Psychotherapy is an effective treatment option for people recovering from substance addiction. It is a general category of therapy encompassing many approaches that are effective for those in recovery from substance use because it addresses mental health and co-occurring behavioral issues. Psychotherapy is effective for addiction recovery because it treats the mind while observing how the body reacts to treatment.
What Is Psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy, also referred to as “talk therapy,” is grounded in dialogue and collaborative treatment philosophy. It aims to help a person identify and cope with negative emotions and related behaviors. It is performed by a trained, licensed mental health professional. Psychotherapy sessions usually involve a one-on-one meeting between a therapist and a patient, but it can be performed in a group setting as well, which has its own set of benefits.
Psychotherapy is an alternative or additional option to treatments such as medications. It plays a complementary role by helping a person address specific behavioral issues and can inform what kind and dosage of medication is most effective for each client. For people with substance addiction and mental health issues, psychotherapy aims to identify and treat problems such as negative self-talk, relationship difficulties, and cravings.
Why Is Psychotherapy Effective?
Psychotherapy helps a person become more aware of their thinking patterns which may contribute to behavioral problems. Some of these thoughts may be unconscious or automatic, but they tend to have lasting effects on one’s overall health and the chance of recovery from addiction. For example, low self-esteem may play a role in one’s chance of developing substance addiction. A trained psychotherapist helps clients find ways to question these assumptions and understand how these thoughts affect their emotions and behaviors. Self-awareness is the first step toward forming effective coping strategies.
A psychotherapist may also examine a person’s interactions with others and offer guidance about how to improve his or her social and relational skills. This is sometimes referred to as “interpersonal therapy” (IPT). Because many recovering individuals face difficulties rebuilding relationships after sobriety, psychotherapy helps them reboot and gives them coaching on rebuilding healthy boundaries in relationships.
Psychotherapy can be very effective in addressing relationship dynamics in a family system. Sometimes a therapist might invite family members to group or family therapy to examine the specific issues in a family. This is beneficial for the person in recovery as well as their family, as it helps them understand the process, how to help their loved one in recovery, and repairs any damage or hurt among members of the family.
What Are Some Common Methods?
There are many approaches to psychotherapy, each catering to a different aspect of treatment. Depending on the situation, a therapist may draw on one or more of the following methods.
The most common psychotherapy approach is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This form of talk therapy addresses and challenges the way a client thinks and acts to cultivate healthier thought and behavior patterns.
Some therapists who embrace a holistic approach may integrate meditation and mindfulness in their sessions. These techniques teach clients how to relax naturally and intentionally. They may also assign these practices as “homework.” A therapist might also suggest lifestyle modifications, including diet and nutrition changes. Sometimes health professionals may refer clients to an experiential form of therapy, like animal-assisted therapy, or music or art therapy.
Other approaches—such as dialectical behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy—might focus more on talking than doing. Clients are asked to describe early experiences to help the therapist better understand the root causes of their current mental health problems. Here, psychotherapy is very similar to counseling, but the former tends to look deeper into the underlying causes as well as how to solve them.
How Do You Choose the Right Therapist?
A psychotherapist may be trained as a psychologist, clinical social worker, clinical counselor, psychiatric nurse practitioner, or psychoanalyst. When choosing a therapist, one should ask about whether their credentials, experiences, and specialty match what they are looking for. This also includes whether they have experience in diagnosing and treating the client’s age, race, and gender group.
Some people may require a trauma-informed therapist or someone who provides gender-specific treatment, which is something they should find out before meeting a therapist in person. Information on the credentials of providers can be found on many websites such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Once one has this background knowledge, the first meeting with a therapist can be used to initiate a preliminary conversation about how treatment will proceed and assess whether the client feels comfortable working with this therapist. One should ask questions about their goals and expectations of therapy, confidentiality issues, a specific timeframe, evaluation of progress, and other considerations.
If you are undergoing treatment for substance addiction, it is important to incorporate psychotherapy into your treatment plans. Psychotherapy is an important element of treatment, but it must be used in conjunction with other methods for effective, whole body, and long-term wellness. Only treating the body through detoxification, or only treating the mind through talk therapy is not sufficient; both must be treated together. Untreated mental health and emotional health issues may increase your risk of relapse even after achieving sobriety. At Laguna Shores Recovery, we embrace a holistic approach to treating both the body and the mind. Our team of licensed mental healthcare professionals and therapists are experts in creating a customized treatment plan based on your needs. Many of our staff have been in recovery themselves, so they understand what you need. Our full medical residential facility offers diagnosis, psychotherapy, and 12-step programs. Call us at (866) 906-3203 to start your journey today.
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