The Sober Living AZ Blog

Why You Should Do Lifetime Therapy

Posted on 02/13/20: Addiction Aftercare

Therapy is an essential component of an addiction and substance abuse treatment program. Working with a licensed counselor is how you learn to confront and process your trauma, build confidence, and learn valuable coping skills, among many other things. But many people have the misconception that therapy naturally ends once you complete the program. This is not the case. In fact, lifetime therapy is the key to maintaining a sober lifestyle. In addiction, and life in general, you should always be striving for constant, consistent improvement. And it’s really hard to do that alone for the rest of your life. Sometimes you need outside validation and guidance to move you out of your own way. In this article, we will discuss the benefits of lifetime therapy, and why everyone should see a therapist regularly.

Addiction and Mental Illness

Addiction and mental illness go hand-in-hand. Usually, a person either develops a substance abuse issue in order to cope with the negative thoughts and feelings that can cause discomfort for a person struggling with mental illness, or the addiction manifests first and begins to cause mental health issues that weren’t there before.  According to multiple national population surveys, about half of those who experience a mental illness during their lives will also experience a substance abuse disorder and vice versa. When one is diagnosed with a mental illness and substance abuse disorder, they are referred to as co-occurring conditions or dual diagnosis. Essentially: two psychiatric diagnoses occurring at the same time in someone’s brain. Some of the most common co-occurring mental illnesses are:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attention-deficit disorder (ADHD)
  • Psychotic illness
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • Antisocial personality disorder

In addition, patients with schizophrenia have higher rates of alcohol, tobacco, and drug use disorders than the general population. Data also suggests that people with mental, personality, and substance use disorders were at an increased risk for nonmedical abuse of prescription opioids, and around 43 percent of people in treatment for prescription opioid abuse had diagnoses or symptoms of mental health disorders (especially depression and anxiety). 

Why therapy benefits those with substance abuse disorders

Addiction runs much deeper than on a physical level. While it’s true that illicit substances can have an effect on the brain’s overall chemistry which plays a big role in a person becoming addicted, scientists have now discovered that it’s not the only cause. As we now know, substances aren’t the only things that cause addiction. It’s possible to become addicted to activities and repeated actions like shopping, gambling, pornography, etc, which create a shift in the chemical balance of the brain despite not introducing any outside chemicals to the body (Harvard Health Publishing). This shows that it’s not necessarily the chemicals within substances themselves that cause addiction, but rather the way the brain’s reward center is stimulated.

Because of this, an essential part of recovery is tackling these mental blocks so that you may begin training your brain to no longer be dependent on the substance. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) outlines several principles of addiction treatment based on data the organization has collected for the past 40 years. These principles aim to improve the odds of success in treatment by ending (or moderating) drug use, lowering the risk of relapse, and allowing the person with an addiction to be successful in a lifetime of sobriety. These principles include things such as:

  • Addiction is a multifaceted problem, but one that can be treated effectively.
  • Treatment should be directed to the individual person rather than to their drug(s) of choice.
  • Treatment can be helpful even if the client initially goes involuntarily. (Eventually, the client’s voluntary participation in treatment will influence their recovery path.)
  • Medications can be an important part of treatment to address drug abuse or the mental health aspects underlying substance use.
  • Counseling and behavioral therapies are highly utilized and the best available treatment options for drug abuse. 

According to these principles, counseling and behavioral therapies are some of the best methods of treating addiction issues. This is because therapy tackles the root cause of addiction, and what allows it to persist: uncomfortable feelings and emotions stemming from trauma. And because most people have yet to fully confront their emotions surrounding past experiences and trauma, they will never be able to completely heal without the guidance of a trained therapist.

Common Types of Therapy for Substance Abuse Disorder

There are many types of therapies that your provider might choose to use to treat you. Each one is different, and the one that your therapist or counselor follows will depend on your personal circumstances, and their specialties. If they believe you would benefit from a certain kind of therapy that they do not provide, they may refer you to another counselor who specializes in that type of therapy. Here are some of the most common types you may come across when seeking a treatment program:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT trains a person on how to recognize moods, thoughts, situations, and circumstances that lead to giving in to your drug cravings. Your therapist will teach you methods of combating the cravings and avoid the triggers. You will learn how to replace negative thoughts with healthy ones that will help you continue to stay clean. The skills you will learn through CBT will last you a lifetime, making it an extremely powerful treatment method. 

Contingency Management Therapy

This method provides positive incentives to stay clean. Vouchers for goods and services, extra privileges in treatment, etc.

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing is a counseling method that aims to help people uncover the internal motivation that they need to change their behavior, and tackle insecurities and obstacles holding them back in their recovery. 

12-Step Programs

The 12-Step Program was founded by Alcoholics Anonymous, a global, community-based program created to help those struggling with alcohol addiction. People in the program are guided by the support of their peers through daily meetings and discussions surrounding addiction.

How to find a lifelong therapist that is right for you

When you’re in a treatment program, you will likely be assigned a therapist/counselor, and there will be more structure to your sessions. However, the great thing about continued therapy outside treatment, is that you have much more of a choice when it comes to who you see for counseling and when you go. It’s all on your terms. Want to go once every other week? Once a month? Heck, every other day? You can do that! 

Additionally, being able to choose the therapist you want will make it easier to form the necessary client-therapist relationship that you need to establish in order to begin truly working on yourself. Do some extensive Google searching and dive into the reviews from other clients. And don’t be afraid to try out as many different mental healthcare providers as you want, and certainly don’t feel bad if you have to tell some that it’s just not going to work out. They understand and want the best for you. No two people are alike in their needs. Take all the time you need to find your perfect fit. When you do, you can truly begin the most important work of your life.

Why you should continue attending therapy regularly 

Counseling does a number of things. It:

  • Addresses flaws in thinking and teaches the person to productively modify them
  • Helps the person combat negative thoughts and behaviors
  • Provides coping methods and skills

Recovering from addiction is a lifelong journey. But equipping yourself with coping skills and methods of combating dangerous and harmful thoughts will make a world of difference in your substance abuse disorder treatment and your overall wellbeing. Even if you are fully sober and have zero desire to turn back to a life of addiction, going to counseling consistently will only serve to benefit you in all areas of your life. We as human beings never stop growing and striving to become our best selves, and counseling is an excellent way to get the guidance and support you need to do so. 

If you or someone you know needs help with addiction, contact Sober Living of AZ now to get the help you need. Sober Living offers an acclaimed recovery environment that merges upscale and luxury accommodations with affordability, clinical expertise and an unwavering commitment to patient care and aftercare. Call us now at 602-737-2458.

Content for Scottsdale Recovery Center and Arizona Addiction Recovery Centers created by Cohn Media, LLC. Passionate and creative writing and broadcasting, covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment, technology and advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best.

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