Understanding the Type of Therapy that is Most Effective For Your Treatment Plan

Woman sitting next to her car

No single treatment is right for everyone. Addiction is complex, but treatable. It is a disease that can affect brain function and behavior. Part of a treatment plan effectiveness is about the individual’s ability to incorporate what they learn into life after treatment [3, 5].

Keeping in mind a person’s values, age, gender, ethnicity, and culture is important in finding appropriate treatment. Choice of therapy and treatment will depend on the type of addiction the individual has.

Treatment programs need to include various areas of focus for a treatment plan [1]. For treatment to be effective, individuals must have quick access to treatment that address the person’s needs. Treatment duration is critical for success and sobriety. Counseling needs to include behavioral and cognitive therapy as well as exposure work.

Medication management is also an essential part of recovery. Treatment plans need to be reviewed often and modified as needed. Through treatment plans should also address other underlying mental disorders.

Successful Treatment has Various Steps

There are several steps to the treatment of an addiction. These are:

  • Detoxification
  • Behavioral counseling
  • Medication therapy
  • Evaluation and treatment of co-occurring issues
  • Relapse prevention planning
  • Long-term follow up

Medications can be used to reduce withdrawal symptoms and suppression of symptoms during detoxification. Detoxification is the first step in the recovery process. According to SAMHSA, a study of treatment facilities found that medications were used in 80% of detoxifications [1, 3].

Girl by the oceanMedication is also used in relapse prevention for individuals to reestablish homeostasis in brain and body, and decrease cravings.

Behavioral therapies help individuals modify attitudes and behaviors around drug use, increase healthy life skills and coping strategies [1, 3, 4].

It can be used in conjunction with other types of treatment.

Outpatient therapy can include weekly or more frequent counseling sessions, intensive outpatient programming (IOP), where the individual goes to group therapy 3-6 days a week for several hours a day.

Therapies include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Multidimensional family therapy (MFT)
  • Motivational Interviewing (MI)
  • Motivational Incentives (Contingency Management), uses positive reinforcement to support abstinence from drug use.

Levels of Care in Addiction Treatment

Inpatient or residential treatment it can offer a higher level of care and support with those struggling with intense or severe addictions [1, 3]. Licensed residential treatment facilities offer 24 hour structured and intensive care, with housing and medical care and a variety of treatment modalities that work on detoxing, and recovery.

There are various types of residential facilities to choose from. Therapeutic communities are highly structured where patients remain at the facility for 6 months to 1 year.

The entire community works to act as agents of change, helping the individual understand behaviors and attitudes associated with their drug use. Shorter-term Residential treatment typically focuses on detoxification and provides initial intensive counseling and preparation for community based treatment.

Recovery Housing is another option which provides supervised, short-term housing for individuals who are needing aftercare treatment. It can assist individuals with transitioning to independent living by helping manage finances or seek employment, and connection to other support services within their community.

Which Therapy is Right for Me?

Counseling is an essential part of addiction treatment [4, 5]. Cognitive behavioral therapy, family counseling and other types of therapies can help individuals recovery from their addiction. After detoxification, risk of relapse is high for addicts, and therapy is essential.

Counseling can assist with working through areas of stress, triggers within the environment, and unhealthy social networks. No one approach to therapy is appropriate for all individuals with addiction. It is choosing the one that fits most with your needs and recovery plan.

Group therapy is where a person attends weekly, or more frequently, groups where there are other members struggling with similar or the same issue. In group therapy a person is more likely to be challenged and supported by peers. Group therapy can be through an IOP program or a 12-step program.

Individual therapy can be useful with addiction and dual diagnosis concerns. A trained professional can work with the addict to sort through underlying mental health issues, attitudes, negative thinking, and exposure therapy to help in the recovery process. It can offer a safe place for the person to share their thoughts, feelings, and do work around their addiction.

Often many addicts do not have support outside their treatment team when first starting recovery. Therapy can offer a place for the individual to feel connected and heard.

Choosing to do therapy on an outpatient or residential treatment depends on the person’s financial and insurance resources as well as severity of addiction. Residential treatment can help the person get away from the environment that can be enabling drug use, and teach new skills for sober living.

Skills learned, whether in outpatient or residential treatment, can be powerful and aid in long term recovery [2, 3, 4]. Cognitive behavioral therapy can assist the person in identifying and understanding thoughts, behaviors, responses, and moods in relation to their addiction.

This therapy can work with the individual to also practice and identify healthy coping tools to avoid relapse prevention. Cognitive Management Therapy (CMT) is where a person receives positive incentives for staying sober. Vouchers for goods or services, privileges in a more rigid treatment setting are used commonly.

Traditional therapies tend to include confrontation, in a professional way, to address denial of addiction. Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a therapy that allows the therapist to understand and enhance the person’s natural motivation for change. Couples and Family Therapy is where relationships are assessed and strengthened, to aid in the recovery of the individual.

Man choosing a program by the seaFamily counseling can be beneficial due to the family acting as a powerful force for change in the addicted members life. Studies show that family therapy can result in lower relapse rates, increased happiness of the family, and increased functioning in children of addicted parents [4].

In conclusion, there are various types of therapy and settings to be utilized for the person seeking treatment. With a multi-faceted treatment team, recovery is possible.

Choosing the therapy or combination of therapy that is best for your individual and family needs is essential.

Image of Libby Lyons and familyAbout the Author: Libby Lyons is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS). Libby has been practicing in the field of eating disorders, addictions, depression, anxiety and other comorbid issues in various agencies. Libby has previously worked as a contractor for the United States Air Force Domestic Violence Program, Saint Louis University Student Health and Counseling, Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute Eating Disorders Program, and has been in Private Practice.

Libby currently works as a counselor at Fontbonne University and is a Adjunct Professor at Saint Louis University, and is a contributing author for Addiction Hope and Eating Disorder Hope. Libby lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys spending time with her family, running, and watching movies.


[1] Retrieved April 20, 2017 (n.d.), from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-approaches-drug-addiction
[2] Retrieved April 21, 2017 (n.d.), from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64259/
[3] Retrieved April 21, 2017 (n.d.), from https://sobernation.com/what-form-of-treatment-is-proven-to-be-the-most-effective/
[4] Retrieved April 22, 2017 (n.d.), from http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/counseling-and-addiction-how-therapy-can-help#3
[5]Retrieved April 22, 2017 (n.d.), from http://www.drugrehab.org/individualized-addiction-treatment-plan/

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published June 25, 2017
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 25, 2017.
Published on AddictionHope.com

About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.