Addiction Therapies: Which One Works Best?
When it comes to recovering from addiction, therapy from a qualified psychologist, psychiatrist or psychotherapist is an essential part of the equation, along with pharmaceutical intervention, when necessary, and peer group therapy.
Patient engagement through therapy has been shown to be a major key to recovery. Therapy can help patients manage stress, recognize harmful behaviors, be more mindful of their mental health, and even cope with past trauma that has led them to the abuse of alcohol and drugs.
This is very important, as addiction is often associated with childhood PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and the actions that addicts take during their addiction can also lead to traumatic stress that further harms their ability to recover.
But with so many different types of addiction therapies, you may be wondering what method works best, and which one may be right for you or a loved one who is struggling with addiction and is considering addiction rehabilitation. Let’s explore a few of the most commonly-used addiction therapies now.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of “talk therapy.” The primary focus of CBT is to speak to a mental health counselor in a structured way through multiple sessions. Through a dialogue with the counselor, you will be able to learn more about inaccurate and negative ways of thinking that may be affecting your behavior.
CBT can be very powerful for addiction because it focuses on helping addicts view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them effectively – without being overwhelmed or over-stressed by the situation at hand. In multiple studies, stress has been found to contribute to both alcohol relapse and drug relapse.
Whether it’s used alone or in concert with other therapies, CBT can be used to help treat addiction, as well as underlying mental health disorders that are frequently comorbid in addicted patients including PTSD, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) was first used specifically to treat Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). However, its use has expanded into treating self-harm and substance abuse. It’s based on modified CBT techniques and was first developed in the 1980s at the University of Washington.
It consists of four primary “modules” of treatment including distress tolerance, mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional regulation.
The program is designed to help individuals increase their ability to regulate their emotional and cognitive states, identify “triggers” for relapse and addiction, and cope with events, thoughts, feeling and behaviors more effectively. These modules are delivered through a structured program that typically takes a total of 24 weeks for treatment.
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)
First developed by psychotherapist Albert Ellis in the 1950s, REBT is widely known as the first form of CBT. It was developed to help reduce emotional disturbances due to unfortunate circumstances – and to help patients learn more about the way they view themselves and their situation. It can be used in both individual and group therapy settings, such as group recovery homes.
It uses a model known as “A-B-C-D-E” to assist in modeling behavior and fighting against “irrational” beliefs. Practicing this model can help you get back to rational thought.
The premise behind REBT is that by identifying irrational beliefs and gaining a new perspective, patients can release these harmful beliefs – and respond to situations in their lives with less stress, pain and emotional disturbances.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
ACT is another subtype of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The goal of ACT is to stimulate and increase psychological flexibility by using a combination of acceptance and mindfulness strategies, and a commitment to behavior-change strategies that help manage and mitigate stress.
This method of therapy emphasizes six basic principles that help patients develop psychological flexibility and deal with unfortunate circumstances and difficulties in their lives, as follows:
- Cognitive defusion – This involves learning ways to avoid treating events, thoughts, memories and moments as physical, concrete things, and seeing them as more abstract concepts that do not always have to influence your reality.
- Acceptance – Letting unwanted private moments and thoughts come and go without struggling against them.
- Contact with the present moment – Remaining mindful and present in the “now,” rather than the future of the past.
- The “observing self” – Separating yourself from experiences and gaining an objective view of your experiences.
- Values – Discovering what is truly important and valuable to oneself.
- Committed action – Taking steps and setting goals according to one’s values, and achieving them.
By promoting psychological flexibility and healthy stress reactions, ACT can help prevent negative behaviors associated with addiction.
Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is intended to help treat patients with PTSD. It involves a psychologist asking patients to recall a painful or distressing event or image, and using a method such as bilateral eye movement or hand tapping to help mitigate the distress of recalling the image.
It was first developed in the 1990s, when therapist Francine Shapiro found that rapid, voluntary eye movements under voluntary control would help reduce the stress and anxiety of recalling a traumatic event. While it is controversial in some circles of psychology, it has been found to be effective in PTSD treatment.
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is an eight-week, secular program that was developed at The University of Massachusetts Medical Center in the 1970s.
It focuses on using meditation, yoga, and an exploration of the patterns of behavior, thinking, feeling and acting in a patient’s life, with the goal of enhancing mindfulness, promoting stress reduction and relaxation, and improving quality of life.
A systematic review of MBSR and similar mindfulness-based therapies on addicts found that it was effective at treating addictive behaviors and promoting sobriety, though it concluded that further studies should be done with a larger sample size.
Which Addiction Therapy Is Right For Me? It Depends On Your Own Unique Needs!
When it comes to the question of which addiction therapy “works best,” there is no “right” answer. Addiction affects every patient in different ways – and is caused by a variety of different problems including stress, childhood trauma, and even underlying mental health issues.
For that reason, it’s best to work with a recovery center to explore your options if you are interested in therapy during drug rehabilitation. At Ethos Recovery, we can refer you to a variety of individual or family therapists, so that you can explore your options and find out which one may be right for you. Contact us now to get started.
Author – Chris Howard
Chris Howard is the Founder and Director of Ethos Recovery. He has a B.A. in Psychology from UCLA and has served as a community advocate/mentor for men and women in recovery since 2010.