Outpatient Therapy Options
While medications can soothe cravings and support groups can provide opportunities for friendship and socialization, therapy sessions provide addicted people with the tools they’ll use, each and every day, as they strive to keep an addiction under control. It’s practical, skills-based, sober life training that can help people both examine and change the behaviors that keep them trapped in a cycle of substance abuse, unhappiness and relapse. Since therapy is so important to long-term recovery, it’s not surprising that there are so many different paths therapists can use in order to help their clients. These are just a few therapy options provided to people who opt to fight back against addiction in an outpatient treatment program.
Motivational Enhancement Therapy
Just as addictions can stem from different roots in different people, the motivation to heal and get well can vary dramatically from person to person. For some, the need to improve is critical, as continuing on an addicted path could lead to the loss of child custodial rights or a secure job. For others, however, the addiction seems manageable or else just not very difficult to hide, and the urge to leave the behavior behind is quickly muddled and muffled. People like this might haul their bodies into treatment appointments, and they might loll about in their chairs as the sessions move forward, but their hearts and minds aren’t committed to the work, and they might just as easily leave the whole issue in the past and continue with their behavior as if nothing were wrong and nothing needed to change.
Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) strives to help people see how their addictions are hindering them from achieving real goals in life. The therapy isn’t confrontational, but it does run on the assumption that the idea the person has about the addiction is somehow faulty, and by changing that idea, the person might also be convinced to change his or her life. Therapists might ask clients with low levels of motivation to change to really think about the addiction and how helpful it is, and then think of how life might be while lived in a sober manner. Sessions like this might provide the key that can turn reluctant, grumpy clients into active participants, ready to learn more about living a healthier life.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, therapy like this is typically completed in about five sessions, and it’s a good approach for people who are addicted to alcohol or marijuana. For these clients, it’s a good first step on the road to recovery. Work done in sessions like this can help people really feel a need to change, and this might provide them with the motivation they need to do the hard work of traditional addiction therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy+
This form of therapy, often referred to as CBT, has long been considered the gold standard when it comes to addiction therapy, as people who obtain this kind of care are often able to see their behaviors clearly and make changes for the better with their newfound knowledge. The sessions can vary widely, depending on the issues the clients are dealing with, but often, sessions focus on the thoughts, feelings and actions that cause a spike in cravings for addictive substances. When those triggers are known, the therapy attempts to help people learn how to ameliorate the damage by developing new thoughts, feelings and actions.
To give one example, consider the fact that addiction cravings sometimes spike in people who feel anxious in crowds. A drink seems to help people like this feel calm and in control, so crowds tend to cause a spike in cravings for alcohol. In a CBT session, a client might learn how to avoid crowded situations, but when they can’t be avoided, the person might use meditation to slow breathing and reduce panic, decreasing a feeling of stress and anxiety, and therefore reducing the need to drink. It’s a method that can give addicted people the power drinking and drugs have stolen away, and in time, people might be able to use the power of the mind to deal with distress, instead of relying on addictive substances.
With each therapy session completed and each new lesson learned, the addicted person gets stronger and stronger, more able to handle pressure and more likely to feel calm and relaxed. For some people, this sense of accomplishment is reward enough, and it allows them to stay motivated to attend each and every session without fail. There are some people, however, who find that therapy sessions are just hard work, and they might feel a pull to return to the immediate joy that using addictive substances can bring. For these people, contingency management might be of vital help.
In a contingency management program, people are provided with small prizes or gifts in return for milestones, including:
- Attending meetings
- Producing urine tests free of drugs
- Keeping therapy appointments
- Completing homework
The prizes might start small and stay small, or they might begin modestly and then escalate until they’re quite large and hard to ignore. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has studied this idea extensively, and they’ve found that prizes can help people to stay abstinent, but that therapy is really the key to long-term abstinence. In other words, prizes can keep people coming back to therapy sessions, and it’s the therapy sessions that bring about the healing. The prizes are just the carrot that can lure people to the treatments that can help them.
Families may endure deep damage as the result of an addiction, fighting with one another on a daily basis, all while remembering how things used to be before the addiction was a part of their daily existence. These patterns can become entrenched, and they can be quite hard to overcome. Even though families may want to support one another and live together in harmony, they may be trapped in old patterns that are hard to break and that continue to lock addictive behaviors in place. Family therapy is designed to help damaged families like this examine the ways in which they’ve changed and the things they’ll need to do in order to heal. Some sessions include all members of the family, but some appointments include only a few members of the family. Some sessions might not even include the addicted person at all.
Much of the work done in addiction treatment seems intensely personal, dealing with a person’s preferences, history and relationships. People with addictions might be accustomed to keeping their feelings inside and their habits hidden, so they might be most comfortable in private therapy sessions, as they’ll have their secrets kept by a trained professional. There are times, however, when groups can provide people with the opportunity to practice their skills.
Group work, for example, might help people with:
- Stress management
- Substance refusal
- Relapse prevention
In group meetings, they can learn from a therapist, and they can then turn around and practice their skills in a series of role-playing sessions. They are still working in a private setting, and they’re still dealing with very private issues, but they’re able to practice and share and relate, and this could be key to their long-term success.
Studies of the effectiveness of group work have compared this type of help with the assistance provided in individual counseling sessions. A study like this in the journal Addiction found that both individual and group sessions could help people with addictions, essentially claiming that no type of care was better than another. However, studies like this fail to take the social aspect of group meetings into account. People with addictions are often so isolated that they need to re-learn how to relate to their communities without the buffer of drugs in place. Group therapy might help them to do that, and therefore, its value might be hard to overstate.
Pulling Together a Plan
Addiction programs are designed to be customized, depending on the issues the people have and the ways in which they learn best. Addiction treatment programs also attempt to help people take responsibility for the future and for their well-being, and including clients in the planning sessions could help therapists meet both goals. Clients might be asked about the therapy types they prefer, or they might be presented with a therapy plan, and then asked to give their input on the treatments they think might be beneficial or interesting.
Giving input can be a healthy way to take control of the treatment process, but people who don’t feel comfortable weighing in on the addiction issue can also just allow their therapists to pull together the right kind of treatment program and leave their care in the hands of experts. Later, when they’re feeling better, they may have other things to say about how the care should progress. That input would also be welcome, and the treatment program might change multiple times, depending on the issues the person needs to address as the healing process moves forward.
Reading about the treatment options can be exhilarating, as these options seem to provide many paths people can take on the way to healing, but reading up can also be frightening, as some people may worry that they won’t know what questions to ask or what options to look for as they heal. There’s no reason to worry. We can help to explain your options, and help you find the right kind of program to meet your needs. Our care coordinators here at Foundations Recovery Network are fully qualified to answer any questions you might have and help you find the right way to heal. Please call.