Does Psychotherapy for Addiction Really Work?

Psychotherapy is an evidence-based practice that helps individuals suffering with life altering addictions. Psychotherapy works because it allows clients to be met where they are at with their wellbeing in mind.

Psychotherapy for Drug Addiction

Types of Addictions

There are two main types of addictions including drug addictions and behavioral addictions. Each of these alter parts of your brain that affect the reward system. Examples of drug addictions include opioids, alcohol, cocaine, prescription drugs, and more.
Behavioral addictions are things like food addiction, sex addiction, pornography addiction, pain seeking, and many others. These often may be considered as addictive behaviors, but many feel they do not fit criteria of addiction as recorded in the DSM 5.

Why are addictions dangerous?

Addictions are dangerous for many reasons. One main factor is the risk of death due to overdose of particular drugs. In cases where overdoes does not lead to death, it can lead to life altering changes of the brain and of the physical body. Those who suffer from addiction are more susceptible to issues with memory, decision making, and bodily behaviors. These changes may be permanent if not treated early enough. Behavioral addictions may cause severe social impairment leading to bankruptcy, criminal charges, and may affect a person’s ability to make rational decisions. Psychological effects may also occur due to long-term drug abuse.

How do they affect the quality and longevity of life?

There are several factors that impact the quality and longevity of life if someone suffers from an addiction. An individual with an addiction may have impaired self-control. Even if they believe and want to stop using a drug or completing a behavior, it may be impossible for them to stop. It is a habit their body and brain has become accustomed to using as a way of coping.

Social impairments may also occur when an addiction may take precedent over work, school, or familial responsibilities leading to loss of jobs, opportunities, and unhealthy relationships.

An individual may also find themselves using these addictive behaviors or substances in a risky way. People already may be in a negative space or relationship with work, school, or family and their continual abuse of their addiction may feed worse negative consequences financially, socially, medically, and vocationally.

With individuals who use substances, they may develop a tolerance leading to needing higher amounts to feel the same type of high. This can lead to overdose and even death. At this point, most individuals who try to stop their drug use will experience withdrawal symptoms, though this differs depending on the drug. 

Psychotherapy for Addiction

Treatment Options for Addiction

Addiction has two main forms of treatment, psychotherapy and medication treatment. The medication also may be involved in addiction treatment as a way of helping with withdrawal symptoms and weaning off substances. Medications can also help with other psychiatric conditions that may be contributing to addictive behaviors such as depression, PTSD, or anxiety.

How does psychotherapy for addiction help?

Psychotherapy can be used in conjunction with medication but is effective on its own. Therapy has a way of helping individuals understand their behaviors and why they do them. Overall, psychotherapy can help individuals work on things like healthy coping mechanisms, boosting mood and self-esteem, and bringing awareness to habits that may be maladaptive. 

Does psychotherapy for addiction really work?

Psychotherapy can work when individuals have access to the amount of care they need. This may start with detoxification, residential treatment, and/or continuation of care including psychotherapy. Detox can help individuals with behavioral and drug related addictions by providing an environment that does not allow them to have their source of addiction. This time is often part of breaking the cycle of addiction and leads into psychotherapy practices that help with long term recovery.

  • Individuals who attend and cooperate with psychotherapy treatment for drug addiction have a higher chance of lessening their drug use by 50-70%.
  • 34% of individuals said that aftercare including regularly scheduled psychotherapy appointments helped with alcohol relapse prevention.

What psychotherapy approaches are most successful in treating addictions?

There are several psychotherapeutic approaches that are helpful with treating addictions for drug, behavioral, and impulsive addictions. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, 12-Step programs, Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy and Brain spotting are all techniques used to help treat addictions.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: CBT can be helpful for treating both behavioral and substance related addictions by helping individuals understand reasons behind their motivations. CBT specializes in helping recognize thoughts and patterns of behavior so they may unlearn negative ways of coping and relearn healthy coping mechanisms.

12-Step: Psychotherapy for alcohol addiction can include 12-step programs. These help by involving struggling individuals have a sense of community and universality. It helps them recognize they are not in this fight alone. Often, individuals put faith into a higher power to help with guidance, acceptance, and resilience.

Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy: Using 3 steps including an initial event, cognitions or beliefs about the event, and the person’s response to the belief, a therapist may help an individual recognize and reframe irrational thought patterns.

Brain spotting: Using talk therapy, a person’s eye movement is recorded to see if there are certain spots that connect to past experiences or trauma. Revealing these can help an individual process through experiences that may have contributed to motivations or avoidances related to an addiction.

Psychotherapy Treatment for Addiction

Addiction Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy for addiction is an effective way of reducing harm with individuals who suffer from chemical or behavioral addictions. Depending on motivations behind an addiction, an individual may encounter different types of therapeutic approaches within the process. This ensures the individual gets the help they need. With more than 19 million adults suffering from addiction, finding them help and support is key to their wellbeing and recovery.

How to Find an Addiction Psychotherapist

Finding an addiction therapist that is right for you or your loved one can vary on several factors. It may be necessary to be evaluated by a doctor to determine if detox, inpatient, or outpatient therapy and recovery is best. Once this is determined, finding a provider in your area that is accepting new clients is crucial. If insurance is being used, you will need to find a provider that accepts the insurance, if insurance is not being used, there are free and reduced fee clinics that help individuals who do not have insurance. There are other factors to consider when making appointments with a psychotherapist, too. Some individuals may consider gender of therapist a factor to connect well. Others may want someone who is faith based. Finding someone with experience and credentials pertaining to substance use is something to be mindful about as well. Making sure the therapist is the right fit for you or your loved one is very important to the connection and therapeutic relationship.