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When it comes to forging a road to recovery, drug and alcohol counseling is key. Some individuals struggling with addiction may think that once they go through the detox process, there’s no need for further treatment. However, for the large majority of people, this is not the case.

To maintain long-term sobriety, most individuals need more than just a strong sense of willpower. They also need to have specific tools, skills, and support in place to handle imminent components of the recovery process including cravings, triggers, daily stress, etc. This is where drug and alcohol counseling comes in.

What Role do Drug and Alcohol Counselors Play?

Inpatient and outpatient treatment centers, as well as some sober living facilities, almost always have drug and alcohol counseling as part of their treatment plan. The drug and alcohol counselors who run these sessions will be some of the most important people on your loved one’s team while he or she is in treatment. Their job is to help your friend or family member create a strong foundation for their recovery and support them as they navigate this sometimes rocky path. Drug and alcohol counselors do this by:

Building Trust and Providing Empathy

Drug and alcohol counselors must create a safe space for your loved one to open up about his or her addiction. Part of this means responding with empathy rather than judgment. While counselors are there to help individuals see the effects of their addiction and take responsibility for their actions, leading with compassion rather than confrontation encourages the person struggling with addiction to stay open, and therefore make more progress in regards to understanding and dealing with their addiction, during the counseling session.

Planning for Relapse Prevention

A vital component of recovery is learning ways to handle cravings, triggers, and the stressors of daily life. Without the tools and support to handle such things, many individuals end up going back to their old ways of drug and alcohol use. To help prevent relapse, drug and alcohol counselors will work with patients to create an individualized relapse prevention plan. Some components of this plan may include:

  • Creating a list of trusted friends, family members, co-workers, counselors, etc. that can act as a support network for the individual.
  • Identifying early warning signs of a possible relapse and discussing techniques to manage them.
  • Teaching the patient about self-care practices (such as sleep, relaxation, diet, etc.) and how these can affect cravings and potential relapse.
  • Having an emergency relapse plan in place in case a relapse does occur.

Diagnosing, Treating, and/or Monitoring Co-occurring Mental Health Problems

It is not uncommon for individuals struggling with drug or alcohol addiction to have an additional mental health issue. In fact, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, ADHD, and other mental health problems frequently coincide with an person’s substance abuse and addiction. These co-occurring disorders may have developed as a result of drug and alcohol use, or may have been a factor in why an individual began using in the first place. Regardless of when the disorder manifests, it’s crucial that it be addressed during treatment. Drug and alcohol counselors may work in conjunction with a psychiatrist or other physician specializing in addiction medicine to help diagnose, treat, and monitor a patient who’s addiction is coupled with a psychiatric disorder.

Types of Therapy

There are several types of therapy that can be utilized during the recovery process. They can all help the individual struggling with addiction in unique ways, but keep in mind that any form of therapy during treatment is better than none. The three most common types of therapy used in drug and alcohol treatment include:

Individual Therapy

In individual therapy, the person battling addiction meets with a trained therapist or counselor in one-on-one sessions. Individual therapy can be beneficial for people who may not be comfortable discussing all elements of their addiction in a group setting and also allows the person struggling with addiction to form a trusting bond with their counselor. Individual therapy is particularly helpful for people who also have a co-occuring mental health condition (such as depression, PTSD, etc.), as these disorders may require treatment that is seperate from the drug or alcohol addiction.

Group Therapy

Many treatment programs utilize group therapy, which is where a group of individuals, all struggling with addiction, meet in a group setting to discuss their addiction under the supervision of a trained therapist or counselor. Group therapy is important, as this gives people an opportunity to be supported by peers who have first-hand experience with addiction. They can also be challenged by these peers; which can be crucial as an individual begins to learn about responsibility and accountability.

12-Step programs, which for many are a vital part of the recovery process, are founded on the principles of peer support, as well. However, it should be noted that these group sessions are not typically led by licensed therapists, and therefore serve a different purpose than group therapy.

Couples and Family Therapy

If you have a loved one struggling with addiction, you know that this disease does not only affect that individual. Addiction can impact an entire family unit, and even when a person enters treatment, family members can still be feeling a great deal of anger or resentment. Family therapy, where family members and/or significant others have sessions with the person in treatment along with a trained family therapist, is a vital part of the recovery process as it helps rebuild familial bonds. This can be life-saving for the person in recovery, as he or she need a strong support group to maintain long-term sobriety. Family therapy also gives family members a chance to learn to let go of anger and replace it with compassion, while also coming to terms with their own behaviors and patterns that may have enabled or contributed to their loved one’s addiction.

Counseling Tools

In every type of therapy session, the counselor or therapist may use different tools to help the person battling addiction in the recovery process. Some common counseling tools include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

With cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, the therapist helps teach the individual how to recognize feelings, thoughts, moods, and situations that can trigger drug or alcohol cravings. In addition to teaching the person how to avoid these potential triggers, the therapist will also help the individual come up with healthy coping mechanisms to deal with these cravings and learn how to replace negative thinking patterns with positive thoughts.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, may be especially helpful for people with a co-occuring mental health condition. This type of therapy focuses on helping patients create a positive self-image, build confidence, and learn healthy coping mechanisms (such as mindfulness and emotional regulation) to deal with drug and alcohol cravings and potential triggers.

Contingency Management Therapy

In contingency management therapy, the person struggling with addiction receives positive incentives, such as privileges or vouchers, for maintaining sobriety and meeting treatment goals. If treatment goals are not met or a person breaks their sobriety, privileges or other positive incentives will be withheld. Contingency management may help helpful in encouraging abstinence from drugs and alcohol, medication compliance, and attendance to treatment activities.

Motivational Interviewing

Therapists may use motivational interviewing to find the root of a person’s motivation for getting and staying sober. A person may not always know what their motivation for sobriety is when they enter treatment. Through motivational interviewing, the therapist can help the individual explore their feelings and discover their own true motivations for sobriety, versus being told the reasons why he or she should be motivated to stay sober.

Holistic Therapies

Many reputable drug and alcohol treatment centers and sober living homes offer holistic therapy options as part of their treatment programs. Holistic therapies are typically non-medical counseling tools that may help with physical and emotional addiction symptoms and imbalances. They are also often taught or performed by licensed professionals. Examples of holistic therapies include:

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Equine Therapy
  • Art Therapy
  • Music Therapy
  • Drama Therapy
  • Massage Therapy

Long-Term Counseling in After Care

For most people, the road to recovery does not stop once they complete a formal treatment program. In fact, many people continue to receive treatment services through what is known as an aftercare program. In aftercare, individuals no longer live or receive full-time care at a treatment facility, but may engage in specific services to help them maintain long-term sobriety. Some examples of aftercare services include:

  • Sober Housing
  • Sober Mentors
  • 12-Step Programs (or similar alternative)
  • Treatment Program Alumni Groups

Continued drug and alcohol counseling can also be a necessary part of aftercare. Afterall, when an individual leaves treatment, they will be forced to deal with the stressors of daily life, manage familial relationships, and re-establish themselves in their original community, all without drugs or alcohol. For many people, this can be overwhelming. Long-term individual, group, and/or family therapy can help during this transition, as the person will have a place to receive support, feedback, and advice as they navigate the world from this newly-sober place.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 310.403.1032 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.