Have you ever wondered if talk therapy works? Talk therapy, also called psychotherapy, has long been a standard treatment method for those recovering from addiction. Talk therapy comes in many forms, and though it may appear to be just talking, it has a great effect beyond the verbal space. Talk therapy is effective mainly because addiction is a brain disease.
Is Talk Therapy Just Talk?
It can seem like just talking won’t get you anywhere. Does it? The answer is yes and no. Professionally trained therapists will ask you leading questions. First, these questions may be about your symptoms and experiences to achieve a diagnosis. After that, the therapist will guide you to identify negative thought patterns (such as negative self-talk) that are deeper causes of symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety, and stress. Then, they can help you talk your way through creating better, healthier ways of thinking.
Because substance addiction is a chronic brain disease, and the brain is where our thoughts and emotions are regulated, talking about these aspects becomes the main conduit of treatment. By talking through struggles, triumphs, and alternatives, your brain becomes more familiar with adaptive ways of thinking. Therefore, you can heal your brain and body as you talk with your therapist.
Can Talk Therapy Be as Effective as Medications?
The effectiveness of talk therapy has been confirmed. For example, researchers have conducted hundreds of studies on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). They found that for recovering individuals with major depression and anxiety, CBT can be as effective as antidepressants.
Because talk therapy focuses on rewiring the brain’s neurological pathways by correcting maladaptive thought patterns, it can create sustainable changes. Furthermore, once these thought patterns are corrected, people may have a lower chance of relapse. This means that psychotherapy’s benefits are both multiple and long-lasting.
Can Talk Therapy Really Change the Brain?
Psychotherapy can indeed change the brain. This has been confirmed by observing changes in brain structure through brain imaging techniques. Psychotherapy helps the brain heal because our experience is closely linked to our brain functioning. To some extent, one can understand psychotherapy as a form of non-invasive brain surgery.
Take traumatic stress, for example. This changes not only the chemistry of the brain but also neurological structures. This is also known as “neuroplasticity” of the brain. As adverse events change the brain through neuroplasticity, the same mechanism also makes it possible to shift brain structures for the better. Psychotherapy is a kind of intervention that allows the release of negative experiences using neuroplasticity.
What Other Benefits Does Talk Therapy Offer?
Psychotherapy is considered a “non-invasive” technique. It may seem like you, and a therapist are talking about feelings and past experiences, but much more is happening under the surface. Have you ever experienced the feeling of comfort after confiding in a trusted friend? A talk therapist not only lends a listening ear but also skillfully navigates the conversation to rewire thought patterns and beliefs that cause stress.
Many recovering individuals experience self-perpetuating negative thought patterns that create deep pathways in the brain to cause anxiety and stress. If they can stop these patterns in their tracks, they can progress in recovery. Talk therapy helps people achieve that.
Psychotherapy also helps people heal from obsessive and compulsive symptoms caused by long-term use of substances. For example, CBT can decrease activity in the limbic and para-limbic areas of the brain in recovering individuals. These changes are similar to the effects of using antidepressants.
How Long Will It Take for Psychotherapy to Work?
The length of treatment varies from person to person. It often depends on the nature and severity of a recovering individual’s addiction and co-occurring disorders. For example, chronic depression or other mental health conditions, in addition to addiction, may require a longer duration, such as 30 sessions over six months.
When choosing the right treatment, it is also essential to consider how each individual would like to work with their psychotherapist. Discussion of treatment format and length should be part of the initial conversation with a therapist. Individuals should also know that it is common for psychotherapists to begin several assessment sessions before suggesting a treatment plan. Patience and persistence will help them accurately diagnose individuals and propose a treatment plan.
How Can Family Members of a Recovering Individual Benefit From Talk Therapy?
Substance addiction impacts the whole family. Some people may have experienced mental health issues due to exposure to a loved one’s past addiction. Family members and friends may also need guidance from a psychotherapist to better support a loved one.
Talk therapy can be done in group formats, such as couples counseling, 12-Step support groups, and family therapy. There are many benefits to this group format of psychotherapy because a trained mental health professional will help recovering individuals and their loved ones identify unhealthy relationship dynamics that may stall recovery progress. Early intervention is always recommended. Everyone can benefit from talk therapy with time, patience, and persistence.
Addiction is a chronic but treatable brain disorder. With appropriate intervention and aftercare, individuals can recover from it. Among all traditional treatment methods, psychotherapy has been proven highly effective. Both individual and group therapy methods are designed to rework recovering individuals’ habits, thoughts, motivations, and mentality to slowly shift those deep-rooted behaviors into healthy functioning. At Laguna Shores Recovery, our recovery experts are the best in psychotherapy. In addition to detox and medications, we offer many kinds of talk therapy, 12-Step groups, family therapy, and creative therapies. We also provide an outpatient program to support you in achieving long-term health. We will walk alongside you toward success. Call (866) 774-1532.