What Is Individual Therapy?
Individual therapy is an effective treatment method for individuals dealing with mental health issues, such as, but not limited to, addiction. However, individual substance abuse counseling isn’t just for individuals who struggle with addiction. Individual counseling is also for those needing to confront issues in their lives.
Psychotherapy assists individuals in taking control of their lives and teaching them healthy coping skills for demanding circumstances. It helps with mental health disorders such as trauma, addiction, general emotional struggles, and other issues. Individual substance abuse counseling is also widely known as talk therapy. Talk therapy has various benefits for mental health.
A Safe Place During Treatment
One of the best aspects of individual counseling is it acts as a safe space for patients to open up about experiences and feelings with a trained professional. Generally, it’s a licensed mental health counselor or a psychologist.
A personalized approach occurs during individual sessions. Generally, talk therapy will consist of one-on-one, 45-minute to 60-minute sessions a week with a counselor. During the sessions, the patient can discuss whatever is concerning or bothering them.
Throughout addiction treatment, patients will learn how to cope with behaviors and thoughts they’re experiencing. The therapy sessions can occur from a few short-term sessions a month to year long-term sessions.
How Can Individual Therapy Help?
Individual therapy helps:
- Recovering from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
- Life transitions such as death, divorce, or career changes
- Eliminating or controlling disturbing symptoms
- Coping with everyday life
- An inability to sleep
During addiction treatment programs, individual therapy is in conjunction with medication. The psychologist and patient need to commit to attending sessions. During a weekly/daily therapy session, the patient can go through thoughts/feelings in an open and safe environment.
What Happens During Individual Substance Abuse Counseling?
In individual substance abuse counseling, a patient will confront traumatic and deep-rooted life situations that have led to drug and alcohol addiction. An individual’s mental health can play an essential role in an individual’s turn towards drugs. It’s common for many to have a dual diagnosis.
Addiction doesn’t start anywhere; it can take years to develop. When individuals encounter addiction, they might feel fearful or ashamed. As a result of that, individuals bury their emotions and turn to substance abuse for comfort. During sessions, thoughts/emotions are the focus.
The patient and psychologist will focus on the goal of therapy sessions and the amount. Patients are encouraged to speak to the therapist about virtually anything on their minds. For individuals moving away from repeated drug use, there will be more definite issues such as:
- Confronting challenging memories
- Changing thinking patterns
- Relapse prevention
- Identifying triggers
Why Is Individual Therapy Essential to Addiction Treatment?
Individual therapy is essential to addiction treatment for several reasons. Substance abuse recovery is much more than just the detoxing process. The detoxing process handles the physical recovery from alcohol or drugs.
Individual substance abuse counseling addresses the emotional and mental needs of those in recovery. Alcohol and drugs are for those who self-medicate or even those dealing with challenging emotions and situations. There are usually many thoughts and emotions to unpack, which occur after the substances have left the body.
The beauty of therapy is being able to put the pieces back together. Engaging in therapy allows the person freedom to address their challenges. This allows patients the growth and space to function more successfully in life.
Continuous therapy is also needed to assist in avoiding relapse. There are various psychological issues and social situations that play a role in a relapse being triggered. Individual substance abuse counseling can address several triggers, such as:
When a person resorts back to drinking or drug use, it can trigger old thought behaviors and patterns. This can include attending the same restaurant, bar, or neighborhood tied to addictive behaviors. Therapy helps a person discover coping mechanisms in an attempt to deal with such circumstances.
Stress from relationships, family, work, and various other life situations can lead an individual to the desire to self-medicate. An advantage of the therapy is it helps discover more encouraging ways of dealing with stress.
It can be challenging to continue viewing friends who engage in drugs especially if they continue to do so. As a result, there can be pressure to join in again.
Individual Therapy Helps Address Co-Occurring Disorders
A person can experience a trigger in several aspects of life, from other people to objects. These triggers can set off a craving in a person or even mental distress. In therapy, patients will work on identifying triggers and learning how to avoid them.
For example, some triggers are unavoidable, such as running into a specific person on the street. However, individual counseling can teach individuals how to deal with triggers healthily. Also, individual therapy will aid in relapse prevention.
When a patient attends a treatment facility, the first step is a medical detox administered by the clinical staff. During this part of treatment, the body is cleansed of harmful substances. From there, the patient is weaned off. After the physical dependence on drugs has vanished, there is still work to complete.
When this step occurs, aftercare comes into play. Aftercare includes various types of therapy options. The therapist will work with the patient to ensure abstinence from drugs.
Upon first walking into therapy, a patient might struggle and find it stressful to confront challenging situations. They may begin to cry, feel anger, or become mentally exhausted. Gradually, however, the patient will learn how to open up to the therapist and feel comfortable in the sessions.
The therapist will become the patient’s trusted confidant. It’s important to note that addiction treatment services that include talk therapy are essential to recovery.
Types of Individual Counseling for Substance Abuse
There are several types of therapy options that a patient can choose. It depends on which option a patient enrolls in. It depends on how effective it’ll be for someone in that situation. Individuals with dual diagnoses can benefit from mental health and addiction counseling.
The first step in drug and alcohol addiction treatment is detox. Even though the body must cleanse itself of harmful substances, it’s not the only treatment method needed. After detox, outpatient or residential treatment is needed.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is proven to be an effective way of treating addiction. It’s designed for individuals addicted and in need of treatment. The therapy component continues even after the patient has departed from residential treatment.
Continuing therapy helps tackle the root cause of addiction in patients and provides coping mechanisms. These mechanisms grant patients coping skills during this challenging time while integrating back into everyday life.
Sometimes, patients combine medications, such as the ones that are FDA approved, and prescribed for other disorders with behavioral therapies and counseling, which provides a more comprehensive approach to traditional drug rehabilitation programs. MAT is ideal in a residential program under the supervision of health professionals.
The health professionals monitor withdrawal symptoms and the reactions to medications. For instance, methadone can’t be prescribed but administered. Methadone has powerful effects on individuals if taken home without professional monitoring. The process isn’t only physical but psychological concerning mental illnesses that might’ve gradually developed.
Overall, aftercare is a crucial aspect of addiction treatment. It positively affects how a person thinks about drugs and alcohol since these substances negatively impact the brain.
This individual branch of psychotherapy focuses on an individual’s thoughts rather than behaviors. It combines behavioral theories and cognitive learning to express how a person perceives a situation and determines the reaction. CBT doesn’t determine the reality of the situation.
During CBT, therapists will recognize specific harmful thoughts and replace them with more healthy and positive ones. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps people view what behaviors and thought patterns contribute to addiction in their lives. CBT focuses on the present, not the past.
During the therapy sessions, patients might have to recall distressing and painful thoughts about their problems. The patient will determine if these are real thoughts with the therapist. Remotely negative thoughts can contribute to a person’s mental health and addiction.
It’s paramount to discover the reason behind substance abuse. The goal of CBT is for patients to be actively involved in treatment. Therefore, they can better understand the importance of how they approach everyday life situations.
One of the most common types of therapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy. CBT can successfully treat the following:
- Trauma-related conditions
- Substance abuse
- Eating disorders
Dialectical-behavioral therapy (DBT) is a type of CBT that can help regulate emotions. This therapy uses the theory of dialectics of balancing opposites. Instead of promoting the “either-or” approach to life, DBT takes a “both-and” approach.
This therapy method gives patients different ways to look at two perspectives simultaneously. Overall, this will help promote balance and avoid patients from viewing situations as black or white. The two “balancing opposites” of DBT are acceptance and change.
DBT is known to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD), mood disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, and bipolar disorders.
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Megan began her career working in substance use treatment at an inpatient setting where she found her calling for helping the young adult population. Megan has a Master of Science degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Monmouth University with a specialty in Addiction Studies. She is currently a Licensed Associate Counselor and is awaiting her credentialing to become a Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor. Megan has a history working in the mental health and addiction field utilizing CBT and MI approaches within her clinical practices.