Substance Abuse Therapy Techniques: Individual, Group & Family Therapy
- Importance Of Addiction Therapy
- Evidence-Based Vs. Holistic Therapies
- Addiction Therapy Approaches
- Group Therapy Techniques
- Individual Vs. Group Therapy
- Other Treatments
Substance abuse therapy is integral to the healing process of addiction treatment, and is typically subcategorized into individual, group, and family therapies. Each technique helps to develop awareness and valuable insights into feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that play parts in patterns of addiction.
From the early stages of substance abuse treatment to aftercare programming, therapeutic approaches are designed to reveal the underlying issues that perpetuate cycles of addiction.
Individual, group, and family counseling services are crucial to helping people achieve success in recovery, by identifying the root causes of their substance abuse through self-exploration.
All three types of therapy ultimately empower people undergoing treatment to build healthier relationships with themselves, their families and loved ones, and their peers in recovery.
Why Addiction Therapy Is Important In Recovery
Abstinence from mind-altering substances is only half the battle. The other half entails understanding the psychological and emotional factors of compulsive drug or alcohol use.
Through therapy, people can identify their primary triggers and stressors, and learn how to cope with their most challenging emotions without resorting to substances for temporary relief.
Therapy is the base of success for any long-term recovery journey. It’s the focal point of inpatient rehab, outpatient treatment, medication-assisted treatment, and other types of care.
Evidence-Based Vs. Holistic Therapies For Addiction
Evidence-based therapy refers to therapeutic practices in psychology that have demonstrated clinical efficacy and success according to peer-reviewed scientific studies and journals.
Holistic methods, such as yoga, are considered less conventional and tangible in terms of efficacy, with more emphasis on the integrated relationship between the mind, body, and spirit.
While some healthcare professionals and patients might strongly prefer one over the other, there are instances when both can be used in a complementary way to treat addiction.
Some types of addiction therapy approaches can belong in either evidence-based or holistic categories, depending on how they are administered and what goals they set to achieve.
Types Of Addiction Therapy Approaches
Effective addiction therapy is meant to address the mental nature of chemical dependence. Every type of therapeutic approach has a unique way of forming healthier neural pathways.
Patients may respond better to some therapy approaches than others on a case-by-case basis. In many cases, a combination of approaches can be more effective than one approach alone.
Most rehab centers offer a range of therapy approaches to provide individualized care for each client.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based type of psychotherapy that integrates cognitive and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders and improve mental health.
CBT is one of the most common types of addiction therapy that you’ll find at addiction counseling and rehab centers in New England and across the U.S.
This approach is based on the basic theory that behaviors, thoughts, and feelings are interwoven, and patterns in all three can be changed or relearned to produce healthier ones.
In addiction treatment, CBT is often used in combination with other treatments to help people learn how to develop effective coping skills in place of substances.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy
Similar to CBT, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a counseling approach that helps people learn how to cope with stressors that trigger challenging emotions and unhealthy behaviors.
Originally, DBT was designed to treat borderline personality disorders by teaching emotional regulation strategies such as mindfulness and distress tolerance.
Mindfulness practices help people to stay in the present, and distress tolerance entails self-soothing and distraction techniques to cope with intense feelings and emotions in real-time.
DBT is now also used for other disorders such as:
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- behavioral and mental health disorders
- substance use disorders in individual and group therapy settings
Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an advanced and modern therapeutic technique that focuses on the connection between trauma and addiction.
The EMDR approach is based on the theory that substance abuse patterns evolve as survival skills to cope with memories and emotions related to traumatic experiences.
By processing these memories in therapy, people can learn how to manage triggering emotions and gradually overcome their fears of experiencing those emotional responses.
EMDR has evolved as an evidence-based therapeutic practice that can treat people with addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders.
Self-motivation to maintain sobriety is essential to long-term recovery and is something many people find difficult during the early phases of treatment.
The technique of motivational interviewing entails counseling people on finding their inner resolve and motivation for working on themselves to improve their lives for the better.
Helping people discover their motives and goals for abstinence is a journey of self-exploration that reveals inner strengths and develops self-confidence and self-worth.
There are four principles of motivational interviewing:
- expressing empathy for the patient
- supporting the patient’s self-efficacy
- working through a patient’s resistance
- developing discrepancies between past, present, and future circumstances
With motivational interviewing, therapists passively listen and empathize with patients as they actively work through their hesitancies and mental obstacles to recovery.
Motivational interviewing is often combined with other approaches such as CBT, DBT, stress management, and group therapy for optimal results.
Community Reinforcement Approach
Reinforcing positive lifestyle changes and healthier choices is key for people in early recovery, who are still adapting to sobriety, as motivation is driven by rewarding experiences in recovery.
The community reinforcement approach provides perspective on the comparison between living in active addiction and enjoying life without being dependent on mind-altering substances.
The theory behind community reinforcement is that reward is more influential on behavioral modification than punishment.
Healthy behaviors that are reinforced are more likely to be repeated. People in general are increasingly motivated by the benefits of sobriety.
- healthier relationships
- educational and employment opportunities
- connections to their communities
The integration of family therapy in addiction recovery programs is considered a crucial element of the treatment process, as family dynamics play a major role.
Engaging family members and loved ones in a person’s substance abuse treatment helps everyone involved to be aware of the roles they play and the behaviors that fuel the addiction.
Through family therapy, each person who has been affected by substance abuse directly or indirectly can support one another in improving family dynamics and bonds.
Mutual support programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12-step recovery models help people in early sobriety get connected in their communities.
The principles of 12-step programs are designed to empower peers in sobriety to support one another and share experiences, strength, and hope as they navigate journeys in recovery.
The following are the themes for each of the 12 steps:
- Soul searching
- Making contact
- Service to others
The 12 steps set a strong foundation for recovery that people can continue building on in their communities after completing intensive treatment and moving into lower levels of care.
Many sober living homes in Massachusetts and beyond require 12-step group attendance to maintain residency.
Holistic Therapy Techniques
Holistic therapy, also known as spiritual, somatic, and mind-body therapy techniques, are integrations of conventional and nontraditional approaches.
A wide variety of holistic therapy techniques are based on the delicately balanced connection between the mind, body, and spirit.
These methods are designed to increase self-awareness and mindfulness.
Some common practices in holistic therapy include:
- chiropractic care
Group Therapy For Addiction Treatment
Based on the concept that humans are instinctively drawn to connection, various types of group therapy are considered highly beneficial for people undergoing treatment for addiction.
Therapy in group settings, whether peer-led or professionally facilitated, is a natural way for people to feel accepted by their peers as they navigate the challenges of early sobriety.
Group therapy provides opportunities for people to emotionally interact and connect with other people they relate to.
In these safe groups, people in recovery can share experiences without fear of judgment or rejection.
As people undergo therapy and experience recovery firsthand, they increasingly gain insight into their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Psychoeducational group topics are used to educate patients on how to leverage these insights to make healthier choices and use good judgment in challenging or triggering situations.
Psychoeducational groups provide continuity in treatment, as people learn about the mental, psychological, and behavioral effects and consequences of addiction versus those of sobriety.
Distress Tolerance Skills Groups
Distress tolerance is one of the four primary modules of dialectical behavior therapy that focuses on the development of coping strategies to use during crises or stressful situations.
The benefits of distress tolerance skills groups include helping people recovering from substance use disorders to learn how to tolerate stress that in the past would trigger drug use.
Relapse Prevention Groups
An essential part of addiction treatment is identifying relapse triggers and developing tools and skills to use in situations that could potentially trigger compulsions to drink or use again.
In relapse prevention groups, people learn about the stages and warning signs of relapse. Relapse prevention strategies can be learned and practiced in individual and group settings.
Triggers And Coping Skills Groups
Triggers and coping skills groups provide an outlet for people to explore the internal and external factors that increase their vulnerability to relapse.
While the topic of triggers can be intimidating, discussing them among peers with similar experiences and fears can decrease the anxiety around the possibility of relapse.
People can identify with one another and exchange feedback on the coping skills for addiction they use or would like to use.
Other Specialized Groups For Addiction Recovery
Specialized groups include a wide range of therapy approaches to address the specific needs of people with similar backgrounds.
Gender-specific groups may be designed for people who prefer to engage in group therapy with peers within their own gender, such as female or male survivors of sexual trauma.
There are also specialized groups for people who identify with a specific culture and would benefit more from being a group that is focused on cultural themes and backgrounds.
Other group therapy types include:
- veteran addiction recovery groups
- groups for single or parenting mothers
- groups for pregnant people
- LGBTQ+ addiction recovery groups
- PTSD-focused recovery groups
- group therapy for teens, adults, or seniors
- groups for people with co-occurring disorders
Individual Therapy Vs. Group Therapy
The advantages of group therapy vs. individual therapy are unique. They can be mutually beneficial and complementary when integrated throughout the drug treatment phases.
Individual therapy accomplishes a variety of treatment goals that are specific to each client. Treatment interventions can then be adapted to goals and modified as therapy progresses.
In an individual therapy setting, you can work one-on-one with your therapist to uncover the roots of addiction and process difficult memories or factors contributing to addiction.
Group therapy accomplishes treatment goals with a different approach, by creating a safe space for people to connect and process their emotions collectively.
In a group setting, people develop a therapeutic alliance with their peers that fosters vulnerability and nurtures trusting relationships, which they can carry forward in recovery.
It is also an opportunity to experience compassion and express empathy for others in similar situations, and develop communication and social skills that are essential for a balanced life.
Other Treatments For Substance Use Disorder
Treatment approaches including therapy are often blended throughout the phases of recovery, including detox, inpatient, outpatient, and aftercare.
Therapy is introduced as early as the drug detox phase and therapeutic alliances continue to develop as patients build trust and confidence in their counselors, their peers, and themselves.
During inpatient addiction treatment, clients participate in individual and group therapy daily for several hours a day. Inpatient is the most intensive level of care after detox.
Inpatient care is a critical phase designed to immerse people in therapy with few distractions so that they can fully experience their feelings, thoughts, and emotions in early abstinence.
Every person’s progress in therapy is monitored and assessed throughout each phase of treatment, and challenges are addressed as necessary with modified approaches.
Following the inpatient phase, outpatient treatment is recommended to keep the momentum of therapeutic processing going.
People can take what knowledge and education they gained from inpatient treatment and apply it to real-life situations, while still attending therapy sessions.
Intensive outpatient treatment entails both individual and group therapy, as well as more specialized therapy depending on diagnoses and treatment goals established in inpatient care.
The MAT approach combines therapy with medication assistance, with continuous communication between the patient and the clinical team about their treatment progress.
MAT is a common approach to helping people sustain abstinence with maintenance medications such as methadone, Suboxone, and Vivitrol, while they receive outpatient therapy services.
Find Addiction Therapy Near You
If you or a loved one is dealing with active addiction and ready for a change, there are many different treatment approaches to choose from to create an individualized treatment plan.
At Spring Hill Recovery Center, we believe in making the recovery experience unique and rewarding for every person who seeks treatment for overcoming a substance use disorder.
Call our helpline to speak with a specialist about the evidence-based therapy approaches we offer to help clients achieve their treatment goals and a fulfilling life of sobriety.
Written by Spring Hill Editorial Team
©2023 Spring Hill Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved
This page does not provide medical advice.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse – Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-approaches-drug-addiction
- National Library of Medicine – Effectiveness of EMDR in Patients https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5356401/
- National Library of Medicine – Groups and Substance Abuse Treatment https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64223/
- National Library of Medicine – 2 Types of Groups Commonly Used in Substance Abuse Treatment https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64214/
- Positive Psychology – What is Evidence-Based Therapy: 3 EBT Interventions https://positivepsychology.com/evidence-based-therapy/
- VeryWell Mind – Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) https://www.verywellmind.com/dialectical-behavior-therapy-1067402
- VeryWell Mind – Successful Addiction Treatment Should Include Family Therapy https://www.verywellmind.com/addiction-treatment-should-include-family-therapy-67293
- WebMD – Why Therapy Is Essential in Treating Addiction https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/counseling-and-addiction-how-therapy-can-help