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Substance use disorder (SUD), also known as addiction, is a serious mental condition that affects one’s brain and leads an individual to compulsively engaging in harmful behaviors. Addiction is characterized when an individual habitually abuses drugs and/ or alcohol without regard for the ensuing negative physical, mental, social, emotional, financial and/ or legal consequences. For decades, addiction was not recognized as a mental illness, but rather something that was brought on solely by the struggling individual as the result of weakness in the form of a lack of control and/ or poor judgment surrounding his or her use of drugs and/ or alcohol. After significant research, addiction is now accurately identified as the mental disorder that it is and is listed as such in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5). 

There are a myriad of different therapeutic approaches when it comes to creating a treatment plan for an individual in recovery for substance abuse and/ or addiction. Every individual is different and will respond distinctly to the various therapeutic methods offered. It is highly common for substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment plans to include an array of different therapy strategies. Addiction often requires a customized treatment plan that considers and addresses the symptoms, the underlying causes of the disease, as well as work with the individual to repair the damage that occurred in the various areas of his or her life as a direct result of his or her substance abuse. 

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a multi-dimensional form of psychotherapy that helps an individual learn to shift damaging belief systems and behaviors. It focuses on one’s thoughts, beliefs, images and attitudes that contribute to his or her distorted sense of self. Through CBT an individual is able to identify, cope, and correct how these aspects influence the way he or she navigates the challenges in his or her life. 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is based on the principals of CBT with a greater emphasis placed on social and emotional aspects, such as regulating emotions and mindfulness. DBT was developed in the late 1980s to help treat individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD). It is now a common form of psychotherapeutic treatment for individuals struggling with extreme and/ or unstable emotions and/ or harmful behaviors. DBT can help to reduce one’s drug cravings, help individuals learn to navigate triggering situations, and learn healthy coping skills.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

The core of rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) is the notion that rational thinking comes from within and that positive and negative feelings do not manifest as a result of external stimuli, but rather are derived from one’s internal thoughts. REBT helps to teach individuals how to understand their own thoughts and subsequently develop rational thinking habits that promote positivity. 

Family Behavior Therapy

An addiction does not only affect the individual engaging in substance abusing behaviors, but also can have a significant impact on his or her loved ones. It is common for individuals in treatment for substance abuse and/ or addiction to participate in some form of family therapy. Family behavior therapy (FTB) can teach a family unit helpful tools and strategies for navigating family conflict, improving communication methods, and reduce risk factors for addiction. 


Any type of formalized substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment an individual completes will provide an individual with an aftercare plan. This can be invaluable for an individual in recovery, as it can provide a detailed relapse prevention plan and helpful guidance for maintaining one’s sobriety. As a result of one’s addiction, an individual often drops healthy habits (that were established prior to his or her substance abuse) and develops many unhealthy habits and patterns in order to accommodate his or her addiction. In addition to closely adhering to one’s therapeutic treatment plan, it is beneficial to one’s recovery to implement healthy life-style habits. Part of an effective recovery plan from substance abuse and/ or addiction is for an individual to foster a reliable support network. This, for example, can be accomplished by regularly attending support group meetings such as Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) and/ or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Furthermore, assuring an individual maintains a healthy diet, establishes a consistent exercise routine, obtains adequate rest and nightly sleep are all important self-care practices that can help an individual maintain continued success regarding his or her sobriety. 

If there is concern that a loved one may be struggling with substance abuse and/ or addiction, it is essential to obtain professional help as soon as possible. If left untreated, addiction can result in severe short and long-term consequences, and in some cases death. The sooner an individual obtains treatment for his or her addiction, the sooner he or she will learn the tools needed to go on to live a sober, healthy, and meaningful life. 

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