Drug & Alcohol Addiction Therapy

Ariella Belote
Calendar icon Last Updated: 02/6/2024

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Drug and alcohol addiction therapy is one of the most important parts of addiction recovery and one of the options that can best facilitate true change. Professional treatment and support is important for anyone seeking to achieve and maintain addiction recovery for the long term.

What is Drug and Alcohol Addiction Therapy?

There are many different types of drug and alcohol addiction therapy. Different rehab programs are likely to offer their own blend of options, which they can include in a customized treatment plan to suit your individual needs.

  • Counseling or psychotherapy will be added to all treatment plans. It can be used to work through past trauma, set goals for the future, and to help you discover the reasons why you started using substances in the first place. Your therapist may also be able to diagnose any co-occurring mental health disorders that need to be treated along with your substance use disorder.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is another one of the most widely used therapy options for addiction recovery. In CBT, patients learn to see their addiction in a new way as well as to adjust their attitudes and beliefs toward substance misuse. CBT can also help you learn to recognize and avoid triggers, cope with stress and cravings, and avoid relapse in the long-term
  • Contingency management helps reroute the reward pathway of the brain to things other than the high associated with substance misuse. Patients take drug tests, and if they are drug-free, they will receive a voucher or reward consistent with a drug-free lifestyle.
  • Many rehab centers will standardly introduce patients to 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Some rehab centers even have 12-step support group meetings at the facility campus, so patients can attend them during professional treatment.
  • Group therapy is a counseling session attended by multiple patients at the same time. It is a valuable opportunity to speak openly with others who are also in recovery and to learn from the experiences of others, all under the guidance of a professional therapist.
  • Family therapy involves joint counseling sessions for the patient and the most important members of their support system (not just blood relations), especially those the patient may be living with. Family therapy can resolve conflicts, improve communication, and help patients’ loved ones learn how to effectively support someone in recovery.
  • Non-traditional therapies can be a wonderful addition to traditional psychotherapy, group therapy, and family therapy. These treatments supplement talk therapy and address recovery from different angles, providing the patient with a more holistic treatment experience. Some of these therapies include spiritual-based therapies, massage therapy, dance therapy, art or music therapy, recreational therapy, animal therapy, and biofeedback.
  • Wilderness Therapy uses nature to promote healing in recovery. There are even treatment facilities whose treatment philosophy is entirely based around wilderness therapy. These are usually located in large park- or forest-like campuses, or on working farms or ranches.

There are many more drug and alcohol addiction therapy methods, but these are some of the most popular and the most successful.

What are the Benefits of Drug and Alcohol Addiction Therapy?

Drug and alcohol addiction therapy are needed to manage the chronic disease of addiction. Merely quitting drug and alcohol use is not always enough for recovery. Without addressing the underlying causes of your initial drug or alcohol use, changing negative patterns of thought and behavior, and learning healthy ways of coping with stress and addiction triggers, you can remain incredibly vulnerable to relapse.

Drug and alcohol addiction therapy is also crucial for creating a new way of life in sobriety. A healthy recovery should involve setting and working towards goals, not just within the treatment program, but in life overall. Transforming the way you live so that you no longer feel the need to turn to drugs and alcohol is the ultimate aim of recovery.

How Does Drug and Alcohol Addiction Therapy Work?

There are many places that provide drug and alcohol addiction therapy, from clinics that offer individual counseling, to hospitals that provide inpatient treatment. Rehab programs usually fall into two primary types: inpatient or outpatient.

Inpatient rehab centers provide 24-hour care within a controlled environment that surrounds the patient with expert staff and healing activities that support recovery. Inpatient programs can be especially helpful during early recovery when cravings can be very strong, as well as:

  • For those with severe, long-term addictions
  • For those who are suffering from co-occurring mental health disorders
  • For those who do not have a strong social support system at home
  • For those who need to escape the chaos of their daily life to be able to focus on recovery
  • For those without a safe place to live or recover

Outpatient rehab centers allow individuals to attend treatment at the facility multiple times a week or daily, for a few hours or all day, and then return home to sleep at night. Some of these programs are very flexible so that patients can go to rehab while still going to work, attending school, and taking care of responsibilities at home. Some people attend outpatient treatment after completing an inpatient stay, while others begin their recovery with an outpatient program.

Your individual treatment needs, your insurance coverage, and your personal circumstances must all be considered when you decide between inpatient or outpatient treatment. Studies have shown that patients have a much better chance at a positive long-term outcome if they attend at least 28 days of inpatient rehab, but that does not mean that you can’t achieve and maintain a healthy recovery if inpatient treatment isn’t an option for you.

Who Should Get Drug and Alcohol Addiction Therapy?

Anyone seeking to overcome a substance use disorder should consider getting drug and alcohol addiction therapy. Anyone with co-occurring mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression should also simultaneously receive specialty treatment for the co-occurring issue. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown in many studies to be very helpful for both addiction and a number of different mental health disorders, so treatment for the dual issues can be naturally integrated into CBT treatment with the proper professional guidance.

Where Can I Find Drug and Alcohol Addiction Therapy?

Choosing a rehab program is a long process that often involves considering the methods available at a certain facility as well as the cost, location, and intensity of treatment. Ask for help from someone you trust to find the right kind of treatment for you, but keep in mind that while a family member may be able to help you research and discuss your options, they are not treatment professionals, and their judgment may possibly be clouded by their emotions.

Speak to your doctor, someone you know who’s been in treatment, your insurance company, or an addiction recovery hotline or website to discover what kind of treatment options are available for you, and to receive guidance as you decide which one is ideal for your needs.

Types of Therapies & Addictions


Medical users iconMedical Reviewer
Ariella Belote, BSN, RN
Acute Care Registered Nurse
Ariella Belote, BSN, RN, has experience working as a nurse in outpatient alcohol and drug addiction treatment, where she worked with clients experiencing various dependencies. She also works to connect clients with local resources designed to support recovery on a daily basis. In addition, she works in acute care and is familiar with short and long term treatment for withdrawal and addiction.