When a person is diagnosed as addicted to alcohol or drugs, there are various courses of treatment. One component of treatment commonly recommended is therapy, also known as counseling. However, the matter of choosing a therapist can be daunting. Even among the field of therapists who specialize in drug and alcohol addiction recovery, there are different specializations. All types of therapists and therapies treat the core cause of their clients’ addictions, not just the symptoms. However, different types of therapists treat problems and addictions according to different schools of thought, and may place more or less emphasis on causes versus symptoms. It is important to understand the different types of addiction recovery therapists that are available. This helps in choosing which type of therapist will be the best suited for a particular problem.
Family and Marriage Therapist
A family therapist, or marriage counselor, counsels clients and their families on how to mend damaged relationships and form healthy ones in order to further a client’s personal growth. Family therapists also teach clients to use the support of their family to solve their problems. When a person goes through addiction, a major part of their life that suffers is interpersonal relationships with their spouse, family, and friends. Once a person is in recovery, it is often advised that they and their family have several sessions with a family and/or marriage therapist. This specialist helps in addiction recovery, particularly when it comes to reestablishing damaged family connections, and learning how to manage the client’s addiction together.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapist
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a general term for several different types of behavior-based therapies. The common underlying theme of these therapies is that a person’s own emotions and behaviors are at the root of their problems. According to CBT, changing the behaviors and behavioral patterns can help heal the person. The CBT approach is common in addiction recovery therapy. A cognitive behavior therapist who specializes in drug and alcohol addiction recovery would focus on how the client’s feelings and thoughts leads them to drink or to do drugs, and would work on changing those thoughts and emotions in order to break the addiction cycle.
A humanistic therapist is similar to a cognitive behavioral therapist in that they both focus on the client’s self, actions, and the client’s own ability to solve their problems. In addition, a humanistic therapist focuses on the key themes of acceptance and growth. A humanistic therapist who specializes in addiction recovery concentrates on changing the client’s own choices and behaviors that led to the addictive behaviors, thus, in theory, changing the addictive behaviors. Motivational enhancement therapy is a popular and effective form of humanistic-oriented approach, which is used commonly in alcohol and drug rehabilitation.
Substance Abuse Therapist
A substance abuse therapist is often the first counselor encountered by a client with a very serious addiction. Substance abuse counselors are found in hospitals, homeless shelters, rehabilitation centers, and jails, among other locations. Substance abuse counselors help their clients through the first stages of treatment and get them set up for long term recovery and care. Substance abuse counselors do not typically aid in the long-term recovery of a client. These counselors may be CBT or Humanistic-based or may be more focused in the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-Step approach.
Mental Health Therapist
Mental health therapists work in group or one-one-one settings to diagnose and treat mental and behavioral disorders, and help their clients lead productive lives while coping with their disorders. Mental health therapists who specialize in drug and alcohol addiction recovery take the approach that their client’s mental disorders led to their addiction, for example self-medicating, or vice versa, that their client’s addiction led to their mental disorder. Mental health therapists will treat the addiction and the mental disorder(s) simultaneously and break the link between the two. Again, these therapists may come from different orientations such as CBT or Humanistic approaches.
Holistic health is a branch of alternative medicine that deals with the entire individual as opposed to only treating the psychological component. Holistic therapists work on the whole person, including non-core factors of a person’s addiction such as physical exercise, dietary conditions, relaxation techniques, as well as the more traditional psychological factors of the addiction.