Therapies for Addiction Treatment

Thanks to scientific advances, health professionals now have a better understanding of how substance abuse affects the brain, and they can figure out the root causes of addiction as a result. Although medical detox gets rid of the physical symptoms of addiction, therapy helps discover why someone starts using drugs in the first place. Therapy has become an integral part of addiction treatment, especially for people with co-occurring disorders.

With so many choices available, you can find the therapies that will best assist you in addiction treatment at Footprints.

Therapy and Substance Abuse Treatment

Therapy helps patients suffering from drug abuse look at their lives from a different and healthier perspective. By talking to a non judgemental person who is acting as a third-party observer, patients will be able to receive sound advice for dealing with problems. 

Humans have been misusing drugs for centuries. Although many ancient “cures” for alcoholism and drug abuse existed in the past, they weren’t always effective. These included 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.

The major shift to evidence-based therapies occurred in the 1990s. Scientists now understand the role of hormones, brain changes, genes, and environmental factors in drug or alcohol abuse. Today, evidence-based 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.

As effective as evidence-based therapies are, alternative and holistic therapies have also produced positive results. We’ll break down alternative and evidence-based therapies and how they differ from one another.

Alternative Therapies

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

  • Animal-assisted therapy: 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. Dogs and horses are commonly used in animal-assisted therapy. 
  • Adventure therapy: A relatively new form of therapy, adventure therapy came about in the 2000s as a way of connecting 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 type of therapy uses art, music, caring for animals, acting, role-playing, and other activities in which clients can experience something or act out a past scenario. Experiential therapy is helpful in acknowledging negative experiences or emotions in relationships. Clients are led by qualified therapists during their sessions.
  • Expressive therapy: Expressive 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 Medicine (CAM)

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

The following are types of CAM therapies:


Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine that involves inserting needles into 350 specific points in the body. Traditional Chinese medicine says that health comes from a balance of yin and yang, which form your “qi.” “Qi” flows through meridiens (pathways) in the body. By inserting needles into certain points on these meridiens, your flow of energy should be brought back into proper balance.

Herbal Medicine and Aromatherapy

Some practitioners believe herbal medicine and homeopathy can cure illnesses like addiction. It’s also known to treat withdrawal symptoms.Herbal medicine can come in the form of pills, animals (such as crushed up bees) or plants, like dried herbs. Red onion and white arsenic are popular forms of herbal medicine. Aromatherapy uses the burning of essential oils like lavender and jasmine to evoke a sense of calm to improve a client’s physical and mental well being.

Body Touch Work

Alternative medicine says that illness in one area of the body can affect the entire body. As such, if you target the affected part, the rest of the body will heal itself. Body touch work includes:

  • Massage: Massage can work wonders in relieving pain in tense areas of the body, like the back, neck and shoulders. Massage takes place in a relaxing and calm environment.
  • Tai chi: This ancient Chinese martial art incorporates a series of movements that harness your “qi.” These fist movements are said to help people achieve a longer life, and it’s also used for defense training.
  • Yoga: Yoga is a group of Indian physical, mental, and spiritual practices that help bring balance to your body and soul. These include postures and flowing sequences accompanied by meditation and breathing exercises. 
  • Chiropractic medicine: Chiropractors treat musculoskeletal disorders by manipulating soft tissues, joints, and the spine.
  • Body movement therapies: The goal of body movement therapies is to enhance a client’s well being. This helps them deal with addiction, life challenges, and disabilities. 


Ayurveda is medicine that comes from India and its surrounding regions. Also known as “The Mother of All Healing,” ayurveda emphasizes prevention and lifestyle changes to achieve balance in the body. It identifies vaya, pitta, and kapha as the three main sources of energy present in everyone. Ayurveda states that illness happens due to a high or low amount of these energy sources.

  • Vata: energy of movement
  • Pitta: energy of metabolism/digestion
  • Kapha: energy of structure and lubrication


Meditation has long been praised as a key to inner serenity and mindfulness. It helps you become aware of your surroundings and become at peace with them. You gain a healthy perspective on life by focusing on your breathing and thinking without judgement. Transcendental Meditation is a form of silent mantra meditation that has helped thousands of people recover from drug or alcohol addiction.

Guided Imagery

Guided imagery is said to provide fast stress relief and reduce tension in the body. This involves using your imagination to create a positive or relaxing scene in your head to evoke a sense of calm and peace. For example, you might think of a quiet place on the beach or being in a cozy cottage, curling up to read a good book.

Although there can be some risks when using CAM as part of your treatment, you can discuss these options with your counselor or doctor. You can also see if they can be integrated with traditional methods.

Available Addiction Therapy Formats

Therapy comes in several different settings so that you can choose the best type for your needs. Our licensed staff at Footprints can determine which setting will be most effective for your addiction treatment. Therapy is available in our basic outpatient, intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization programs.

Individual Therapy

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 specific issues and determine goals. Over time, your therapist will become a trusted confidant, so make sure you choose one you can connect and get along with. Some recovery plans might include sessions of both individual and group therapy.

group therapy

Group Therapy

In group therapy, one or two therapists will lead a joint session of like-minded clients. This gives you the opportunity to share your thoughts and feelings with others who have had similar experiences. Therapists will teach you coping skills and conduct roleplay to imitate real-life situations. DBT includes many group therapy sessions.

Couples Therapy

Couples therapy focuses on you and your spouse/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. If your partner has an addiction, couples therapy can help you understand and navigate it while also getting him or her assistance for treatment.

Family Therapy

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. This type of counseling can also help families repair relationships that were broken while their loved ones struggled with active addiction.

Evidence-Based Therapies

Evidence-based therapies are psychiatric methods that have been researched thoroughly, with data as their basis. These therapies are effective in improving the outcomes of people with substance and/or alcohol use disorders. While you may opt to participate in various different types of therapy, these traditional behavioral therapies will be the foundation of your addiction treatment.

A few evidence-based therapies include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is one of the most popular modes of therapy used in drug and alcohol addiction treatment. It evolved out of treatment for clients with alcohol use disorder, and it’s been adapted to people who misuse other substances. In CBT, therapists identify problem behaviors and thoughts in patients so they can change their habits and make better choices. CBT can also address co-occurring mental health issues. 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy that aims to help patients improve relationships and help them deal with difficult emotions. It was originally developed to treat borderline personality disorder, but it now treats many other mental illnesses, including addiction. It focuses on four key aspects: 

  • Mindfulness. Clients learn to live in the present and accept reality.
  • Distress tolerance. Clients learn how to tolerate difficult emotions as opposed to running from them.
  • Emotion regulation. Clients learn to control their emotions and respond to intense situations in a healthy way.
  • Interpersonal effectiveness: Clients learn how to respectfully communicate their needs and assert themselves so they can improve relationships.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

Created in 1955, REBT aims to help clients identify self-deprecating feelings beliefs and change them into more positive ones. 

Contingency Management (CM)

Therapists practicing contingency management provide their clients with prizes and rewards to encourage them to make progress in their recovery. CM is particularly effective in treating opioid addiction, and it’s usually supplemented with methadone or buprenorphine. These medications relieve opioid withdrawal symptoms. 

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

MI focuses on the client’s motivations. Therapists build a sense of empathy in their clients and identify why they won’t change a certain behavior. Motivational interviewing is a short-term therapy, lasting between one and four sessions for about an hour each. The therapist aims to direct the client toward independence and personal motivation.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Rather than focusing on a traumatic event, EMDR focuses on the types of memories a client may have about the trauma. A therapist will normally guide a person’s eyes using hand movements during sessions. 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 abuse as well.

Get a Personalized Approach to Therapy at Footprints

Addiction treatment should be customized to your unique needs. There isn’t a set schedule of therapies that will work for everyone. Our staff at each Footprints location believes this wholeheartedly. We will work with you every step of the way to ensure that your addiction therapy will help you recover from substance abuse. To learn more about our programs, contact us today to speak with a representative. It’s never too late!

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