Nov. 16, 2021 – As we’ve mentioned, both inpatient and outpatient programs use a variety of therapy techniques for addiction counseling. Some of the more common types of behavioral therapy methods used to treat substance use disorder include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy for substance use disorders (CBT for SUD): According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this type of therapy explores the relationship between how you think, feel, and behave as it relates to substance use. In recovery, CBT also teaches new connections between thoughts, feelings, and actions. Dr. Goldman says this will also include learning triggers, how to manage cravings, and challenging false beliefs that lead to substance use.
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT): This type of therapy has a specific set of protocols for substance use.5 Dr. Goldman says DBT helps you learn how to regulate your emotions, tolerate distress, and improve relationships with others—all skills that someone new to sobriety will benefit from learning.
  • Rational emotive behavioral therapy: This is a form of CBT that focuses on self-defeating beliefs—say, feeling like a failure if you don’t achieve success in all areas of your life—that influence you to have negative feelings and behaviors linked to substance use, according to the American Psychological Association.
  • Biofeedback therapy: This uses feedback from electronic sensors placed on your body to track involuntary functions like breathing, heart rate, and muscle contraction during therapy.6 This therapy can also help monitor withdrawal symptoms during the detox process, so you can see how your body responds to stressful situations and learn to relax.
  • Contingency management therapy: This type of therapy, backed as an effective intervention for substance use disorders by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, uses tangible rewards, like vouchers for movie tickets or restaurants, to reinforce positive behaviors, like passing urine tests.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy (MET): With this therapy, the therapist relies on motivational strategies to invigorate you, particularly if you are ambivalent toward changing, Dr. Goldman says. The purpose is to strengthen your motivation and commitment towards sobriety or harm reduction.
  • Experiential therapy: If you aren’t comfortable doing traditional talk therapy, experiential therapy takes you out of that scenario. A therapist will be present while you do an activity, such as art, rock climbing, or working with animals, while walking you through certain therapeutic exercises to cope with past trauma that may have led to substance use. 


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