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Why You Need Therapy for Substance Abuse: Types & Treatment

Patient receiving therapy for substance abuse with a therapist

If you have a substance use disorder (SUD), whether alcohol or drugs, considering therapy for substance abuse can provide support in several ways before these addictions take control over your life. You’ve tried to quit using substances but can’t, set restrictions on how much or how long you drink but cannot stick to them, or you can’t stop even though your professional, personal, and social are suffering from misuse.

Therapy for Substance Abuse & Withdrawal Symptoms

Most people with a SUD know they have worsening physical and psychological conditions, but their addiction is too strong to quit.

Having a substance use disorder may mean you have developed a dependence on alcohol or drugs. You may experience withdrawal symptoms when you go without substances for a few hours.

Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include flu-like symptoms, muscle spasms, cramps, shakiness, hallucinations, delirium tremens, seizures, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.

You have two choices: continue the vicious cycle of seeking and misusing drugs or alcohol or seek treatment to stop the cycle once and for all.

There are many therapies to help you overcome a substance use disorder that you can access on an inpatient or outpatient basis.


Medications help someone detox from alcohol, opioids, and other drugs. Medication-assisted treatment is a crucial part of recovery. Most people cannot stop using substances because of the withdrawal symptoms that can be severe for some.

Medications used for alcohol withdrawal may include acamprosate, naltrexone, and benzodiazepines. For opioid withdrawal, a doctor may prescribe buprenorphine or a mix of buprenorphine and naltrexone. Naloxone is used in case of an overdose since it can reverse the effects of an opioid.

Medications ease the withdrawal symptoms and cravings so you can continue in treatment and learn the skills needed for recovery success.

Individual vs. Group Therapy

Therapy for substance abuse occurs in one of two ways, individual or group sessions. Individual therapy is when you work individually with a counselor to discuss your progress in a treatment program, address issues you may have, provide encouragement and motivation, and discuss things that are not appropriate for group therapy.

Group therapies consist of you and your peers participating in educational and therapeutic activities to learn how to avoid relapsing on drugs or alcohol. Specific group topics may include relapse prevention, communication, life skills, relationship building, recognizing triggers, and how substance misuse affects the brain and body.

There are specific types of therapies used to teach you in both individual and group therapy. They are called behavioral therapies.

Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapies have been studied for many years and provide the best results for recovery, especially when combined with medication-assisted treatment. Below is a list of behavioral treatments commonly used to treat substance use disorder in individual and group therapies.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT helps you recognize and change negative thoughts that lead to negative feelings and actions. You learn to replace positive thoughts so you can make better choices and prevent a relapse.

Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

DBT is a form of CBT that includes mindfulness-based techniques to help you stay focused on the present and aware of what is going on with your mind and body, so you can apply healthy coping skills that help you avoid a relapse.

Contingency Management Therapy (CMT)

Contingency management therapy provides rewards and prizes, including money and vouchers, for those who reach recovery goals.

CMT includes paying someone money for each life skills group or family therapy session they attend or providing vouchers or coupons that can be used to make purchases at local stores and restaurants when they complete one of their 12 steps.

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

The reasons someone enters treatment vary. Some are forced to attend by the legal system, family members, or employers. They aren’t ready to quit using but need to be motivated to stay sober.

Motivational interviewing helps you find reasons why getting sober is more beneficial than continuing to misuse substances. For example, some people fear losing a job or, worse, their children to protective services can be motivation to maintain recovery.

Family Therapy

Substance use disorders affect not only your life but also the life of those around you and vice versa. They may have even contributed to your addiction. For you to be successful in recovery, they need to know how they can help you. Family therapy can help. Whether they enabled your substance misuse, don’t understand boundaries, or created trauma in your past that led to substance abuse behaviors, they now need to learn how to help you maintain recovery.

Individual Counseling

Working with a licensed therapist means you get space and time to discuss your recovery progress and hardships and start strategizing for your recovery plan. An individual therapist can offer individualized tips and techniques unique to your situation. They can show you how to improve self-esteem and implement self-care for physical and emotional health.

Support Groups

Peer support helps you realize you are not alone in recovery. The 12 Step facilitation groups are the most effective support groups in helping someone remain sober long-term. These can include Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and co-occurring mental health-focused groups.

Additionally, groups are also a place to give feedback to your peers who are going through what you are right now. Sharing your story makes others feel less alone, connects you to people who understand, and helps you build a sober support system.

Seek Therapy for Substance Abuse with Dedicato Treatment Center

If you have a substance use disorder, call us to learn more about therapies. If you are not ready to stop using drugs or alcohol, that’s okay. Contact us anyway. We can explain more about treatments, and when you are ready, we will be here for you.