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Addiction recovery, whether it is achieved through the use of an addiction treatment center, alcohol addiction treatment, or drug addiction treatment, is an intimate and lifelong process. Coping skills obtained in a treatment program can help you get on your desired path and build and maintain a foundation for your recovery.1
Addiction recovery can require multiple rounds of treatment because of addiction’s complexity and interference with so many aspects of your life. In addition, like other chronic illnesses, relapse signals a need for treatment to be reinstated or adjusted. This is important to consider because often, individuals prematurely terminate treatment.1
In this article:
- Learn Relapse Prevention Skills
- Build New and Healthy Habits in a Safe, Structured Environment
- Build a Sober Community
- The Importance of Ongoing Support
- Find an Addiction Treatment Center
1. Learn Relapse Prevention Skills
Your addiction treatment plan will be comprised of many different behavioral therapies and psychotherapies to help you build relapse prevention and address the underlying issues that contributed to your drug or alcohol misuse. There are several different therapies that can make you feel equipped, confident, and competent when learning, applying, and fully integrating relapse prevention skills:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT focuses on teaching clients how thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are interconnected and how these bidirectional relationships between these three prongs contribute to distressing thoughts, emotions, and/or maladaptive behaviors. It has been shown to be effective for people of all ages, different education levels, varying socioeconomic statuses, cultural backgrounds, and also effective in individual and group formats.2
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT is a type of CBT that focuses on pervasive, severe emotional dysregulation and individuals with high reactivity while teaching problem-solving behaviors. It is effective in treating those with different diagnoses, including substance use disorders (SUDs), who are at high risk.3
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): As a mindfulness-based approach, ACT focuses on action, the present, values, the self, defusion, and acceptance as ways to enhance cognitive flexibility. It has positive outcomes across a broad range of problems and diagnoses and aims at changing the function of an individual’s relationships to life events.5
- Trauma-Informed Therapy: Trauma-Informed therapy is an approach that inherently assumes that an individual is more likely than not to have a history of trauma and as such, recognizes traumatic symptoms and how these symptoms may impact many, if not all facets, of a client’s life. Trauma impacts the individual’s sense of self, others, and worldview.4
- Trauma Therapy: There are many different types of therapy used to address elements of trauma. Three of the most common are CBT with exposure, eye-movement desensitization and reprocess (EMDR), and cognitive processing therapy (CPT). In sum, these three trauma therapies help an individual reprocess their trauma memories into a more accurate narrative while exposing them to certain elements in a controlled setting (therapy office) so that they can begin to better understand what happened to them and integrate coping skills simultaneously when being triggered by distressing thoughts or emotions.6,7
- Art Therapy: The underlying principle of art therapy is that the individual can express themselves through non-verbal means that are both imaginative and creative via incident drawings, painting/drawing emotions, developing an art journal, stress painting, and sculpting, and can then interpret and contemplate over their own works as well as peers’. This type of therapy facilitates growth and symptom management by decreasing denial, lessening shame, providing outlets for communication, reducing resistance to treatment, facilitating discussions, and can motivate movement towards change by helping the individual move away from reflection and towards action.8
- Group Therapy: Group therapy is not only economical but curative because some benefits cannot be experienced during individual therapy. Group therapy utilizes therapeutic forces such as support, peer confrontation, and affiliation, which helps clients commit to a culture of recovery. Additionally, group therapy is effective for treating other problems associated with substance use disorders like shame, depression, and isolation.9
- Family Therapy: Family therapy introduces the concept that a family is a system whereby all parts are interrelated, and as such, change in one part of the system will change other parts of the system. How a family system operates influences the use of support systems, treatment engagement and outcomes, and recovery for all family members involved. Combining family therapy with substance use treatment leverages important roles families play in helping their family members address their substance use such as how SUDs affect the individual, the whole family, how a family member adjusts or changes specific behaviors when responding to a family member with a SUD, and how the individual with the SUD can make changes as an individual as well as being part of a family unit to address SUD impacts.10
- Equestrian Therapy: Horse-assisted therapy (HAT) utilizes horses as part of the therapeutic process to assist with elements of attachment, psychoanalysis, and an interaction that affect the horse’s characteristics. Although a lot of research has not focused on this modality specifically for this population (SUD clients), some research indicates that this modality’s efficacy comes from changes in focus, being active, identity, break from the usual treatment, and motivation.12
- Holistic Therapy: This grouping of therapies is geared toward treating the whole body and mental wellness and often offer art, music, and meditation. These activities may include yoga, equine therapy, nutrition, acupuncture, massage, and mindfulness training.11
2. Build New and Healthy Habits in a Safe, Structured Environment
There is a myth that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. In reality, it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become a habit.13 Naturally, depending on variable elements such as the person, circumstances, and desired behavior, it takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days (i.e., 2 months to 8 months) for a new habit to form.13 This highlights the idea that forming new, healthy, long-term habits (e.g., coping strategies, better methods of communication, newly fostered intuition, expression of self-compassion and empathy, etc.) while in a potentially long-term treatment facility is, overall, advantageous.
These skills are being learned and practiced in a controlled environment (addiction treatment center) that is safe and structured, which further reinforces some of the new habits being learned and integrated into your new sense of self and method of interacting with the world.
Being away from triggers and distractions such as in an inpatient addiction treatment center is useful for the individual seeking recovery. It provides them with a basic foundation to reduce substance use or achieve a substance-free life, maximizes numerous aspects of life functioning, and simultaneously prevents and reduces the severity and frequency of a relapse.14 Many of the new skills learned in this environment are focused on minimizing misuse by establishing a foundation of change and motivation through self-help groups, education, and counseling.
These approaches contribute to recovery that is geared towards reducing risky behavior, building new relationships with those who do not struggle with substance use, altering lifestyle patterns and recreational activities so that they no longer include substance use, substitution substances used with less risky ones, reducing frequency and amount of consumption, and instilling in the individual that personal responsibility is at the epicenter of one’s chosen recovery path whereby absolute abstinence is positively associated with long-term prognosis.14
Healthy Habits and Skills
Healthier skills may include:14
- Limit-setting (e.g., establishing boundaries)
- Supportive expressive therapy, in conjunction with other comprehensive treatment efforts, focuses on current life problems and encourages you to address negative interpersonal relationships in a safe and supportive therapeutic alliance
- Development of insight, empathy, and compassion through group therapy by sharing experiences of closeness, helping others who are struggling with substance use disorders, painful experiences, and communicating feelings
- Psychoeducation specific to the effects of substances on your body and psychosocial functioning, preventing HIV infections, and preventing infections through sexual contact
- An understanding of how the brain operates when traumatized and how some survival tactics play out in your life, even when there is no threat to survival
- Gaining better insight into dysfunctional family dynamics and modeling
- To establish a more appropriate environment and support system for someone who is in recovery, restructuring poor communication patterns is needed
- Goal setting
- Self-reinforcing rewards for goal-attainment
- Stress-management training
- Progressive relaxation techniques
- Social skills training (e.g., how to handle criticism, how to express and react to certain feelings, and how to initiate social encounters)
- Contingency management
- Identifying high-risk emotional triggers and situations that have led to substance use
3. Build a Sober Community
Group therapy conducted by inpatient treatment staff in conjunction with support group meetings is one way to re-establish your social network and support system by helping you build a new community of people who understand you and share your goals. Sober communities are important for those who have substance use disorders because, oftentimes, these individuals have significant psychosocial adjustment issues that require resocialization in safe, structured settings.14
Group therapy is a sort of microcosm of the world outside of treatment. Group therapy imposes its own strict and explicit behavioral norms and rules for interacting with each other that are reinforced with distinct rewards and punishments aimed at developing social responsibility and self-regulation.14 Groups and milieu therapy often include elements of reality-oriented therapy, intense encounters with peers, and hierarchical roles, privileges, and responsibilities.14
The Importance of Ongoing Support
Ongoing support from friends, family, peers, and the family you build in recovery is vital to your long-term goals of sobriety. However, to further fortify your commitment to yourself and your goal, it is also important to engage in the form of aftercare program so that you can continue to get ongoing support during the early stages of recovery and prevent relapse. Aftercare can help you transition from a highly structured addiction treatment center environment to a life that is more fluid and less predictable; it can help you transition between levels of care (i.e., from residential inpatient to outpatient treatment) and continue to practice, implement, and utilize the skills you learned while in treatment.15
There are different aftercare options, including:15
- Sober living homes
- Therapy and counseling (e.g., biofeedback, CBT, DBT, experiential therapy, faith-based drug rehabilitation, holistic therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, etc.)
- Support groups (most follow a variation of a 12-step model)
- Step-down care at a partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient program
Find an Addiction Treatment Center
Treatment is a way to organize your recovery into a meaningful and individualized plan to help you achieve the goals that you set for yourself. Inpatient treatment can help you learn valuable skills to transform maladaptive patterns of thinking and behavior into adaptive ways of living and communicating that do not rely on substance use.
These skills will be taught to you through many different modalities, and coping strategies that you learn in an inpatient setting can then continue to be expanded upon and reinforced through aftercare treatment options. There are many options available to you to attend to your specific needs.
Call 800-926-9037 (Who Answers?) to find a treatment center near you or to speak to a specialist about substance use recovery services like inpatient treatment programs.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment.
- Rector, N.A. (2011). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: An Information Guide. Center for Addiction and Mental Health.
- Swales, M.A. (2009). Dialectical Behaviour Therapy: Description, Research, and Future Directions. International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy, 5(2), 164-177.
- Menschner, C. and Maul, A. (2016). Key Ingredients for Successful Trauma-Informed Care Implementation
- Hayes, S.C., Pisterillo, J., & Levin, M.E. (2012). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy as a Unified Model of Behavior Change. The Counseling Psychologist, 40(7), 976-1002.
- Oren, E. and Solomon, R.M. (2012). EMDR Therapy: An Overview of its Development and Mechanisms of Action. European Review of Applied Psychology, 62(4), 197-203.
- National Center for PTSD. (2014). Cognitive Processing Therapy: Veteran/Military Version: Therapist and Patient Materials Manual.
- Aletraris, L., Paino, M., Edmond, M.B., Roman, P.M., & Bride, B.E. (2014). The Use of Art and Music Therapy in Substance Abuse Treatment Programs. Journal of Addictions Nursing, 25(4), 190-196.
- Coco, G.L., Melchiori, F.M., Oieni, V. & Infurna, M.R.. (2019).Group Treatment for Substance Use Disorder in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized-Controlled Trials. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 99, 104-116.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2020). Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Family Therapy.
- Adeoyin, A.C., Burns, N., Jackson, H.M., & Franklin, S. (2014). Revisiting Holistic Interventions in substance Abuse Treatment. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 24(5), 538-546.
- Kern-Godal, A., Brenna, A.H., Arnevik, E.A., & Ravndal, E. (2016). More than Just a Break in Treatment: How Substance Use Disorder Patients Experience the Stable Environment in Horse-Assisted Therapy. Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment, 10, 99-108.
- Lally, P., Van Jaarsveld, C.H.M., Potts, H.W.W., & Wardle, J. (2009). How are Habits Formed: Modeling Habit Formation in the Real World. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 998-1009.
- Tasman, A., Kay, J., Lieberman, J.A., First, M.B., & Riba, B. (2015, December 17). Group Psychotherapy. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
- Mohammad, A., Irizarry, K.J., Shub, R.N., & Sarkar, A. (2017). Addiction Treatment Aftercare Outcome Study. Journal of Psychiatry, 7(1), 51-60.