Applied Psychology

Types of Addiction Counselling

May 10, 2024 | By Jenna van Schoor
Counselling, group and psychology discussion with group of diverse people in therapy for addiction

Addiction is a chronic condition which can affect all aspects of a person’s life and those around them. It is very complex, making developing a multifaceted treatment approach essential. For example, people may experience mental health problems and trauma and face socio-economic difficulties over and above their compulsive tendencies. 

Although we might first think of it as associated with drugs, addiction can also include gambling, binge eating and compulsive buying. Addiction can take many forms, so understanding how it works and what can exacerbate it is critical. 

In this post, we’ll talk briefly about some of the different types of addiction counselling, which can help to create a broader picture of how to treat this condition.

Types of addiction counselling

When treating any kind of mental health problem, the treatment plan needs to be tailored towards the individual or group. Depending on the nuances of the addict’s situation, the approach may differ. In addition, certain treatment facilities might favour specific modalities over others. 

Here is an overview of some of the most common types of counselling approaches used in the treatment of addictions:

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a popular form of psychotherapy that helps people identify negative thoughts and behavioural patterns and come up with ways to change them.

In the context of dependency, CBT can help people develop ways to cope with cravings and triggers that drive compulsive behaviour.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is similar to CBT but combines psychotherapy with mindfulness practices. It is challenging to understand what drives people to engage in compulsive behaviour. By learning to regulate emotions, improve interpersonal skills, and cope with stress, people can learn how to find alternative regulation techniques. 

12-Step Facilitation Therapy

Organisations like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) have popularised the 12-step approach. By attending regular group meetings and working through a series of 12 steps, people can gain peer support and recover. The 12-step approach combines elements of spirituality and also involves having a sponsor to help you stay sober. 

These peer support groups, including organisations like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Overeaters Anonymous, allow individuals to share their experiences and encourage and support one another. 

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

People try multiple approaches to stop their addictive behaviour but many continue to suffer from relapses. One of the reasons may be that changing our thoughts and behaviour is incredibly difficult. To address this, Motivational Interviewing (MI) is an approach that aims to help people build motivation and commit to changing addictive behaviour by exploring ambivalence and helping to resolve it.

Relapse Prevention Therapy

To prevent relapse, individuals need to identify what triggers them and develop strategies for controlling these triggers. It’s also essential to know how to manage relapses when they occur. This includes learning how to manage stress, cravings, and high-risk situations (when a relapse is likely to happen).

Trauma-Informed Therapy

As mentioned in the intro, addiction is complex, and trauma can play a role. By creating a safe and supportive environment for healing, affected individuals can help to process the impact that trauma has had on their lives, which in turn can help to manage their compulsive behaviour. 

Family Therapy

Compulsive behaviours can have damaging effects on individuals and their families. Individuals with addiction may have grown up with substance abuse and other destructive behaviours around them, which has impacted their ability to provide a stable home environment.

This therapy aims to address family dynamics, improve communication and support the individual and their family. Peer support groups like Al-Anon can offer this kind of support to those impacted.

Holistic therapies

Holistic therapies have also become popular ways to treat and enhance mental health. These types of therapies focus on the person as a whole and include physical, emotional and spiritual aspects. Some examples include art therapy, yoga, meditation and acupuncture.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Depending on the type of dependency, medication might be necessary to help manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Some examples include using methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone to manage withdrawal from opioids or alcohol.

We’ve covered many treatment approaches above, which will not be used in isolation but may combine with one or more modalities. Overall, effective treatment requires a tailored approach that considers the unique circumstances of a person in recovery. 

Learn more about addiction counselling at SACAP Global

You can register for the online micro-credential, Foundations of Addiction Counselling, to learn more.

In this short online course, you will learn about the context and dynamics of addiction, about how addiction works, including the brain reward pathway and other factors that contribute towards compulsive behaviour. You’ll also find out more about various behavioural addictions and how co-occurring disorders like depression and anxiety can further complicate addiction.

The complexity of addiction will also be explored, including how it relates to issues like rape, sexual abuse, HIV/AIDS, intimate partner violence and homelessness. Various treatment strategies, like the ones we’ve discussed above, are also examined.

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