Can therapy help with addiction?
Photo by Alex Green
Addiction is no laughing matter. It destroys the lives of people directly affected by it and of those that are close to them. And yet according to a report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, only one in seven people receives the treatment they need.
Partnership to end Addiction defines addiction as a complex disease that affects both the mind and body by messing up the portions of the brain that are in charge of rewards and motivation and even judgment and memory. Their definition is limited only to substance addiction but there are other types as well such as the Internet or porn addiction.
One thing that they all have in common is the fact that the person suffering from the addiction keeps engaging with the substance or material that they are addicted to despite negative consequences to their health and life in general.
The good news is there is a way to get help. All it takes to make your initial step is to book an online therapy session or see a therapist in person and you will make your slow but certain way on the path of recovery.
Since addictions stem from normal and socially acceptable activities such as drinking alcohol or gambling or engaging in sexual intercourse things might seem normal at the first glance. It is only when these activities reveal their dark and destructive side that one might realize that they have a problem.
Most frequently addiction develops as a form of escapism – the addict experiences an unusual surge of pleasure from these activities and cannot resist the urge to engage with them repeatedly in pursuit of that initial feeling of pleasure.
Many people – teens or adults – are not aware of the negative impact that their addiction has on their well-being and the wellness of those around them. Even if they manage to break free from the harmful activity on their own that is only the first step in a long and hard battle toward recovery. Since many addictions are rooted in covering up traumas addiction recovery can be a long and draining process.
That is why willpower alone is not enough to break free from addiction. A former addict will need all the love and support they can get along with some professional aid from a mental health expert.
Below you can read about different types of therapy that have been proven to work in treating addiction and learn about the ways they work.
Therapy that can help with addiction
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – This type of treatment can help the patient by teaching them to recognize toxic patterns and behaviors and how to avoid them. A CBT therapist can teach you to recognize the triggers that lead you to addictive actions and give you the skill set needed to resist going down that path. They can also teach you how to manage those urges in a more healthy manner.
Contingency management – Think of this type of therapy as CBT with a more positive twist. In fact, the very core idea behind contingency management is rewarding people for making positive changes in their lives. A therapist that provides this kind of therapy might give their patients vouchers for negative drug tests or find another way to reward a positive change. Since as stated above addiction has a close relation with reward systems in our brains this type of treatment has a high success rate.
Motivational interviewing – this type of therapy is conversation based. As its name suggests the therapist is in charge of keeping the patient goal-oriented and motivated. For instance, a mental health professional might discuss the way the patient used to live while they were struggling with the addiction and help them see the perks of their current situation, and keep them focused on a better and brighter future.
Rational emotional behavior therapy (REBT) – At a glance, this type of therapy might seem similar to CBT. After all they both aim to help the patient recognize negative thought patterns and belief systems that might lead them to harmful or destructive behavior. The main difference lies in the fact that REBT works by discovering faulty or irrational thought patterns and replacing them with ones based on logic. This type of therapy encourages people to take responsibility for the way they act and feel while teaching them how to cope with negative emotions and stress all the while building up their self-confidence.
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) – This is yet another subset of CBT. But instead of teaching people to dwell on their negative emotions, this therapy is all about living in the moment and places a great deal of focus on mindfulness. It is particularly effective in stopping patients from harming themselves and helping them overcome the hard-to-bear days.
Other things to keep in mind
This point bears repeating – addiction is a severe problem. As such it will often require more than just therapy – no matter how effective – before it is successfully resolved.
First of all not, every type of therapy will suit every individual. Different people have different needs and experiences so it is natural that different types of treatment will be effective for them.
Secondly, many types of addiction – especially substance addictions such as alcoholism or drug or nicotine addiction – might need additional drugs to make the treatment a success.
Next, keep in mind that different approaches might work during different times in the treatment process. Initially, you might be getting some results with a CBT therapist but you might need to continue seeing a motivational therapist keep you going. A good therapist will know how to address your core issues instead of focusing on just fixing the addiction. Only then will you have a fighting chance.
Finally, remember that getting rid of an addiction is a long and hard process. Every tiny step toward an addiction-free life matters. Remember to stay strong and build yourself a real-life support network.
The road to recovery is long but with the proper help, you will make it.