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Addiction Recovery Therapy

The Role of Therapy in Recovery from Drug and Alcohol Addiction

When seeking drug or alcohol treatment, research supports the fact that engaging in a program of detoxification is by itself rarely sufficient to achieve the level of sustained recovery necessary for a return to full health and vitality in daily life. The addict’s task is daunting – rewire the brain to no longer crave the addictive substance, rewire the emotions to automatically turn to other coping skills in stressful moments, rewire relationships to express and invite trust. There are essentially four important aspects of adding a therapy component to the recovery process:

  • When to add a therapist to the recovery process.
  • What role therapy plays in the recovery process?
  • What to look for when choosing a therapist.
  • What to expect from the therapeutic process.

It is thus evident how therapy can be an essential element in a complete treatment approach for gaining recovery from drug or alcohol addiction.

When to Add a Therapist to the Recovery Process

The usefulness of adding a therapist to the treatment team for an addict going through the recovery process begins to show itself after the initial course of detoxification has concluded.

What Does Detoxification Mean?

The detoxification process is designed to minimize uncomfortable and dangerous withdrawal symptoms and return the addict to a state where sufficient brain function and baseline physical health is restored. This baseline restoration process is a prerequisite for beginning the longer term work of learning to maintain sobriety on a daily basis. The addict must then, with the help and guidance of a therapist, begin to investigate the mental and emotional reasons that underlie a continued dependence on substances or alcohol to manage daily life stressors and challenges.

What Role Therapy Plays in the Recovery Process

Therapy is an important component of the addict’s treatment team. The therapist is the professional team member who has special training in various methods that can facilitate uncovering root mental and emotional causes for a continued dependency on alcohol or substances.

A Therapist versus a Doctor in Therapy

The therapist can be likened to a doctor for the emotions and the mind. Statistics show that addicts are much more likely to be able to maintain sustained sobriety from alcohol or substances with the addition of individual and group therapy support to the treatment protocol. Emotional and mental work can feel scary, stressful, and unwelcome to the addict who is already struggling through the difficult daily challenge of maintaining sobriety following detoxification. This is where the support and expertise of a therapist is essential.

What to Look for in Choosing a Therapist

The most important qualification to look for when choosing a therapist is to ensure that the chosen therapist has a specialization in addiction and substance abuse. Therapists may have received their education in Social Work, Psychology, Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychiatry, or Psychoanalysis. What is more important is ensuring that the chosen therapist has additional clinical training and certification in alcohol or substance abuse treatment.

What to Expect from the Therapeutic Process

The road to recovery from alcohol or drug addiction is a lengthy one – and with good reason. The addict has invested time and energy in maintaining a lifestyle that includes drugs or alcohol. Similarly, it will take at least as much time and quite possibly a good deal longer for the addict to learn and lock in a new substance-free approach to daily living.

What Will the Addict Learn in Therapy?

Therapy will be where the addict uncovers old unhealthy coping patterns and from that knowledge begin to replace those patterns with others that are healthier – and more effective. A combination of individual therapy with a certified professional and support groups that offer the addict both peer support and relationship skills-building opportunities is the recommended approach for best results.


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