Why is Individual Counseling Essential in Addiction Treatment?!
Individual therapy is one of the most powerful interventions when dealing with addiction. Individual therapy also known as psychotherapy, talk therapy or counseling, allows a person to meet with a trained professional one on one to work through a problem in a safe space. When a person decides to pursue individual therapy as part of their alcohol and drug addiction recovery they can expect to meet with their chosen counselor usually for weekly hour sessions. The length of time a patient meets with their therapist varies based on what issues are being addressed and goals the patient has identified.
For those struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, it is vital to get to the root of the addiction to increase chances of long-term success. Addiction for some can be connected to trauma. In fact, those who have experienced trauma are at higher risk to struggle with addiction. These experiences can be physical abuse, neglect, assault, combat from military service or loss of relationship. Individuals may seek substances or alcohol as a way to cope with the images and thoughts related to these experiences. A trained therapist will use evidenced-based techniques to address both the trauma and alcohol and drug addiction. Trauma therapy such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) helps retrain the brain and how it processes the memory of these events to heal the current symptoms they are experiencing.
Many also find individual therapy beneficial if they have co-occurring mental health issues that are exacerbating their addiction. Lack of ability to manage anxiety, depression, or anger can at times lead people to find unhealthy coping strategies such as alcohol and drug use. An individual counselor can work with a patient on understanding and managing their diagnoses without destructive behaviors. I once was an individual therapist for a man who struggled with addiction to heroin. During our work together, he had a consistent pattern of abstaining from use, creating some stability, then soon would relapse. In a session, I challenged him to look at “Why”. I asked him, “Do you not feel you deserve happiness?”, “Are you possibly self-sabotaging?”. We processed patterns of behaviors that aligned with common symptoms of mental health disorders. My work with him soon focused on utilizing a therapy approach to address these mental health symptoms which impacted his ability to manage life without the use of addictive substances.
Taking a deep look at what is driving problematic behaviors can be overwhelming and scary. Trying to figure out how to make long-term change is hard. An individual therapist can help a person navigate these areas. A therapist works to create a space where a patient feels they can be open and not be judged. A previous experience I had working with women in a shelter opened my eyes to how important that is in the recovery process. Many of these patients had a history of abuse, homelessness and were working on co-occurring addiction issues. They would often express that hour with their individual therapist helped them not only see the possibilities of change but what steps to take for change to happen.
Group therapy is a way for patients to relate to one another and be each other support systems. Support is very important when dealing with addiction. Adding individual therapy as part of the recovery process is a great supplement to the support individuals receive in group therapy, just in a more private setting. Some may not be as willing to share in a group at first or at all and individual therapy lets those who struggle in a group setting still be able to talk and work through their addiction.
When someone is ready to enter the world of addiction recovery they may be uncertain as to how they will maintain abstinence. The individual therapist can come up with an addiction recovery plan and set up individual therapy after treatment so there is continued support to help guide the patient through their recovery and gain skills needed to deal with triggers and stressors related to their addiction. It allows someone to start challenging thoughts and beliefs that can contribute to their behaviors.
Ultimately, an individual therapist can guide the someone struggling with alcohol or drug addiction through their recovery and hopefully help them heal not only from addiction itself but the underlying causes as well.