Addiction is a complex disease that can affect many areas of a person’s life. It is a chronic disease that compels a person to seek out and use harmful substances despite negative consequences. The path to addiction starts with taking drugs or drinking alcohol for pleasure, possibly with friends or in social settings. Over time, a person develops a physical and psychological dependence, and the seeking and using drugs or alcohol becomes compulsive. When it gets to this stage, addiction requires intervention and treatment.

Can Substance Addiction Be Treated?

The good news is that addiction can definitely be treated. However, it is a complicated process. Because it is a chronic and progressive disease, people cannot just stop using drugs or drinking alcohol for a few days and be cured. In most cases, people need outside help and support. By attending a high-quality treatment program like Cardinal Recovery, many people who struggle with addiction can stop using completely and gain total control back over their lives.

To adequately address addiction, treatment needs to be tailored toward the different needs of each individual. Successful treatment plans will address the underlying causes of the disease as well as the consequences that substance abuse has in a person’s life. Drug or alcohol addiction can impact a person’s ability to socialize, their physical and mental health, their jobs and employment opportunities, their home life, school, and more.

Substance Abuse Recovery Approaches in Individual Therapy

Many types of therapies for substance abuse exist that can successfully treat addiction. Usually, a combination of treatments can help lead to the best chance for success in maintaining sobriety. However, individual therapy is generally an integral part of the process. Cardinal Recovery works with each individual to come up with a customized recovery plan that gives them the best chances of success.

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Creating a private environment where a patient and therapist have consistent one-on-one time gives the patient the opportunity to truly address the mental dimension of their addiction. It creates a level of comfort for the patient knowing they can express their deepest thoughts and feelings without risking judgment from their peers. As a result, a patient might be inclined to share more in their individual sessions than in a group setting, leading to a better chance of breakthroughs throughout addiction recovery.

During therapy sessions, patients are given the opportunity to feel seen and heard, while in a group setting they might feel lost in the environment of others. While information shared in group environments is supposed to be confidential, not all addicts will trust their peers. On the other hand, medical professionals are legally bound to keep information about their patients private.

Individual therapy also provides an opportunity for a patient to foster their social skills. Therapists can help guide and control a conversation with a patient to effectively help them create a better comfort level when interacting with peers, while also teaching self-awareness.

In many cases, someone who struggles with substance addiction also has at least one co-occurring disorder, such as anxiety or depression. Either the disorder developed as a result of the substance use or substances have been used in an effort to help manage a disorder. Speaking to a therapist will help the patient identify the specific causes that led to addiction. Once the motivating factors are examined and analyzed, a therapist can provide tools necessary for a patient to help control their addiction and successfully complete recovery.

Additionally, a therapist can be viewed by a patient as one of their strongest supporters and best resources throughout recovery. By providing ongoing advice and guidance specific to the individual creates a better probability that a patient will complete their treatment program.

Why Individual Therapy Is Necessary

Addiction is more than a physical dependence on drugs or alcohol. Even after a person has eliminated the substance from the body and overcome physical dependence, there can still be a high risk of relapse. Certain psychological and social factors can easily tailspin a person into relapse and create an urge to use again, such as social networks, pressure from peers, life stressors, amongst other variables. Therapy can help a person escape cravings and develop the tools to manage life without drugs or alcohol.

Therapy addresses the mental and emotional needs of an individual in recovery. Because drugs and alcohol are often used to avoid painful emotions or escape from stressful situations, there will be many times that arise in a recovering individual’s life when they will be tempted to rely on drugs and alcohol to help them feel okay again. This is a natural part of recovery; It does not meant that anything is wrong with a person for having cravings when they feel unable to cope with life. Therapy can help make sense of the emotional and mental processes a person goes through and help the individual address challenges and function successfully in life again.

Principles of Effective Treatment

Based on scientific research since the mid-1970s1, many addiction and rehab specialists believe that the following facts form the core of a successful recovery plan:

  • Addiction is a complex but treatable disease.
  • No single treatment is right for everyone.
  • It is essential to have quick access to treatment.
  • Effective treatment takes a holistic view of the individual, not just their drug or alcohol use.
  • It is important to stay in treatment long enough to have developed new coping skills.
  • Counseling and other behavioral therapies are the most effective forms of treatment.
  • Medications can be an important part of treatment, especially when combined with behavioral therapies.
  • Treatment plans must be adapted over time to fit a person’s changing needs.
  • Treatment should take into account any co-occurring mental disorders.
  • Detoxification is only the first stage of treatment.
  • Treatment programs should teach people about the steps they can take to reduce their risk of relapse.


Recovery Approaches in Individual Therapy

As recovery might not be a permanent solution for addiction, individual therapy can teach a patient effective decision-making strategies and coping skills that attempt to prevent a relapse.

During individual sessions, a therapist will likely help a patient:

  • Accept they have a problem: A therapist can successfully encourage their patient to come to terms with their addiction
  • Manage substance cravings: Decision-making skills and strategies can help the patient make positive lifestyle choices amidst cravings
  • Be motivated to complete recovery: A therapist’s support can encourage a patient to complete recovery even when faced with challenges
  • Help the patient commit to sobriety beyond recovery: Determine a post-recovery plan that might include involvement in peer groups to help prevent a relapse

Throughout recovery, session frequency and length of sessions can vary depending upon the needs of the patient. Professional drug and alcohol counselors at Cardinal Recovery can help you come up with a plan that works for you.

Types of Therapy

Addiction treatment will commonly offer a combination of group and individual therapy sessions. The goal of therapy is to aid the individual in learning skills to cope with cravings and navigate life without substances. It also teaches how to handle life stressors without turning to drugs or alcohol and how to stay aware of and avoid potentially dangerous situations.

Behavioral therapy is the most commonly used treatment approach for addiction. This is an umbrella term for a wide variety of therapeutic styles and has been adapted in various forms to suit the different needs of patients. Some of the different styles include the following:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

A key component of individual therapy usually includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT. CBT can be applied in the treatment of many types of problematic substance use. It is a proven method in counseling that delves deeply into the emotions and motivations that cause addiction through the study of an individual’s learning processes. It can help chart the journey of what underlying causes led to the manifestation of certain addictive behaviors. Most importantly, it constructively provides an individual with the tools to help overcome the temptation to relapse by establishing a new way of thinking.

CBT can help people develop healthier thought patterns, identify risk situations, and determine a plan of action to prevent the re-emergence of negative thought patterns. It is also helpful to pair it with other approaches. Skills learned in CBT continue to benefit the individual long after the initial stages of therapy and it can be used to treat co-occurring mental or physical health disorders as well.

By exploring future potential scenarios, a therapist is able to help the patient:

  • Develop self control
  • Understand the lifestyle side effects associated with substance use
  • Identify triggers
  • Help manage situations where there could be a risk of relapse

CBT is effective because the skills learned can continue to benefit a patient far beyond recovery. By replacing thoughts that might lead to relapse with coping strategies and positivity, an individual can take control of their lives and have a better chance of overcoming addiction in the long run.

Contingency Management (CM)

Contingency management may also be effective in treating people who have issues with a variety of addictive substances, such as alcohol, opiates, marijuana, and stimulants. This is a substance use recovery approach in individual therapy that focuses on the material rewards that come from demonstrating healthier behaviors, such as avoiding situations that might tempt a person to drink, engaging in healthy alternatives to substance use, etc. A major benefit of CM is that it helps a person stay focused on the positive aspects of sobriety, thus minimizing the risk of relapse.

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

Motivational interviewing is a drug addiction treatment that aims to motivate people in recovery toward having more confidence in their choice to maintain sobriety. The goal is to get a person to engage fully in their efforts at staying sober to give themselves the best chances of maintaining sobriety and making positive changes in their life. To begin with, a therapist will lead the sessions, but over time it teaches people to develop their own motivation and map out a plan to help themselves change. Many people find it incredibly motivating to feel like they have agency in their own recovery plan and are in control of their lives and their decisions.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

DBT is a treatment approach that is often used to treat personality disorders, but it can be adapted to address drug and alcohol substance abuse, too. It helps people to reduce cravings, avoid situations or opportunities which can cause relapse, stay aware of triggers that that lead to substance use, and teach healthy coping skills.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

REBT helps patients consider and analyze their own thoughts with the goal of developing better thought patterns and behavior over time. It also focuses on practical ways to promote healthier emotions and not get stuck in patterns of negative thinking. The core belief behind this approach is that true change happens within, rather than being imposed upon a person by outside forces.

Matrix Model

The Matrix Model is a form of one-on-one therapy that combines an array of therapeutic techniques. It started as a way to treat people who have used stimulants addictively, but is now used to address many other substance use issues. In this approach, therapists focus on rewarding good behaviors and teaching patients to believe in themselves and develop self-esteem, dignity, and self-worth.

12-Step Therapy

12-Step facilitation follows the principles of 12-step peer support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Therapists can help people work through the steps in individual therapy and people can also seek support from the different 12-step groups that meet in their area.

Treatment can be intensive at first, much like intensive outpatient treatment programs with people attending three sessions every week. After this initial period, most people transition to outpatient care or aftercare, which meets once or twice per week.

Inpatient or Residential Treatment

People can also receive individual therapy in an inpatient setting. This can be very effective, especially for those with more severe problems. Licensed community-based treatment facilities like Cardinal Recovery offer structured and intensive care to help individuals get on the road to recovery. Our facility uses a variety of therapeutic approaches, all of which are aimed at helping people live drug and alcohol-free lives after treatment.

If you or a loved one are thinking of entering a recovery program, Cardinal Recovery can match you with a treatment plan and professional counselors to help you succeed in all of your recovery goals.


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