The Best Types of Therapy for Substance Use Disorders

By Natasha Palance

When faced with the burden of addiction, it can be challenging to ask for help. The effects of addiction significantly hinder a person’s overall wellbeing making it difficult to reach out to others for support. And the effects of substance use disorder (SUD) extend past the immediate challenges of poor mental health. SUD can negatively affect an individual’s physical health as well.  

What’s worse, the lives of people suffering from SUD can become turbulent. Relationships can become strained. Their professional life may take a turn for the worse. They may experience unemployment or homelessness. People often experience many financial challenges as well, while combatting SUD. This is why it is essential to seek help beyond your physical health and address any emotional or psychological challenges that you may have through therapy. 

For some, therapy might seem overwhelming or out of reach. Luckily, there are many ways to approach getting mental and psychological help. Keep reading to learn about the different types of therapy treatment options for addiction recovery. 


Types of Addiction Therapy 

Different therapy plans and types provide specialized treatment modalities for SUD. Each serves a specific purpose and addresses a specific need. People suffering from SUD often implement one or sometimes several of these types of therapies into their recovery plan. They are usually available in both inpatient and outpatient rehab facilities. 

Below are some of the best regular and alternative therapy practices that can help change your life – many of which we use at Samaritan Inns. 100% of our clients experience some type of trauma, anxiety, depression, etc. Our team implements focused, outcome-based therapeutic protocols from the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs that prioritize the treatment of trauma so that clients can not only get sober but stay sober. Read on to discover more about these methods and practices. 


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most common type of therapy for addiction. It focuses on behavior change that may worsen a person’s SUD if not addressed properly. CBT helps people recognize and change the way they think about and have associations with substance abuse. This type of therapy is often goal-oriented and problem-focused. Patients learn how to recognize connections between SUD and their thinking patterns, feelings and actions. Patients also work towards increasing their awareness of these factors to guide behavior change on their recovery journey. This is the bulk of what we use at Samaritan Inns. Our team follows the Living in Balance curriculum, which draws from cognitive, behavioral, experimental, and 12-step approaches.  

“[SUD] is an emotional disease, and we teach clients how to change thought, feeling, and behavior with a focus on emotional regulation. CBT helps teach clients how to coregulate and self-regulate their emotions. Co-regulation is working with someone who helps you deescalate and respond appropriately to redirection. Self-regulation is teaching the client how to recognize physical and emotional symptoms that are escalating and implement coping skills like taking a walk, writing in your journal, or listening to music that help reduce stress levels,” Director of Treatment Programs, Judy Ashburn said. 


EMDR Therapy 

The main goal of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is to help people who have experienced traumatic events, including those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or other upsetting life experiences. There are eight phases to EMDR therapy in which a therapist will use bilateral stimulation to help with processing the information of traumatic flashbacks, desensitizing negative cognition and installing positive cognition, a method that effects permanent change. It also helps patients process body sensations, thoughts, and feelings in a way that is conducive to mindfulness and meditation.  

At Samaritan Inns, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) psychotherapy is in its formative stages of being implemented and is crucial in addressing our treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and other mental health issues. Due to the co-occurring (substance abuse and mental health) levels of care that we service in the longer treatment programs, there is adequate time to introduce EMDR techniques. 

This helps to create a safe environment, build therapeutic alliances, conduct assessments, and create person-centered plans that will build capacity to support our clients as they address trauma in their recovery process.  

Our Director of Treatment Programs, Judy Ashburn, LPC, is an EMDR certified therapist and is a Master Traumatologist through Green Cross Academy of Traumatology. Judy facilitates both group and individual EMDR therapy in our residential substance abuse treatment programs. She facilitates this with Dr. Benjamin Keyes, PhD, EdD, Executive Director of Green Cross and Kirsten Dolby, PhD, an EMDR-certified therapist.  

Creative-Based Therapy 

Creative-Based therapy is a non-traditional type of psychotherapy that is used for coping with many issues including addiction. Activities often include arts and crafts, acting or role-playing, props, animal care, or guided imagery. The goal is to recreate, re-enact, and re-experience emotions and learn to process them in a healthy and productive way. This type of therapy helps patients explore relationships between the self and perceptions, improve communication skills, teach relaxation techniques, improve impulse control, and explore creativity and sense of identity. 

Samaritan Inns offers a music program to help residents along their recovery journey. Through a weekly Creative Expression Music Program, Jeff Majors, a facilitator through Network of Doves, a partner nonprofit organization, works with our clients and clinicians to enhance the recovery process through creative expression.   

This program serves to uplift and influence clients with the power of audio music and videos and apply evidence-based practices to further address the complexity of co-occurring disorders (SUD and mental illness). “By accessing the right brain through music, participants find more creative ways to connect with their heart at a deeper place,” Director of Treatment Programs, Judy Ashburn said. The classes focus on life skills and impulse control improvement, helping to position each individual for long-term recovery.  

Family Therapy 

Family is central to this method of therapy. The primary focus of this therapy type is to better understand the dynamics of a person’s family structure and how their life is impacted by this. This includes conversations with friends and family to address underlying needs. From there, a person is enabled to implement a better understanding of healthy boundaries and family patterns, improve family function around someone with a substance-related disorder, and enhance communication and problem solving.   

Overall, the primary aim is to improve communication within the family. In doing so, people are empowered to understand the connections between their family and their everyday life.  


Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT) 

Medication-assisted therapy uses medication to help patients get off drugs or alcohol. There are FDA-approved medications that can be used in tandem with therapy to treat SUD. This is primarily used for opioid and alcohol addictions. The medication helps to block the euphoric effects of drugs, reduce alcohol and drug cravings, normalize brain chemistry, and stabilize the body as it goes through withdrawal. It is an individualized treatment option that supports a person on their journey to recovery. It is common for patients to seek another type of therapy treatment to use with MAT. 


Why Therapy is Important 

The skills obtained through therapeutic work are critical for lasting sobriety and will complement an individual’s behavioral interventions along their recovery journey.  Interventions focused on changing criminal thinking, anger management, substance use, education, and employment skills will further help an individual recover from SUD. With the right combination of therapy practices, individuals fighting addiction will be able to fortify their newfound physical/emotional/psychological well-being so they can transition to a new way of life. 

 Moreover, therapy helps create motivation to stay clean, change attitude behaviors and thought processes around certain issues. With hard work in therapy, people suffering from SUD will develop new life skills and coping mechanisms to stay engaged and accountable for their actions. Therapy also provides a different way to connect with others and reinforces the notion that no one is alone on their recovery journey. 


What We Provide at Samaritan Inns 

Samaritan Inns is the only organization in the nation’s capital that provides separate services for men and women in residential treatment which helps increase their focus on recovery. Samaritan Inns also has the only Women with Children Treatment Program, with certified daycare onsite. We are seeking to enhance our curriculum, adapt our continuum to regulation changes, and continue to provide holistic care to men, women, and families. 

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