Behavioral therapy for drug and alcohol addiction is not about digging into subconscious motivation as a cause for the addiction; it’s about managing the addiction and its symptoms. Once a patient has gone through a detoxification process – either with or without drug assistance – behavior modification for the management of drug and alcohol abstinence is the goal.
Behavioral Therapy and Medication
Behavioral therapy is particularly effective when combined with other treatments, most commonly, when used in conjunction with psychoactive medications – anti-depressants, anti-anxiety agents, or mood stabilizers. Often, a patient with drug and alcohol addiction will also be diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress, schizophrenia, or other personality disorders or mental conditions. The combination of psychoactive medication and behavioral therapy has proven to be effective in the management of addictions related to substance abuse.
Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive Therapy
Traditional psychotherapy, or ‘talk-therapy,’ encompasses several approaches to treatment. Cognitive therapy, for example, explores the role of subconscious motivation as a measure to evaluate past behaviors in order to predict and control future behavior. The main focus of behavioral therapy, however, is based on the theory of conditioned response; it’s focus is on learning how to manage a specific addiction by recognition of triggers (conditions that encourage the substance abuse).
Behavioral Therapy and the 12 Step Program
A 12-step program such as the one used by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), is an example of behavioral therapy for addiction; it champions setting short-term goals by approaching sobriety one day at a time; promotes admitting to and identifying the addiction; recognizes the importance of avoiding addiction triggers; and provides support and positive reinforcement through mentoring or sponsorship. Positive reinforcement is crucial to recovery for a patient suffering from alcohol and drug addiction.
Behavioral Therapy in Residential Treatment Centers
Behavioral treatments are offered in clinical settings at rehab facilities and as outpatient programs. It’s typical to begin treatment within a residential treatment center, and then progress to outpatient status.
Although typically regarded as an individual therapy, some behavioral therapies are being modified to group settings to help streamline the cost. Regarding adolescents, however, in group settings there is a danger of iatrogenic effects; children and teens often embrace and model anti-social behavior, particularly substance abuse, and after exposure to different methods of addiction, may adopt other addictive behaviors. Group therapy for children and adolescents should be carefully monitored for modeled behavior.
Behavioral Therapy and the Family
It’s not unusual to integrate treatment to include family members; however, family counseling within the behavioral approach to treatment for addiction is limited to educating the family about recognition of family behaviors which may be providing triggers. Family dynamics and issues concerning relationship compatibilities are not presented for evaluative treatment but are recognized only in their relation to identifying a trigger response in the patient. Behavioral therapy for the patient with drug and alcohol addictions focuses on acquiring life-skills to help the patient modify behaviors related to drug and alcohol abuse. It’s about acquiring short-term goals to establish life-long results.
Behavioral Therapy can be used in many different ways and in conjunction with other treatments. If you or a loved one is entering treatment, you can realistically expect that behavioral therapy will be part of your treatment plan.