What Kinds of Therapy are Helpful in Addiction Treatment?
Addiction is much more than physical dependency to a substance—it’s a chronic brain illness that can cause someone to relapse years after they’ve successfully detoxified. That said, it is a treatable illness.
Effective rehabilitation facilities typically use a combination of therapy and medication-assisted treatment. Medication may not be necessary or appropriate for all people struggling with addiction. However, certain therapy methods are used in practically all formal rehabilitation facilities.
Most people with a substance use disorder (SUD) need to re-wire their thought patterns in order to be successful in long-term recovery. This is primarily due to the way drugs of abuse and alcohol alter brain structure and circuitry in the motivation and reward centers of the brain.
For example, methamphetamine floods these circuits with dopamine. Over time, this does significant damage that is not easy to reverse, causing a patient to associate seeking and misusing the drug with the feeling of reward and pleasure. It becomes increasingly rare for someone addicted to meth to experience these emotions without the drug, even after it has fully exited their system. Researchers believe this is why people sometimes relapse even after they’ve been sober for a long time.
Most forms of therapy work to change these pathologies and give patients new tactics to recognize and overcome the obstacles and triggers that lead them to use. There are evidence-based therapies and alternative therapies commonly applied in rehab, both of which can be useful in treating patients suffering from SUD.
Some effective evidence-based therapies include:
- Motivational interviewing (MI). MI and Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)—a specific structured form of MI—is used to inspire patients to set goals for themselves and become invested in their own recovery. It is especially useful for patients struggling with addiction to alcohol. MI also serves to make patients more engaged in the rehabilitation process.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Through CBT, patients learn to recognize and correct the maladaptive thought patterns they have developed in addiction. A large part of this is recognizing the situations and emotions that lead them to use substances and avoiding them when they can and overcoming them when they are inescapable.
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). DBT works through 4 modules, which include mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotion regulation. The “dialect” in the title refers to the healthy conflict between certain opposing forces like acceptance and change—both of which are equally important in recovery.
Therapy is effective in group, family, and individual settings, depending on the approach and goal of the session, all of which are important components of care at Laguna Treatment Hospital. The levels of care provided at the facility are also equipped to treat co-occurring disorders in addition to SUD, which is vital for many patients.
Many patients find alternative therapies very useful in rehabilitation when they are used in conjunction with evidence-based techniques. Some of the popular forms of alternative therapies offered at Laguna Treatment Hospital include:
- Mindfulness, which is the act of being fully present in the moment, not distracted or stressing about the future, past, or the things outside of yourself.
- Meditation—an ancient practice that improves focus, reduces stress, and gives clarity of purpose.
- Yoga. Through physical poses, breathing techniques, and relaxation, yoga benefits both the body and mind. It reduces stress and promotes wellness, which many patients find helpful in mitigating triggers.
If you think you or a loved one needs help battling addiction, know that it’s never too late. Consider contacting an admissions navigator at to learn more about Laguna Treatment Hospital or other American Addiction Centers’ (AAC) facilities.