Types of Therapy for Alcoholism
There are many effective, evidence-based treatment therapy options for alcoholism. Most rehab facilities will utilize some or all of following treatment methods.
What Are My Alcoholism Therapy Options?
An inpatient or outpatient rehab program for alcoholism will offer a variety of treatment therapy options. The following is an overview of the most popular methods for treatment which you may encounter at a rehab facility.
Psychotherapy is the classic approach of having a conversation. During psychotherapy, a patient talks to a trained psychologist about their problems and experiences. A talk therapy session could take place in a one-to-one, group, or family setting. A patient and their psychologist might discuss daily challenges, long-standing issues, and past traumas. Psychotherapy allows a psychologist to formulate a mental health diagnosis on the basis of psychoanalysis. A psychiatrist who conducts psychotherapy can prescribe patients medication.
In cases of psychotherapy for alcoholism, a psychologist might help a patient better understand and manage their cravings and stay motivated to achieve their sobriety goals. Psychotherapy sessions can last for severals weeks or span many months. During psychotherapy, the psychologist and patient develop a relationship on the basis of trust, openness, and confidentiality.
Psychotherapy acts as a roadmap for clinicians. It guides them though the process of understanding their clients and developing solutions. There are multiple approaches to psychotherapy, such as psychoanalysis, behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy, and integrative or holistic therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a proven method for alleviating the burdens of alcoholism. The basic premise of CBT is the importance of identifying negative thoughts and behaviors and replacing them with positive thoughts and behaviors. A CBT session will be a conversation between a patient and a psychologist. CBT is a solutions-oriented approach to treatment which focuses less on diagnosis and more on constructive action, such as challenging harmful beliefs, confronting fears, role playing to improve social interactions, and crafting strategies to stop drinking alcohol or using drugs. CBT is often effective with as few as five sessions.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is another type of evidence-based talk therapy. The DBT method operates from the assumptions that everything is connected, the world constantly changes, and opposite elements (thesis and antithesis) may synthesize into a better element or a greater truth. These assumptions comprise the basis of the philosophical system of dialectics. In practice, an individual or group DBT session will involve learning to live in the present instead of dwelling on the past, managing emotions and distress, and practicing honest communication. Ultimately, DBT is designed to help patients find emotional balance and embrace positive change. The method is dialectical because the practitioner who developed it wanted patients to be able to synthesize change and acceptance of the past to create a better life. Research has shown that DBT is effective for people who struggle with alcoholism and other substance abuse disorders.
DBT has four main strategies that are taught by the clinician to the client.
• Core Mindfulness
• Distress Tolerance
• Interpersonal Effectiveness
• Emotion Regulation
In counseling, motivational interviewing (MI) is a method for encouraging a patient to overcome ambivalence, set direct goals for self-improvement, and stay motivated to realize them. MI is a popular technique for treating substance abuse disorders because many people feel powerless against addiction and benefit from an infusion of willpower to decide to take action against it. In a motivational interview, a therapist will encourage a patient to commit to change, such as quitting alcohol.
Motivational interviewing is a brief, client-centered, semi-directive psychological treatment approach that concentrates on improving and strengthening a client’s motivations for change. MI aims to increase a client’s perspective on the importance of change. MI is useful for clients who are less motivated or ready for change. The practice involves a form of supportive and empathetic counseling style that rolls with resistance. MI is a brief intervention, where the counselor and client will meet for an average of 1 to 4 sessions. MI incorporates four basic principles in therapy:
- Expressing empathy
- Rolling with resistance
- Developing self-efficacy
- Developing discrepancy
MI is usually implemented with other therapy modalities.
A 12-Step Program is a supportive community where people openly discuss their struggles with substance abuse. The most famous 12-Step Program is Alcoholics Anonymous, but there are 12-Step Programs for addictions to Marijuana, Cocaine, Heroin, and even gambling as well. A 12-Step Program provides mutual help to everyone in the group, helping them feel connected, important, and accountable to others for staying sober. A 12-Step Program supplements other forms of therapy and gives patients something to discuss with their psychologists. The 12-Step approach is demonstrably effective at helping people to achieve sobriety long-term. For this reason, therapists sometimes facilitate the process of joining a 12-Step group for their patients and incorporate 12-Step material and their patients’ experiences at meetings into their sessions.
Yoga and Meditation
Yoga and meditation can be beneficial techniques for managing cravings and staying focused during recovery. Some rehab centers even offer their own yoga and meditation courses. Broadly speaking, yoga is a collection of physical and mental exercises. A yoga practice does not necessarily have to involve a spiritual or religious dimension. Meditation is any method of relaxation which helps a person maintain calm, emotional peace, and clarity. Studies have indicated that yoga and meditation can function as therapy for people with substance use disorders, especially if the sessions are led by a mental health professional and supplement other treatment.
Art and Music Therapy
Art and music are mediums of creative expression which can enhance the recovery process. As such, rehab centers sometimes offer art and music therapy to their patients. In the rehab setting, art and music therapy is more than just painting a picture or playing a song. Art and music therapy sessions are taught by therapists specifically to help people with alcoholism. The purpose of art and music therapy is to help people relax, express how they feel, and stay occupied with a positive activity. Art and music also help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, two common mental health condition which afflict people struggling with alcoholism.
Art and music therapy are thought to help patients tap into emotions and needs that may be difficult to express through more traditional forms of communication. Music therapy also provides clients with increased motivation for treatment. Physically, artistic expression connects us to our emotions. It is a tangible way to reconcile emotional conflicts. This connection can help fill the void that drugs and alcohol leave in a substance abuser. It also helps build new insights.
Artistic expression, whether through visual or musical creation or appreciation, touches people in their core. Music affects mood. That is what makes this beneficial in therapy.
Find the Right Alcoholism Treatment Therapy For You Today
With so many therapy options, there is hope for anyone with an addiction to recover. If you or someone you know has a problem with drugs and alcohol, please take action today and contact a dedicated treatment specialist to learn more about where to go for effective treatment at a rehab center.
Clinical Reviewer — Last Reveiwed: February 10, 2020
American Psychiatric Association. (n.d.). What is Psychotherapy? Retrieved on December 13, 2019, from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/psychotherapy
American Psychological Association. (n.d). What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? Retrieved on December 13, 2019, from https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/cognitive-behavioral
Brown, K. (updated 2018). The Healing Qualities of Music Therapy in Substance Abuse Treatment. PsychCentral. Retrieved on December 13, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-healing-qualities-of-music-therapy-in-substance-abuse-treatment/
Kuppili, P.P. (2018). Role of Yoga in Management of Substance-use Disorders: A Narrative Review. Journal of Neurosciences in Rural Practice, 9(1): 117-122. Retrieved on December 13, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5812135/
Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Cognitive behavioral therapy. Retrieved on December 13, 2019, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cognitive-behavioral-therapy/about/pac-20384610
Psychology Today. (n.d.). Motivational Interviewing. Retrieved on December 13, 2019, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/motivational-interviewing
Recovery Research Institute. (n.d.). Twelve-Step Facilitation (TSF). Retrieved on December 13, 2019, from https://www.recoveryanswers.org/resource/twelve-step-facilitation-tsf/
Schimelpfening, N. (updated 2019). Overview of Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Verywellmind.com. Retrieved on December 13, 2019, from https://www.verywellmind.com/dialectical-behavior-therapy-1067402
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