About Treatment For Addictions and Substance Abuse: Healing From The Inside Out

The problem of addiction and excessive substance use can impact people from all walks of life -- teachers, doctors, students, parents, spouses, your child. Therapists, psychologists, researchers and addiction experts are often at odds about the nature of addiction. Whether you believe it is genetic, trauma, poor coping skills or some combination, effective treatment is available for individuals and their families. Addiction counseling is a form of therapy designed to help an "addicted" individual detox and recover from his/her problem, develops healthier coping mechanisms and adapt to a new life of abstinence or harm-reduction. Counseling and psychotherapy can be done in a rehabilitation center or in an outpatient program.  Many choose to enter personal therapy to get to the root of their reliance on substances and addictive behaviors and find solutions beyond just stopping the substance. Healing from the inside out may be one way to look at this approach as the focus is less on just stopping the behavior (putting a bandaid on the wound) and more about identifying the underlying causes and healing the traumas or emotional issues that have led to this maladaptive coping style. 

Addiction experts have a broad knowledge of the challenges individuals face early in recovery and long-term when recovering from a substance abuse problem. Depending on the substance(s) or behavior, specialized treatment may use a multi-disciplinary approach and often requires the safety provided by a professionally-staffed rehabilitation facility. Inpatient detox and rehab gives the individual adequate time to clear the body of harmful substances while being medically monitored and kept safe -- this also gives the individual an opportunity to learn new behaviors and coping mechanisms and heal the mind and body from early traumatic experiences using treatments such as CBT, DBT and EMDR.

The group setting offered by rehabs can be a very effective component of treatment providing the individual in recovery the opportunity to have a sense of community and support. The recovery process begins with a comprehensive treatment plan, and can continue for several years into the recovery phase of addiction. The therapist role is to engage the client and family if indicated, uncover early trauma(s), provide support with newly-learned skills and help the client maintain motivation all with the goal of leading a fuller, healthier life. 

Effective addiction treatment should, as an immediate goal, interrupt the cycle of use, and once the client is clear and clean, core issues surface and the the client or patient can be helped to identify the underlying causes of pain and suffering. Without this important step of understanding the trauma, events, complex feelings and emotions that drive the behaviors and the use of substances to manage and cope, treatment is rarely complete or successful. Connecting to the emotional issues that led to drug, alcohol and behavior addictions, and learning new, more effective ways to cope is key as the team and therapist monitors, encourages, and works with the patient to prevent relapse and self-destructive actions.

It is common for the family of a client in treatment to participate in family counseling for the benefit of their loved-one in recovery to uncover dynamics that contribute to reinforcing problem behaviors. Sometimes important, previously unacknowledged feelings, emotions, events and behaviors need to be acknowledged during family sessions so that the client in treatment no longer has the burden of trying to self-manage or avoid family wounds. This can also give the recovering individual an opportunity to feel seen and heard by important family members. On a practical level, therapy sessions may also include future goal-setting, strengths discovery, self-esteem building and positive lifestyle changes. 

A helpful online resource for family, personal stories, recovery support and information about addiction is The Fix.