How Substance Abuse Counseling Can Help With Recovery
There are various methods available other than medication that can help people overcome addiction. Find out more about the power of substance abuse counseling in this article.
If you or someone you know is dealing with substance abuse, you may feel like life can never return to normal. Addiction is terrifying and almost impossible to handle on one's own. But with substance abuse counseling, recovering addicts can find their ways back to successful, healthy lives.
The road from addiction to recovery is a long one. Many treatment plans involve group therapy, individual therapy, and much more. Most times, these programs can take months or years.
Substance abuse counseling helps addicts make that journey. Licensed drug counselors use specialized techniques to help patients fight addiction. They show patients how to live a normal life again, free of substance abuse.
But what exactly is substance abuse counseling all about? You may have heard about some treatment facilities and still not know what to expect. After all, how can sitting in a room talking fight something like heroin addiction?
Read on to learn more about what exactly is involved with addiction counseling and why it works.
One of the most popular types of addiction counseling is group therapy. This is a meeting with a group of people struggling with a similar problem, led by a licensed counselor. Volunteer support groups, such as AA do not qualify as group therapy.
Group therapy helps recovering addicts feel less alone in their recovery. Meeting regularly with a group of peers can help validate struggles and provide coping mechanisms. A counselor will help direct the session to make sure that the experience is good for all patients.
Group therapy also offers the opportunity for open and honest communication about problems. Often, addicts feel they can't talk about their problems without being judged. Without this healthy outlet, a patient may relapse as a coping mechanism.
Group therapy is not the only component to addiction counseling. Often, there are problems around addiction that must be addressed in one-on-one therapy. But as a way to help patients stay in therapy and get a new perspective on the problems they may be facing, group therapy is an excellent strategy.
Individual counseling is an essential part of substance abuse counseling. Often, there are other psychological issues that led to drug addiction in the first place. If this is the case, one of the goals of individual therapy is to address those problems and how they relate to the patient's addiction.
One of the primary causes of drug relapse is an inability to handle challenges that arise in day to day life. Individual therapy addresses these problems and helps patients find ways to work around these struggles. Effectively, patients re-learn healthy ways to live life and manage societal expectations.
There are several specific techniques used in individual therapy for drug counseling, and we'll talk about some of the more in-depth later. But two of the other techniques used are aversion therapy and exposure therapy. Aversion therapy, which involves associating bad behaviors and cravings with negative things (historically, electric shocks), is less common.
In exposure therapy, a patient learns to deal with fears by being exposed to them. This helps them develop coping strategies and habits for when they encounter those problems in the real world. For instance, a recovering alcoholic might use virtual reality technology to go into a virtual bar and spend time there.
Managing Psychological Issues That Led to Drug Use
Often, the problem that led an addict to turn to drugs in the first place was an existing mental illness. Specifically, this can include patients with psychological disorders such as schizophrenia, chronic depression, bipolar disorder, or another major disorder. In fact, over 70% of people with personality disorders also have a substance abuse problem.
There are many reasons someone with a mental illness might turn to drugs to cope. Someone with depression might seek out stimulants to help them escape the numbness. A patient with anxiety might turn to alcohol or other depressants to keep them calm, and so on.
Diagnosing and treating these mental illnesses can be the first step in treating a substance abuse problem. Effectively, addicts with mental illness turned to drugs as a way to deal with their disorder. Treating the mental illness can remove the original reason for the substance abuse.
Individual counseling is the most important method for those suffering from mental illness and drug addiction. Identifying the disorder can be difficult, as can establishing a treatment plan. Spending one-on-one time with a counselor is the best way to make sure a patient gets the care they need.
Learning to Cope with Life Without Using Drugs
Even in cases where a recovering addict does not have an underlying mental illness, it is often the case that the addiction formed as a coping mechanism for the user. There may have been a problem that they couldn't handle, or they may not have known any healthy coping mechanisms. One of the most important steps to long-term sobriety is teaching patients how to deal with life without using drugs.
When a patient runs into a challenge they don't know how to deal with, that's when they are most in danger of relapsing. It can be very easy to return to the old coping mechanism of substance abuse in times of stress. The best way to fight this is to teach recovering addicts healthy coping mechanisms and problem-solving skills.
This is one of the primary aims of both group and individual therapy. Group therapy helps patients see how other recovering addicts manage their problems. They can start to see healthy patterns of behavior and how to implement them.
Individual therapy can help patients establish healthy habits in a more focused way. A counselor can talk with the patient about problems in the past that have led them to drugs or things they find challenging now. From there, they can help the patient find healthy coping strategies that don't involve drugs.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most widely-used therapeutic techniques. Part of the reason it is so popular is it teaches excellent coping skills for life. While this can be good for almost anybody, it is really helpful in addiction counseling.
When trying to prevent relapse, one of the key factors is to replace bad behavior patterns with healthy ones. Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches patients to recognize bad behavior patterns and the things that trigger them, and then helps establish new, healthier patterns. So for instance, let's take cigarette smoking.
If you're a smoker, maybe you smoke a cigarette every time you get in your car. Now every time you get in your car, your brain is wired to think it's time to smoke a cigarette. If you're trying to quit smoking, cognitive behavioral therapy may suggest that when you get in your car, instead of smoking, you chew a piece of gum.
A major challenge in addiction counseling is teaching patients how to manage problems. They must relearn their approach to problem-solving and find what led them to drugs in the first place. Cognitive behavioral therapy is how this rewiring is accomplished.
There are three basic therapy categories: outpatient treatment, residential treatment, and maintenance therapy. Which category a recovering addict is placed into depends on many factors, including the severity of their addiction, any additional issues, and the patient's own wishes. Outpatient therapy is the middle of these three categories.
When a patient enters outpatient therapy, they can leave the treatment facility, and they may not spend most of their time there. They do not live on premises. Outpatient treatment patients mostly attend rehab activities a few hours per day.
Outpatient therapy is often used for patients leaving residential treatment plans. It is also used for those with more well-managed addictions, who do not need constant support. A patient may even keep a job while in outpatient treatment, depending on the nature of the treatment.
Outpatient treatment can be a good tool to help a patient get through the first year of recovery. They spend time in the world, running into the usual obstacles and challenges. But at the same time, they still have the support of the counseling to help them adjust during this period.
Residential treatment is the most intensive category of substance abuse therapy. A patient in residential treatment lives 24/7 at the facility, where they are kept away from any of the problems that may lead to a relapse. Although there are some involuntary treatment facilities, these are only used when a patient is a danger to themselves or others.
Most residential treatment facilities are voluntary, and patients may check in or out any time. The idea is to isolate the patient from the usual stressors while they are building a new, healthier set of habits and coping mechanisms. For more severe addictions, this can be crucial to starting the recovery process.
Typically, a patient will stay at a facility for weeks or months. This may include some time on medical detox, therapy, and even family counseling. Often, patients will rise early, have an early meeting that may include yoga or meditation or similar activity, go to a group counseling session, eat a healthy lunch, attend individual therapy or a specialized session to deal with anger management or similar issues, and perhaps engage in alternative therapies such as equine therapy or art therapy.
The downside to residential treatment is the cost. These programs can cost thousands of dollars and are often not covered by insurance. You may want to check with the therapy center on options for insurance coverage or payment plans.
Maintenance therapy is the lowest-maintenance level of substance abuse counseling. The target group for maintenance therapy is recovering addicts who are on their way to resuming their regular lives. Though they may be through the worst of the recovery process, they may still need extra support.
Maintenance therapy usually involves a meeting every week or few weeks. This can be with a sponsor or counselor, or it can be with a therapy group. AA and NA are good examples of maintenance therapy groups.
Given that most relapse happens in the first year, maintenance therapy can be important in helping a recovering addict stay clean. It can help ground them, and when they run into a problem, it can help provide alternate solutions. If a patient is also dealing with a mental illness, this can be crucial to keep the disorder managed.
The eventual goal of all substance abuse counseling is to move all patients to only attending maintenance therapy as needed. Occasionally, medicinal support can actually be a part of maintenance therapy. But mostly, maintenance therapy is a way to help patients remember what they learned during therapy.
More Information About Substance Abuse Counseling
If you or a loved one is dealing with addiction, substance abuse counseling can be the best way to take back control of your life. It provides recovering addicts with the tools needed for a successful recovery. This is as well as a supportive environment in which to begin their journey.
If you want to know more about substance abuse counseling, visit the rest of our site at Addiction Advocates. We are a non-profit partnership working to help addicts take their lives back day by day. Use our online tool to find a rehab facility near you.