Therapies for Addiction Treatment

Therapy is the backbone of treatment for substance abuse. Scientific advances and a better understanding of how substance abuse affects the brain have given health professionals a better path forward in addiction treatment.

This results in more compassionate care that addresses the root causes of substance abuse from multiple angles.

We now know that therapy is an essential part of recovery. With so many choices available, you can find the therapies that will best assist you in addiction treatment.

Therapy and Substance Abuse Treatment

Humans have been using and misusing drugs for centuries. It follows that many ancient cures to substance misuse or alcoholism have existed throughout human history, but it is clear they were not always effective.

Past treatment methods include prayer, sending patients to asylums, or arresting them. Eventually, addiction specialists began basing their treatments on scientific evidence that has been found to be effective.

Scientists now understand the role of hormones, brain changes, genes, and environmental factors in drug or alcohol misuse. Today, therapy is widely accepted in a variety of settings and has been found to have a positive impact on those in treatment for substance abuse

The major shift to evidence-based therapies occurred in the 1990s.

List of Evidence-Based Therapies

Evidence-based therapies are psychiatric methods that have been researched thoroughly, with data as their basis. These methods are known for their effectiveness in improving the outcomes of people with substance and/or alcohol use disorders.



  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This method evolved out of treatment for clients with alcohol use disorder, and it’s been adapted to people who misuse other substances. Clients are taught to identify problem behaviors and thoughts so they can change their habits and make better choices.CBT can also address co-occurring mental health issues. The goal is for clients to learn the skills necessary to stay away from drugs and/or alcohol and lead balanced lives.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): This form of therapy focuses on four key aspects with the goal of improving a client’s relationships and helping them deal with difficult emotions. The four aspects are:
  • Clients learn to live in the present and accept their circumstances.
  • Distress tolerance. Clients learn how to tolerate difficult emotions as opposed to running from them.
  • Emotion regulation. Clients learn to deal with emotional responses in a healthy manner.
  • Interpersonal effectiveness: Communications skills are taught so clients can respectfully communicate their needs, improve relationships, and assert themselves.
  • Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT): Created in 1955, REBT aims to deal with obstacles by examining beliefs that may no longer be constructive. Clients are taught to recognize beliefs that are harmful so they can overcome them and become healthier individuals.
  • Contingency management (CM): In this therapy, clients are provided with incentives or even prizes so they can be encouraged to make progress in their recovery. CM is known to be useful for those who are trying to leave opioids behind. It is particularly effective when supplemented with methadone or buprenorphine — two medicines known to manage opioid withdrawal symptoms.
  • Motivational interviewing (MI): MI focuses on the client’s motivations. It is meant to build a sense of empathy in the client and identify reasons why they may not want to change a particular behavior or deal with certain emotions.Motivational interviewing is a short-term therapy, meant to last between one and four sessions for about an hour each. The goal is for the therapist to steer the client toward independence and personal motivation.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR does not focus on a traumatic instance. Instead, it focuses on the types of memories a client may have about the trauma. During sessions, a therapist normally guides a person’s eyes using hand movements.Studies have shown EMDR to be effective in treating certain mental health issues. It is often used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and it has promise in treating substance misuse.

Contact Us to Request a Consultation

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Alternative Therapies


Alternative therapies can be effective in enhancing the effects of evidence-based therapies. While these therapies shouldn’t be used as the primary form of treatment, they can be beneficial to many in recovery.

  • Animal-assisted therapy: It is common for animal-assisted therapy to use dogs. Equine-assisted therapy is another common form. Animal-assisted therapy has been shown to decrease cravings for substances as well as to alleviate depression and anxiety. It has been proven effective in the prison population, as it can help inmates work on their social and communication skills.
  • Adventure therapy: A relatively new form of therapy, adventure therapy came about in the 2000s as a way to connect people with nature. A natural environment is used as a background to teach clients how to set and achieve goals, make healthy decisions, and hold themselves accountable. This fosters a sense of positivity.
  • Experiential therapy: This therapy uses art, music, caring for animals, acting, role-playing, and other activities where clients can experience something or act out a past scenario. Usually pertaining to relationships, experiential therapy is helpful in acknowledging negative experiences or emotions. Clients are led by qualified therapists during their sessions.
  • Expressive therapy: This therapy can help clients who have trouble talking about difficult life events and circumstances. It relies on the arts, dance, and music, so participants can use alternative methods to express emotions that are hard to process.A trained therapist guides the client in expressing something through the arts. After this, the counselor and client may discuss what the artwork is about. The act of creating something is often therapeutic for clients, even without accompanying conversations with the therapist.

Complementary and Alternative Treatments


For some clients, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) may be promising. CAM uses treatments that are not part of traditional medicine. These options can be used in addition to standard treatment.

The following are types of CAM therapies:
  • Acupuncture
  • Herbal medicine, including aromatherapy
  • Body touch work, such as massages
  • Ayurveda (medicine that comes from India and the surrounding region)
  • Meditation
  • Guided imagery

There can be some risks when using CAM as part of your treatment, but you can discuss these options with your counselor or doctor and see how they can be integrated into traditional methods.

Available Formats

While you may opt to participate in various different types of therapy, traditional behavioral therapy will be the foundation of your addiction treatment. This therapy can take place in a few settings.


Individual therapy involves sessions with just you and your therapist. You will talk about current struggles, and your therapist will guide you in finding solutions. Individual therapy allows you and your therapist to focus on certain issues with precision.In some methods, the relationship between you and your therapist sets the tone. For other methods, you do not need to worry about fostering rapport


Couples therapy focuses on you and your spouse or long-term partner. It can help couples repair a breakdown in communication, get over difficult past transgressions, and solve problems. Couples therapy can also allow a couple to evaluate their relationship if they are on the verge of ending it.


Family therapy can be especially helpful for those who have misused substances or alcohol. Families learn about their strengths and capabilities in order to help their loved one during recovery. Counseling can help families repair relationships that were broken while the family member struggled with active addiction.


Group therapy is when a group of clients work with one or two therapists in a joint session. Typically, clients do not know the other people in the session. Participants can learn from each other in this group setting, but a therapist still leads the discussion.

A Personalized Approach

Addiction treatment should be customized to your unique needs. There isn’t a set schedule of therapies that will work for everyone. Work with your supervising therapist or case manager to choose the best combination of therapies for your particular case.

Whenever you need us, we're here

Day & Night - 7 Days a Week

Free & Confidential Consultations