Forms Of Therapy You'll Encounter In Recovery

Posted by Jackson Bentley on Aug 31, 2018 8:00:00 AM
Jackson Bentley
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Residential treatment, intensive outpatient, and partial hospitalization are three forms of treatment for recovering addicts to successfully attain sobriety and learn methods and tools for building long-term sobriety. While in treatment, they will experience multiple forms of therapy with addiction counselors and clinically trained therapists that will ultimately form the foundation for continued success in recovery. At Landmark Recovery, we utilize only evidence-based and research-backed practices that are integral to patient success.

Individual Therapy

Individual therapy is the cornerstone of any type of addiction treatment program. While group therapy and support meetings are important for helping those in recovery to share and empathize with peers, individual therapy allows patients to delve deeper into their own personal addiction and address the underlying psychological mechanisms that play a role in their addiction.


Individual therapy involves a one-on-one meeting with a counselor or therapist who specializes in addiction treatment. The stereotype of therapy is that it involves sitting on a couch while the therapist asks “how does that make you feel?”, but the truth is that therapy involves so much more. It’s important to explore and share your feelings, but therapy also involves learning to understand your emotions, address life experiences, and learn healthy coping mechanisms.


Everything that occurs within the confines of individual therapy is confidential, safe, and judgment-free. The only time that a therapist may share information is if they believe you could be a harm to yourself or others. There are several therapeutic modalities employed by therapists during individual therapy sessions. These different approaches are usually chosen based on the individual patient’s needs.


Dialectical-Behavioral (DBT)

This type of therapy (DBT) was originally developed to help people suffering from suicidal ideation and borderline personality disorder and blends individual and group therapy. In it, patients learn social skills, how to deal with stress, and have healthier interpersonal relationships. Patients develop the skills and strategies they need to lead a life they feel is worth living.


Cognitive-Behavioral (CBT)

CBT is an approach to therapy that helps patients identify, dismantle, and replace unhealthy, negative modes of thinking with positive ones. In doing so, recovering addicts can learn to avoid triggers and replace substance use with healthier activities such as team sports, writing, or exercising.



Interpersonal therapy is a specific approach to therapy that has the therapist-patient relationship stand in as a proxy for other relationships in the patient’s life. With this type of approach, patients can explore the challenges of these other relationships and learn ways to navigate these challenges in real life. For recovering addicts, this could be used to deal with an abusive partner, codependent, or family member or friend who is an enabler.



Emotionally-focused therapy was originally developed for marriage counseling but is now popular in individual therapy. This method prioritizes attachments and teaches patients to develop healthy, secure attachments with people and objects. It also helps patients to get past the hurt of past relationships.


Group Therapy

A group of individuals sitting and talking together outside. One of the beneficial parts of treatment is group therapy.

Group therapy is an effective and in some cases more useful form of therapy than individual therapy for teaching better interpersonal skills and stress management. In group therapy, patients gather in a group setting and work with either one or more counselors on activities that invite group members to share or participate in shared challenges. Many treatment centers employ group therapy as an addition to individual therapy. The basics include sharing feelings, planning for the future, and developing healthy coping mechanisms.


As with individual therapy, group therapy is safe, judgment-free, and confidential. While some of your views might be challenged or questioned in group therapy, it should be a place where no harassment, bullying, or manipulation occurs. Your therapist should do their utmost to create a safe environment of respect. One of the most beneficial aspects of group therapy is that participants can draw on the experiences and wisdom of multiple people in addition to the clinically trained therapist.


The structure of group therapy varies greatly according to the needs of the group and the approach of the therapist in charge. Some may emphasize cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy while others may use emotionally focused therapy. Group members generally comprise the same people per session, so therapists may begin a session leading off from what was discussed in the last session. If a group member has a particularly pressing concern, the therapist may use this as a jumping off point for the discussion.


Group therapy offers considerably more flexibility in terms of discussion, activities, and direction of the therapy. However, it takes an experienced professional in order to successfully steer group therapy sessions in the right direction and keep the group focused and invested in the discussion. Although it’s useful for learning interpersonal relationship skills, group therapy may not be the right choice for someone who is extremely uncomfortable in large groups.


Family Therapy

Family therapy is an option that some treatment centers offer for those who need it. Addiction is often called a “family disease” because it is typically inherited genetically and fostered in an unhealthy or dysfunctional family environment. Addiction can infect family relationships in a multitude of ways, so family therapy is useful as its own form of therapy because it can address and help to resolve the numerous issues that are present within a family that may be contributing to an addiction.


During family therapy in an outpatient or residential treatment center, family members are invited to join the recovering patient in group sessions where a therapist facilitates open discussion between and among family members. This kind of therapy can be difficult, as family relationships can be explosive and intense, and therapists will need to balance the needs of all members present, not just the patient.


The goal of family therapy is to help the entire family as a system and work through difficult relationships and modalities present. Family therapy is typically only recommended after the patient has undergone some other type of group or individual therapy. Some family therapists may draw from other methods such as CBT or DBT and use these to facilitate the sessions. Common forms of therapy designed specifically for family therapy are:



This method was developed by Salvador Minuchin and focuses on five principles that center around defining the relationships within the family and positioning the therapist to help the family outgrow old molds and develop a healthy new dynamic.



Strategic therapy involves starting with the basic principles of psychotherapy and helps the patient understand, diagnose, and treat their problems from the ground up. It is broken into five stages.



Systemic therapy draws from elements of sociology and other family system modalities to help the family understand their dynamic from a psychosocial setting.



Narrative therapy is different from other forms in that encourages the individual to focus on their own “narrative”, and tackle the problem using the proper tools that therapy sets them up for.



This therapy method allows the therapist to examine the interactions across family generations. By looking at the bigger picture, the therapist can better understand the origin of dynamics and relationships within the family.



Communication forms a key component of family therapy. Open communication is vital for a family to resolve their issues, and communication therapy focuses on improving communication among family members.



Psychoeducation is the practice of empowering and educating families about the disease of addiction and any potential mental illness that the patient may have. Psychoeducation seeks to destigmatize addiction.



Relationship counseling can be used for couples but there are also applicable modalities that work for family therapy. This type of therapy focuses on issues among family members and emphasizes relationship roles as well as modes of communication.


Experiential Therapy

For some recovering addicts, sitting in a therapist’s office or in a group setting and talking for an extended period of time sounds like a fate worse than hell. Experiential therapy was originally developed in the 1970’s as an active antidote to stationary therapy. Experiential therapy involves tasking participants with completing some kind of challenge rather than just talking about it. Unlike conventional forms of therapy, experiential therapy allows the therapist to observe the patient in a more realistic and natural environment than inside an office.


Experiential therapy differs according to the therapist who administers it, but some common forms of experiential therapy include animal therapy, adventure therapy, and conflict therapy. The therapist may engage in an activity the client enjoys such as horseback riding or lacrosse and engages in talk therapy with the patient. They may act out a conflict, take on the role of someone close to the patient, or act out some kind of stress event and talk through the emotional challenges.


Due to the experimental and varying nature of experiential therapy, there is no definitive evidence to support its superiority or inferiority to other forms of therapy. It is simply incorporated in some instances where the therapist deems that it may be beneficial. Research has shown that, in general, experiential therapy can be useful when combined with other forms of therapy and is more effective with children than with adults.


If you do decide to try out experiential therapy, you should make sure that you are receiving help from a trained therapist and someone with more than a handful of years of experience in their field. Experiential therapy may come across as gimmicky or ineffective, but the right kind of experiential therapy will allow someone to open up and could be the solution for someone who doesn’t respond to traditional forms of therapy.


Dialectical-Behavioral (DBT)

This type of therapy was originally developed by Marsha Linehan to help people suffering from suicidal ideation and borderline personality disorder and blends individual and group therapy. In it, patients learn social skills, how to deal with stress, and have healthier interpersonal relationships. Patients develop the skills and strategies they need to lead a life they feel is worth living. DBT has grown into one of the most popular methods of mental health treatment in the world.


Although it was intended for people with borderline personality disorder, DBT is also useful for treating symptoms of depression and anxiety. Any kind of ailment where the person has difficulty regulating emotions, coping with distress, and avoiding manipulation. Research suggests that DBT is especially effective for people with poor impulse control and difficulty managing strong emotions.


Cognitive-Behavioral (CBT)

CBT is an approach to therapy that helps patients identify, dismantle, and replace unhealthy, negative modes of thinking with positive ones. In doing so, recovering addicts can learn to avoid triggers and replace substance use with healthier activities such as team sports, writing, or exercising. CBT has been around for decades and has seen a surge in popularity over the decade as a useful tool for addiction recovery.


Patients begin by learning to identify negative, false thinking that may interfere with their life such as, “I’ll never be good enough”, or “I will never stay sober” and dismantle these thoughts. Patients learn why these thoughts are not facts and focus on practical skills for correcting this behavior. Research shows that cognitive behavioral therapy can be extremely effective and work quickly compared with other forms of therapy.


CBT is an excellent option for people seeking help with self-destructive thoughts and behaviors. People who struggle with anxiety and depression will find CBT useful, as well as recovering addicts who need help dealing with cravings, urges, or self-loathing behavior.


In Conclusion

If you’re struggling with addiction and wish to learn more about residential inpatient treatment, don’t hesitate to reach out to the team at Landmark Recovery. Addiction destroys the body and weakens the spirits. Landmark Recovery is a place where people struggling with chemical dependency problems can find answers to the issues that have tormented them for months, years or decades. Our dedicated clinicians, nurses and medical staff will help you or your loved one find solutions that “stick” for a lifetime. Whether you are curious about treatment methods, what's an intervention, or how to prevent relapse, we're here, and waiting to help. Call one of our caring admissions consultants today to find out about our comprehensive treatment program for drug and alcohol recovery.



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Topics: Recovery

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