and alcoholics find relief from their substance use disorder. Motivational therapy encompasses a combination of humanistic treatment and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

The overall goal of motivation therapy is to elicit the patient to develop a negative connotation with using drugs and/or alcohol. Once this correlation is made, the theory is that patients will then have a desire to alter his or her behavior.

Primarily, in motivational therapy, the emphasis is put on what the individual’s needs are and what their individual problems are. By keeping the therapy session solution oriented, motivational therapists can help their clients see the reality of their addiction and know what to do to change their destructive behaviors.

Start Your Journey to Recovery Today

No matter what addiction therapy method you choose, it’s important to get started on your journey in addiction treatment as soon as possible. At Pathway to Hope, we understand the challenging nature of substance use disorders and have a variety of different approaches available to help you or your loved one overcome addiction.


Wikipedia, (March, 2018).Substance use disorder. Wikipedia. from

Wikipedia, (March, 2018).Posttraumatic stress disorder. Wikipedia. from

BupPractice, (March, 2018).DSM 5 Criteria for Substance Use Disorder. BupPractice. from

Lumen, (March, 2018).Approaches to Psychotherapy. Lumen. from

EMDR Institute, (March, 2018).What is EMDR?. EMDR Institute, Inc. from

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