Addiction treatment programs use many different types of treatment to address each client’s unique needs. Combining multiple therapy types treats the disease of addiction by confronting it from multiple angles, increasing the odds of successful long-term recovery.
Addiction is a disease that affects the individual and the family. Since the family is a system of interrelated parts, what affects one person affects all parts. In family therapy, participants are educated on the nature of addiction and attend counseling sessions. Family members learn healthier ways of communicating, and therapy addresses any enabling or codependent behaviors.
Family therapy is a crucial aspect of addiction treatment because it can help in creating a healthier home environment.1 An improved home environment benefits both the family and the individual returning home after treatment.
Holistic therapy addresses the whole individual by caring for the mind, body and spirit. By addressing the needs of the whole person, holistic therapy improves overall health and well-being. Holistic therapies for addiction treatment can include exercising, acupuncture, massage therapy, reflexology, meditation, yoga and relaxing outdoors with nature. Wholesome nutrition that caters to a person’s dietary preferences should also be a part of holistic treatment care.
Mental Health Care
The majority of people—50 to 70 percent—who are receiving treatment for addiction also need care for a co-occurring mental health disorder.2 They may have experienced trauma or be suffering from anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, grief or PTSD. Treatment addresses mental health symptoms in light of the client’s substance use disorder, which improves the odds of successful long-term recovery.
Trauma-focused treatment is crucial for the successful recovery of anyone suffering from the ongoing effects of past trauma. Many of those suffering from addiction started down that path by using drugs or alcohol to self-medicate the negative symptoms of trauma. Trauma-informed care incorporates this history and treats substance abuse from a psychosocial perspective.
Biosound therapy is a cutting-edge therapy used in addiction treatment programs.3 Biosound combines biofeedback, music, vibrational massage and guided imagery through an audio-visual system. A Biosound session produces calming effects by helping a person slow down racing thoughts and reach a meditative state.
A majority of reputable addiction treatment programs model components of their therapy program after the 12 Step program. When 12-step group therapy approaches are used, the likelihood of successful long-term recovery increases.4
By attending group meetings, participants form a support network of like-minded peers. Group members learn coping skills and behavioral strategies from each other that help them successfully transition into independent, sober living.
Once an individual has completed a residential or outpatient program, an aftercare plan is implemented for their transition to independent living. The treatment team meets with the client, and possibly their family, to discuss the best aftercare approaches.
The aftercare plan is designed to meet the person’s unique needs, and it addresses housing options, follow-up addiction treatment sessions, mental health and medical care and nearby 12-step programs. If housing in a sober living home is requested or needed, treatment center staff make the arrangements.
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Excessive substance use can start off as a behavior intended to reduce discomfort. Over time, this behavior becomes a habit—an action so ingrained that the brain performs it automatically, and a person may forget what it was like to not engage in that habit whenever they feel uncomfortable. This is the beginning of how habit becomes addiction.
When Habit Becomes Addiction
At first, these habits feel good to us. For example, a beer or glass of wine while relaxing after work might help an individual unwind. The brain begins to associate this behavior with positive feelings, a connection that becomes stronger over time and the more the behavior is performed.
Unfortunately, this positive association can continue to linger even after the behavior has negative consequences. A drink or two after work can turn into drinking before work or even on the job, leading to termination. The individual is now jobless due to their alcohol use. As this habit becomes addiction, the individual will likely still turn to alcohol for comfort because they have developed the habit of drinking whenever they experience negative feelings. The brain’s positive association with alcohol reinforces that behavior.
This association between a substance and pleasure can be broken. Although difficult, it may become necessary to form new, less harmful habits. A person can consciously choose to replace their old comfort habit with a new one that will eventually create its own “feel good” association with their brain, effectively replacing the old behavior.
Creating a New Habit
When choosing a new comfort habit, pick something that’s both healthy and personally enjoyable. Initially, it can be anxiety-inducing to perform this new behavior instead of the old one, and you may find that you’re acting against your instinct. Focus on the positive feelings and joy associated with your new habit when you feel a craving to perform the old one.
Acknowledging these cravings can also be helpful in establishing your new habit. By realizing how heavily you relied on the old behavior, you can deliberately choose to replace it with the new one. Adopt a verbal or physical cue—for example, standing up out of your chair or verbally declaring that you’re going to try something new–that you use whenever you’re going to perform the new habit rather than the old one. This cue slows your behavior down so you can make the right choice to pursue your new habit, rather than following your body’s instinct to indulge in the old one.
Over time, your new habit will begin to feel more and more natural, allowing you to move away from old, harmful behaviors. While you’re establishing your new, healthy pattern of behavior, practice self-care and forgiveness. Changing a long-established habit can be difficult and stressful, but it will pay off in the long run.
Some people can use drugs or alcohol and never become addicted, while others begin developing an addiction from the moment they first experiment with a substance. If your substance use has escalated or has begun causing problems in your life, you may be wondering whether you need to seek treatment for a possible addiction. The first step to determining whether you need to seek treatment is to understand what addiction is.
The Stages of Addiction
What was formerly simply labeled as “addiction” is now understood as a chronic and progressive disease of the brain with multiple stages that include tolerance, dependence and addiction.
Tolerance: The pleasurable effects of a substance typically decrease over time as the brain adjusts neurotransmitter levels, and increasing quantities are needed to achieve the same effects.
Dependence: When a dependence is established, physical or mental withdrawal symptoms will develop if substance use is abruptly stopped or decreased.1
Addiction: Addiction is the compulsive and continued use of a substance and an inability to stop, despite negative consequences such as absences from work or school, driving while impaired, legal problems and relationship difficulties with loved ones.2
The medical diagnosis for an addiction is “substance use disorder,” which is when substance use has started to cause constant life problems for the individual that are having progressively more impact.3 A substance use disorder is classified as mild, moderate or severe based on the results of an evaluation.
Mental Health Disorders
Another consideration for determining whether to pursue addiction treatment is if you’re experiencing any mental health conditions. It’s common for people who use or abuse drugs or alcohol to have a co-occurring mental illness. Some frequent combinations are alcohol use and depression and meth use and bipolar disorder. Alcohol and drug abuse can increase the severity of any underlying mental disorders.
Addiction is common in people with mental illness:4
About 50 percent of people with serious mental illness are also suffering from a substance use disorder.
37 percent of those with an alcohol use disorder and 53 percent of those with a drug use disorder also have at least one serious mental illness.
Approximately 29 percent of people who are diagnosed with a mental disorder abuse either alcohol or drugs.
When someone has a substance use disorder along with a mental health condition, it’s known clinically as a dual diagnosis. It’s often difficult for professionals to determine if the substance use triggered the mental illness or if the mental illness led the person to use substances in an attempt to alleviate unpleasant symptoms.
Regardless of which came first, effective addiction treatment will provide an opportunity to learn the skills to live a life of sobriety as well as treat any psychological disorders.
If you believe you have a possible substance use disorder, it’s best to talk to a professional. A professional addiction counselor can give you an assessment and discuss what treatment options might be beneficial for you.
If you decide to seek treatment, your assessment will help you choose a program that’s a good match for your needs. If you are diagnosed with a substance use disorder as well as a mental health issue, choose a rehab that has a dual diagnosis program to treat both disorders in context of each other. Treatment can successfully put you on the road to sobriety and a better, healthier life.
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Without question, being a parent is hard. It’s even harder if you have young children. Young parents may also be caught balancing parenting with work and school. It often gets complicated, but even more so if that young parent is also battling addiction.
If you are a young parent who has made the decision to enter addiction treatment, know that it’s an important step toward a healthy, rewarding life without drugs or alcohol. But there is something you’ll need to do before you begin: tell your child you’re going to rehab.
While you might be tempted to give your child another reason for your upcoming absence, it’s better to tell the truth, even if they’re young. The discussion could be challenging, but with the following tips in mind, it should be a productive, positive conversation.
1. Use Age-Appropriate Language
To tell your child you’re going to rehab, meet your child at their level of comprehension. This means keeping the conversation age-appropriate. The words you’ll use and the level of detail you’ll provide depends on your child’s age and maturity levels. Break down the details as simply and directly as possible.
2. Be Honest
Explain to your child where you are going and how long you will be away.1 Tell them you need treatment to get well. Be encouraging by saying that because you love them you want to get well, so you can be a better parent for them.
3. Explain Rehab
Explain rehab as the medical treatment that it is. Talk about the treatment center as you show your child pictures or brochures. Discuss the details of the program such as the schedule and the therapies you’ll be involved with. The more familiar your child is with where you’re going, the more comfortable they’ll feel about you going away there.
4. Discuss the Communication Rules
Talk to your child about the rules of the treatment center. Explain that you won’t be able to phone or see them as often as you would like, especially in the beginning. Find out when the first family visiting day is scheduled, and when you’ll be able to phone them. Put the dates on a calendar for them before you go.
5. Take Ownership
Your child may not have said much about your addiction, but they may know more than you think. They also may have been impacted more than you realize. Apologize for the pain you may have caused for your child. Your apology will validate their feelings.
6. Ask for Feedback
Engage your child in a two-way conversation by asking open-ended questions about how they’ve been feeling. Letting your child give you feedback will help them feel like they’ve been heard.
7. Clarify that It’s Not Their Fault
Many children feel they have some responsibility for their parents using drugs or alcohol.2 Tell your child that they are not in any way to blame for your substance use. Explain that addiction is a medical condition that they didn’t cause, nor can they stop it.
8. End on a Positive Note
Finish with a message of hope and reassurance. Explain that you’re going to rehab to heal and will return as a healthier, better parent. Let your child know how much you love them and how you’ll miss them while you’re gone. Make it clear that you will be coming straight home to them after rehab.
When a friend or family member decides to go into an inpatient addiction treatment facility, it can be a time of mixed feelings for those at home. There may be a sense of relief knowing that the individual is safe and receiving treatment. There also might be a wish to contribute to that person’s success and sense of well-being, but to do so in a way that doesn’t interfere with the process. It can be confusing.
A good idea is to talk with the patient’s therapist at the treatment center. They can give you a sense of what is appropriate in terms of communicating with their client and suggestions of things that person may need during their inpatient stay.
For example, letters and cards are always very welcome and comforting to those who may be struggling with feelings of homesickness. Sending photographs of the people and pets they are missing can bring instant joy to your loved one.
A gift that can prove both therapeutic and useful is a journal, perhaps along with a set of colored pencils or pens. Another thoughtful present for someone in rehab is something soft and warm to wear; often when someone is going through withdrawal from substances, they may experience chills and body aches. Food items such as candy or snacks are usually not permitted to be brought in during residential stays in rehab.
In addition to attending groups and lectures, individuals in inpatient addiction treatment will regularly have free time and may enjoy having a good book to read or a hobby to do.
Above all, when you do get to talk to your friend or loved one, be a good listener and try to respond in a positive, encouraging manner. Let them know you are proud of them for doing such hard and important work, and for taking this important step toward recovery.